By the Aurelian Wall and Other Elegies

by Bliss Carman



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


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;


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


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.


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


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,


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


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.


"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,


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;


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


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.


"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


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;


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,


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,


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;


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;


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


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,


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,

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