The Nightmare, from Equus.
I come in the gleams, from the land of dreams,
Wrapp'd round in the midnight's pall;
Ye may hear my moan, in the night-wind's groan,
When the tapestry flaps on the wall;—
I come from my rest in the death-owl's nest,
Where she screams in fear and pain;
And my wings gleam bright in the wild moonlight,
As it whirls round the madman's brain;
And down sweeps my car, like a falling star,
When the winds have hush'd their breath;
When ye feel in the air, from the cold sepulchre,
The faint damp smell of death.
My vigil I keep, by the murderer's sleep,
When dreams round his senses spin;
And I ride on his breast, and trouble his rest,
In the shape of his deadliest sin;
And hollow and low is his moan of woe
In the depth of his strangling pain,
And his cold black eye rolls in agony,
And faintly rattles his chain.
The sweat-drops fall on the dark prison wall—
He wakes with a deep-drawn sigh;
He hears my tread, as I pass from his bed,
And he calls on the saints on high.
I fly to the bed where the weary head
Of the poet its rest must seek,
And with false dreams of fame I kindle the flame
Of joy on his pallid cheek.
No thought does he take of the world awake,
And its cold and heartless pleasure,
The holy fire of his own loved lyre
Is his best and dearest treasure.
But neglect's foul sting that cheek shall bring
To a darker and deadlier hue;
The last dear token, his lyre, is broken,
And his heart is broken too.
When the maiden asleep for her lover may weep,
Afar on the boundless sea,
And she dreams he is press'd to her welcome breast,
Return'd from his dangers free—
I come in the form of a wave of the storm,
And sweep him away from her heart,
And then in a dream she starts with a scream,
To think that in death they part;
And still in the light of her stream-bound sight
The images whirl and dance,
Till my swift elision dispels the vision,
And she wakes as from a trance.
When the clouds, first-born of the breezy morn,
In the eastern chambers roam,
I glide away in the twilight gray
To rest in my shadowy home;
And darkness and sleep to their kingdom sweep,
And dreams rustle by like a storm;
But where I dwell no man can tell
Who hath seen my hideous form;
Whether it be in the caves of the sea,
Where the rolling breakers go,
Or the crystal sphere of the upper air,
Or the depths of hell below.