Portrait of Henry Timrod

Henry Timrod

Dec 8, 1828 - Oct 6, 1867



by Henry Timrod

Who first said false as dreams? Not one who saw
Into the wild and wondrous world they sway;
No thinker who hath read their mystic law;
No Poet who hath weaved them in his lay.

Else had he known that through the human breast
Cross and recross a thousand fleeting gleams,
That, passed unnoticed in the day's unrest,
Come out at night, like stars, in shining dreams;

That minds too busy or too dull to mark
The dim suggestions of the noisier hours,
By dreams in the deep silence of the dark,
Are roused at midnight with their folded powers.

Like that old fount beneath Dodona's oaks,
That, dry and voiceless in the garish noon,
When the calm night arose with modest looks,
Caught with full wave the sparkle of the moon.

If, now and then, a ghastly shape glide in,
Or burst the gate of Sleep with iron keys,
It is the ghost of some forgotten sin
We failed to exorcise on bended knees.

And that sweet face which only yesternight
Came to thy solace, Dreamer, (did'st thou read
The blessing in its eyes of tearful light?)
Was but the spirit of some gentle deed.

Come in what shape they may, our dreams in sooth,
Their gods, their fays, their demons, and their elves,
Are allegories with deep hearts of truth
That tell us solemn secrets of ourselves.


Copyright 1860
Ticknor And Fields, Boston