Alcyone

by Archibald Lampman


 

 

THE LAND OF PALLAS


 

Methought I journeyed along ways that led for ever
    Throughout a happy land where strife and care were dead,
And life went by me flowing like a placid river
    Past sandy eyots where the shifting shoals make head.

A land where beauty dwelt supreme, and right, the donor                           5
    Of peaceful days; a land of equal gifts and deeds,
Of limitless fair fields and plenty had with honour;
    A land of kindly tillage and untroubled meads,

Of gardens, and great fields, and dreaming rose-wreathed alleys,
    Wherein at dawn and dusk the vesper sparrows sang;                          10
Of cities set far off on hills down vista’d valleys,
    And floods so vast and old, men wist not whence they sprang,

Of groves, and forest depths, and fountains softly welling,
    And roads that ran soft-shadowed past the open doors
Of mighty palaces and many a lofty dwelling,                                              15
    Where all men entered and no master trod their floors.

A land of lovely speech, where every tone was fashioned
    By generations of emotion high and sweet,
Of thought and deed and bearing lofty and impassioned;
    A land of golden calm, grave forms, and fretless feet.                            20

And every mode and saying of that land gave token
    Of limits where no death or evil fortune fell,
And men lived out long lives in proud content unbroken,
    For there no man was rich, none poor, but all were well.

And all the earth was common, and no baste contriving                            25
    Of money of coined gold was needed there or known,
But all men wrought together without greed or striving,
    And all the store of all to each man was his own.

From all that busy land, grey town, and peaceful village,
    Where never jar was heard, nor wail, nor cry of strife,                           30
From every laden stream and all the fields of tillage,
    Arose the murmur and the kindly hum of life.

At morning to the fields came forth the men, each neighbour
    Hand linked to other, crowned, with wreaths upon their hair,
And all day long with joy they gave their hands to labour,                          35
    Moving at will, unhastened, each man to his share.

At noon the women came, the tall fair women, bearing
    Baskets of wicker in their ample hands for each,
And learned the day’s brief tale, and how the fields were faring,
    And blessed them with their lofty beauty and blithe speech.                 40

And when the great day’s toil was over, and the shadows
    Grew with the flocking stars, the sound of festival
Rose in each city square, and all the country meadows,
    Palace, and paven court, and every rustic hall.

Beside smooth streams, where alleys and green gardens meeting       45
    Ran downward to the flood with marble steps a throng
Came forth of all the folk, at even, gaily greeting,
    With echo of sweet converse, jest, and stately song.

In all their great fair cities there was neither seeking
    For power of gold, nor greed of lust, nor desperate pain                     50
Of multitudes that starve, or, in hoarse anger breaking,
    Beat at the doors of princes, break and fall in vain.

But all the children of that peaceful land, like brothers,
    Lofty of spirit, wise, and ever set to learn
The chart of neighbouring souls, the bent and need of others,                55
    Thought only of good deeds, sweet speech, and just return.

And there was no prison, power of arms, nor palace,
    Where prince or judge held sway, for none was needed there;
Long ages since the very names of fraud and malice
    Had vanished from men’s tongues, and died from all men’s care.     60

And there were no bonds of contract, deed, or marriage,
    No oath, nor any form, to make the word more sure,
For no man dreamed of hurt, dishonour, or miscarriage,
    Where every thought was truth, and every heart was pure.

There were no castes of rich or poor, of slave or master,                       65
    Where all were brothers, and the curse of gold was dead,
But all that wise fair race to kindlier ends and vaster
    Moved on together with the same majestic tread.

And all the men and women of that land were fairer
    Than even the mightiest of our meaner race can be;                          70
The men like gentle children, great of limb, yet rarer
    For wisdom and high thought, like kings for majesty.

And all the women through great ages of bright living,
    Grown goodlier of stature, strong, and subtly wise,
Stood equal with the men, calm counsellors, ever giving                       75
    The fire and succour of proud faith and dauntless eyes.

And as I journeyed in that land I reached a ruin,
    The gateway of a lonely and secluded waste,
A phantom of forgotten time and ancient doing,
    Eaten by age and violence, crumbled and defaced.                          80

On its grim outer walls the ancient world’s sad glories
    Were recorded in fire; upon its inner stone,
Drawn by dead hands, I saw, in tales and tragic stories,
    The woe and sickness of an age of fear made known.

And lo, in that grey storehouse, fallen to dust and rotten,                       85
    Lay piled the traps and engines of forgotten greed,
The tomes of codes and canons, long disused, forgotten,
    The robes and sacred books of many a vanished creed.

An old grave man I found, white-haired and gently spoken,
    Who, as I questioned, answered with a smile benign,                       90
‘Long years have come and gone since these poor gauds were broken,
    Broken and banished from a life made more divine.

‘But still we keep them stored as once our sires deemed fitting,
    The symbol of dark days and lives remote and strange,
Lest o’er the minds of any there should come unwitting                         95
    The thought of some new order and the lust of change.

‘If any grow disturbed, we bring them gently hither,
    To read the world’s grim record and the sombre lore
Massed in these pitiless vaults, and they returning thither,
    Bear with them quieter thoughts, and make for change no more.’ 100

And thence I journeyed on by one broad way that bore me
    Out of that waste, and as I passed by tower and town
I saw amid the limitless plain far out before me
    A long low mountain, blue as beryl, and its crown

Was capped by marble roofs that shone like snow for whiteness,    105
    Its foot was deep in gardens, and that blossoming plain
Seemed in the radiant shower of its majestic brightness
    A land for gods to dwell in, free from care and pain.

And to and forth from that fair mountain like a river
    Ran many a dim grey road, and on them I could see                      110
A multitude of stately forms that seemed for ever
    Going and coming in bright bands; and near to me

Was one that in his journey seemed to dream and linger,
    Walking at whiles with kingly step, the standing still,
And him I met and asked him, pointing with my finger,                       115
    The meaning of the palace and the lofty hill.

Whereto the dreamer: ‘Art thou of this land, my brother,
    And knowest not the mountain and its crest of walls,
Where swells the priestless worship of the all-wise mother?
    That is the hill of Pallas; those her marble halls!                             120

‘There dwell the lords of knowledge and of thought increasing,
    And they whom insight and the gleams of song uplift;
And thence as by a hundred conduits flows unceasing
    The spring of power and beauty, an eternal gift.’

Still I passed on until I reached at length, not knowing                       125
    Wither the tangled and diverging paths might lead,
A land of baser men, whose coming and whose going
    Were urged by fear, and hunger, and the curse of greed.

I saw the proud and fortunate go by me, faring
    In fatness and fine robes, the poor oppressed and slow,             130
The faces of bowed men, and piteous women bearing
    The burden of perpetual sorrow and the stamp of woe.

And tides of deep solicitude and wondering pity
    Possessed me, and with eager and uplifted hands
I drew the crowd about me in a mighty city,                                        135
    And taught the message of those other kindlier lands.

I preached the rule of Faith and brotherly Communion,
    The law of Peace and Beauty and the death of Strife,
And painted in great words the horror of disunion,
    The vainness of self-worship, and the waste of life.                      140

I preached, but fruitlessly; the powerful from their stations
    Rebuked me as an anarch, envious and bad,
And they that served them with lean hands and bitter patience
    Smiled only out of hollow orbs, and deemed me mad.

And still I preached, and wrought, and still I bore my message,     145
    For will I knew that on an upward without cease
The spirit works for ever, and by Faith and Presage
    That somehow yet the end of human life is Peace.