VISIONS OF THE NIGHT
by: Robert Hugh Benson
- Libera me a terrore nocturno a negotio
- Perambulante in tenebris . . . custodi
- animam meam O Domine visitans me
- visitatione sanctorum revela mihi animum
- in visionibus noctis
- re yet I slept, the summer night
- Lay vague and mellow in the gloom
- Beyond the steady candlelight.
- The moth came tapping on the pane,
- Intent on doom.
- Then sank into the night again.
- Then, as I lie, the darkened walls
- Grow dim; the sheets are turned to air,
- As fold on fold the slumber falls.
- The ticking clock grows dumb with sleep
- And everywhere
- About the soul slow pauses creep.
- The sense contracts from form and space --
- Shrinks to a speck within the brain --
- Then opens on a wider place
- That knows no law, no harmony;
- Till once again
- A newer world is born for me.
- My spirit moves in dark dismay
- About a house of misty halls:
- I hear the shuddering branches sway
- At gable-corners; on the floor
- And on the walls
- The firelight glimmers through the door.
- I sit and talk beside the bed,
- Grasp hands, and meet the living eyes,
- Of one whom I had fancied dead
- Some ten years back "How strange," I say
- In glad surprise,
- "That we should meet again to-day!"
- He smiles for answer sudden then
- I understand the mystery
- Of dying, for the sons of men
- And wonder where the sadness lay
- To see him die
- Last year -- or was it yesterday?
- All passes; -- down long corridors,
- That lead about this wilderness,
- Fall footsteps tramping on the floors,
- That come from nowhere and are gone
- Yet none the less
- I run in panting terror on.
- Here is a lawn with beds and grass;
- The birds sing shrilly in the air,
- While multitudes pass and re-pass,
- Who fill me with unknown distress,
- That holds me there
- To mark their swift unweariedness.
- And so with eyes that ache to close,
- And feet that fly and flag in turn,
- About, about, my spirit goes.
- In wondrous wise from deep to deep,
- Before me burn
- The crumbling pageantries of sleep.
- O Lord of Light, who gav'st me breath,
- And set'st my spirit ill at ease
- Within the body of this death,
- What means this dreaming rush and rout --
- These phantasies
- Born from within and seen without?
- Since ghost and devil, foe and friend
- Throng -- shadows on this shadow-stage --
- Move from no source and seek no end --
- Since all the passions born of fear
- Terror and rage,
- As in a looking-glass appear;
- Why com'st Thou not Thyself, O Lord,
- To still the tossing of the brain,
- And calm with one imperious word
- This storm of fancy under Thee,
- And yet again
- Bid peace, as once in Galilee?
- Come, Lord; and if through toilsome days
- I pray in dumb perplexity,
- And strive to lift my wearied praise, --
- Yet let me rest when night is deep,
- And look on Thee
- The Lord of waking and of sleep.
MORE POEMS BY ROBERT HUGH BENSON
|"Visions of the Night" is reprinted from Poems. Robert Hugh Benson. New York: P.J. Kenedy
& Sons, 1914.