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The Night Dream

to R.L

Dreamed between 1926 and 1933 by Archibald MacLeish
Neither her voice, her name,
Eyes, quietness neither,
That moved through the light, that came
Cold stalk in her teeth
Bitten of some blue flower
Knew I before nor saw.
This was a dream. Ah,
This was a dream. There was sun
Laid on the cloths of a table.
We drank together. Her mouth
Was a lion's mouth out of jade
Cold with a fable of water.

Faces I could not see
Watched me with gentleness, Grace
Folded my body with wings.
I cannot love you she said.
My head she laid on her breast.
As stillness with ringing of bees
I was filled with a singing of praise.
Knowledge filled me and peace.
We were silent and not ashamed.
Ah we were glad that day.
They asked me but it was one
Dead they meant and not I.
She was beside me she said.
We rode in a desert place.
We were always happy.
Her sleeves jangled with jingling of gold.
They told me the wind from the south
Was the cold wind to be feared.
We were galloping under the leaves--

This was a dream, Ah
This was a dream.
                         And her mouth
Was not your mouth nor her eyes,
But the rivers were four and I knew
As a secret between us, the way
Hands touch, it was you.

NOTES

This is from Poems, 1924-33 by Archibald MacLeish.

I haven't identified "R.L." yet. Anyone know? Though RL may be only the dedicatee, not the subject. Macleish loved his wife dearly and the dream-woman may well be her.

Date: the setting sounds Old World; the desert suggests a memory of his trip to Iran in 1926; drinking wine in the sun sounds Parisian (the Macleishes lived in Paris, 1923-28). The very next poem, to his wife, says "We have been lovers the twentieth year now" which dates it to the early thirties.

--Chris Wayan--



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