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How like a Dream is this I see and hear.

SHAKSPERE.

HOW he sleepeth! having drunken

Weary childhood’s mandragore!

From his pretty eyes have sunken

Pleasures to make room for more—

[5] Sleeping near the withered nosegay, which he pulled the day before.


Nosegays! Leave them for the waking—

Throw them earthwards where they grew!

Dim are they beside the breaking

Amaranths he looks unto!

[10] Clos'd eyes see brighter colours than the open ever do!


Vapour-white is either eyelid,

Large as through a vapour seem

To him earthly things defiled,

Magnified from sight to dream,—

[15] Glorified — O earthly sadness, hidden by a heavenly beam!


Vision unto vision calleth

While the young boy dreameth on;

Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth

With the radiance thou hast won!

[20] Darker wert thou in the garden, yesternoon, by summer sun.


Shapes of glory overlean thee,

Shapes of beauty, love, and youth!

Who would waken that had seen thee

Sleeping, smiling—not, in sooth,

[25] Thine own smile—but the over-fair one dropped from some ethereal mouth!


Ask ye, readers, why enringing

Shapes etherial near him stay?

'Tis the child-heart keeps them, singing

In his silent-seeming clay!

[30] Singing! Stars that seem the mutest in a music go their way.


As he dreams, so we are dreaming

Fain with song and tale to keep

In our leaves the ever-beaming

Forms of art, and mark their sweep.

[35] Touch the volume kindly, readers! trouble not our ’chanted sleep.


Lovely ladies of our Britain,

Lovely ladies o’er the sea,

By the true loves near you sitting

Or, forsooth, who ought to be,—

[40] Softly, by the light of smiling, turn the pages on your knee!


Softly, softly! make no noises,

Critical of verse or prose!

They assert our inward voices,

Charming fast the graphic shows—

[45] While a hope to give you pleasure roundeth all the dream’s repose.


Nathless if the young boy’s mother

(Which is woman’s highest name)

Saw him sleeping—could another,

Though aloud she blessed him, blame?—

[50] Nor, sweet ladies, should we blame you, though ye blessed US the same.


E.B.B.


Text: Finden’s Tableaux for MDCCXL (1840), ed M. R. Mitford, pp. 7-8.

Epigraph: ‘How like a dream is this I see and hear!’, Two Gentlemen of Verona, V.iv.26.