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A dream

Lionel Johnson, July 1883
I copied the arrangement of this (with a excerpt from Lionel Johnson's letters) from Nina Antonia's Incurable, The Haunted Writings of Lionel Johnson, the Decadent Era's Dark Angel



Did I ever tell you a strange kind of dream I had a few months ago? I was sleeping quietly when I felt a shock go right through me, and I seemed to have left my body behind, and gone off to the stars; I saw myriads of lights streaming over and on a vast white lake: I was in a state of perfect ecstasy, when I felt myself whirled back to my body, and woke up with a violent sense of splitting headache. I at once got up while the impression was fresh and vivid, and wrote down an exact record of my impressions in a poem: it is now somewhat unintelligible, but absolutely accurate as a faithful record of im- mense sensations and influences. I have never experienced anything like it before or since.

One night far up amongst the white stars dreaming
I knew my soul wafted away from me,
To where a clear coruscant light was gleaming
And shot forth rays across a stilly sea.
The air was laden with a chilling numbness
And then my soul felt sudden iron hands
Strike through her utterance a thrill of dumbness
And gird her round with thwarting steely bands.
She moved not, neither knew the fateful region
Only the glare of white eye-dazzling rays,
Only the blue, dark sea, and many a legion
Of fluttering stars and spirits of unknown days.
These only marked she and with timid wonder
Gazed upon hosts of alternating light ;
And ever and anon the scene asunder
Was cleft by radiance of higher might.
Faint with much straining of her eyes, she inward
Turned them, and in her secret self she mused,
Whether she now were feebly staring sinward
And her true seeing ruthlessly abused.
Or if to glories of the highest heaven
These fitful blinding darts guided the way;
And iron bands for strengthening staves were given
And she were gazing in the sunward day.
While thus she mused, she felt a stirring motion
Of tossing surges, and of restless seas ;
And turning toward the sound, the purple ocean
She saw besprinkled with pale phantasies.
And to her eyes their form was as of strangers
That know not where to turn nor how to rest,
And hover listlessly o'er quaking dangers
And fain would sleep upon a serpent's breast.
Then as she downward gazed upon them lying,
Around her flowed a sea of shimmering light
And countless images she saw, all flying
Down to the waves with headlong wings of flight.
And as they touched the waters, straight a terror
Of frantic billows rose, and clashing tides,
And currents seethed in multitudinous error,
And all was noise, where nought of rest abides.
No more she knew, but when her aching senses
Once more were quickened then in wondering wise
She felt herself a part of piercing lenses
Through which all things were seen by fearful eyes.
A weird expansion felt she of her nature,
Whereby she shared in all the world around
And she became a part of every creature
And was transfused in every sight and sound.
Yet still she hung aloft in starry places
And felt the floods of light upon her Ijfe;
But of the sea were gone all heaving traces,
And only light clove light in dazzling strife.
White stars marched on and on in high procession,
And aeons came with steps of stately feet;
And in the heavenly arc was no transgression,
And moons still rose and sank, still silver sweet.
Only a quickening current stirred the spirit
Of life, and self died from the range of things,
A brother's love was each man's to inherit,
And soul met soul with other seeking wings.
The vision fled before my eyelids waking
And to the glare succeeded blinding night
As back to earth her way my soul was taking
And the sun rose upon the face of night.
I care not greatly for the stress of anguish
But ah ! that I might pierce the veil that shrouds
The unseen world, that I no more might languish
With eyes that ache to cleave the heavy clouds.
Thus once I cried but now I cry no longer,
To send my soul to realms of eterne light,
Heaven's rays than my poor soul are ever stronger,
And heavenly stars too strong for my poor sight.