By the Aurelian Wall and Other Elegies

by Bliss Carman


 

THE COUNTRY OF HAR

For the Centenary of Blake's "Songs of Innocence"


 

ONCE a hundred years ago
There was a light in London town,
For an angel of the snow
Walked her street sides up and down.

As a visionary boy

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He put forth his hand to smite
Songs of innocence and joy
From the crying chords of night,

Like a muttering of thunder
Heard beneath the polar star;

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For his soul was all a-wonder
At the calling vales of Har.

He, a traveller by day
And a pilgrim of the sun,
Took his uncompanioned way

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Where the journey is not done.

Where no mortal might aspire
His clear heart was set to climb,
To the uplands of desire
And the river wells of time.

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Home he wandered to the valley
Where the springs of morning are,
And the sea-bright cohorts rally
On the twilit plains of Har.

There he found the Book of Thel

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In the lily-garth of bliss,
Fashioned, how no man can tell,
As a white windflower is:

Like the lulling of a sigh
Uttered in the trembling grass,

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When a shower is gone by,
And the sweeping shadows pass,—

Through the hyacinthine weather,
Wheel them down without a jar,—
Heaving all the dappled heather

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In the streaming vales of Har.

There was manna in the rain;
And above the rills, a voice:
"Son of mine, cost thou complain?
I will make thee to rejoice.

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"Thou shalt be a child to men,
With confusion on thy speech;
And the worlds within thy ken
Shall not lie within thy reach.

"But the rainbirds shall discover,

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And the daffodils unbar,
Quiet waters for their lover
On the shining plains of Har.

"April rain and iron frost
Shall make flowers to thy hand;

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Every field thy feet have crossed
Shall revive from death's command.

"Hunting with a leash of wind
Through the corners of the earth,
Take the hounds of Spring to find

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The forgotten trails of mirth;

"For the lone child-heart is dying
Of a love no time can mar,
Hearing not a voice replying
From the gladder vales of Har.

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"Flame thy heart forth! Yet, no haste:
Have not I prepared for thee
The king's chambers of the East
And the wind halls of the sea?

"Be a gospeller of things

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Nowhere written through the wild,
With that gloaming call of Spring's,
When old secrets haunt the child.

"Let the bugler of my going
Wake no clarion of war;

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For the paper reeds are blowing
On the river plains of Har."

Centuries of soiled renown
To the roaring dark have gone:
There is woe in London town,

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And a crying for the dawn.

April frost and iron rain
Ripen the dead fruit of lust,
And the sons of God remain
The dream children of the dust,

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For their heart hath in derision,
And their jeers have mocked afar,
The delirium of vision
From the holy vales of Har.

Once in Autumn came a dream;

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The white Herald of the North,
Faring West to ford my stream,
Passed my lodge and bade me forth;

Glad I rose and went with him,
With my shoulder in his hand;

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The auroral world grew dim,
And the idle harvest land.

Then I saw the warder lifting
From its berg the Northern bar,
And eternal snows were drifting

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On the wind-bleak plains of Har.

"Listen humbly," said my guide.
"I am drear, for I am death,"
Whispered Snow; but Wind replied,
"I outlive thee by a breath,

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I am Time." And then I heard,
Dearer than all wells of dew,
One gray golden-shafted bird
Hail the uplands; so I knew

Spring, the angel of our sorrow,

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Tarrying so seeming far,
Should return with some long morrow
In the calling vales of Har.