‘A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter.” And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory, Lying down in the melting snow. There were times we regretted The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, And the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumbling And running away, and wanting their liquor and women, And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly And the villages dirty and charging high prices: A hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night, Sleeping in snatches, With the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, And three trees on the low sky, And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, And feet kicking the empty wine-skins. But there was no information, and so we continued And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember, And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air; into thin air, And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.Sir, I am vex’d,– Bear with my weakness – my old brain is troubled. Be not disturb’d with my infirmity. If you be pleased, retire into my cell And there repose: A turn or two I’ll walk To still my beating mind.
Sister and mother and diviner love, And of the sisterhood of the living dead Most near, most clear, and of the clearest bloom, And of the fragrant mothers the most dear And queen, and of diviner love the day And flame and summer and sweet fire, no thread Of cloudy silver sprinkles in your gown Its venom of renown, and on your head No crown is simpler than the simple hair.
Now of the music summoned by the birth That separates us from the wind and sea, Yet leaves us in them, until earth becomes, By being so much of the things we are, Gross effigy and simulacrum, none Gives motion to perfection more serene Than yours, out of our imperfections wrought, Most rare, or ever of more kindred air In the laborious weaving that you wear.
For so retentive of themselves are men That music is intensest which proclaims The near, the clear, and vaunts the clearest bloom, And of all vigils musing the obscure, That apprehends the most which sees and names, As in your name, an image that is sure, Among the arrant spices of the sun, O bough and bush and scented vine, in whom We give ourselves our likest issuance.
Yet not too like, yet not so like to be Too near, too clear, saving a little to endow Our feigning with the strange unlike, whence springs The difference that heavenly pity brings. For this, musician, in your girdle fixed Bear other perfumes. On your pale head wear A band entwining, set with fatal stones. Unreal, give back to us what once you gave: The imagination that we spurned and crave.