The Reaper's Dream

THE road was lone ; the grass was dank
With night-dews on the briery bank
Whereon a weary reaper sank.
His garb was old,—his visage tanned ;
The rusty sickle in his hand
Could find no work in all the land.
He saw the evening’s chilly star
Above his native vale afar
A moment on the horizon’s bar
It hung, — then sank as with a sigh :
And there the crescent moon went by,
An empty sickle down the sky.
To soothe his pain, Sleep’s tender palm
Laid on his brow its touch of balm, —
His brain received the slumberous calm;
And soon, that angel without name,
Her robe a dream, her face the same,
The giver of sweet visions, came.
She touched his eyes : no longer sealed,
They saw a troop of reapers wield
Their swift blades in a ripened field:
At each thrust of their snowy sleeves,
A thrill ran through the future sheaves,
Rustling like rain on forest-leaves.
They were not brawny men who bowed
With harvest-voices rough and loud,
But spirits moving as a cloud :
Like little lightnings in their hold, The silver sickles manifold Slid musically through the gold.
No further might the scene unfold, The gazer’s voice could not withhold, The very rapture made him bold : He cried aloud, with claspèd hands, “ O happy fields! O happy bands, Who reap the never-failing lands !
Oh, bid the morning-stars combine To match the chorus clear and fine That rippled lightly down the line, — A cadence of celestial rhyme, The language of that cloudless clime, To which their shining hands kept time !
Behind them lay the gleaming rows, Like those long clouds the sunset shows On amber meadows of repose : But like a wind the binders bright Soon followed in their mirthful might, And swept them into sheaves of light.
Doubling the splendor of the plain, There rolled the great celestial wain To gather in the fallen grain : Its frame was built of golden bars, Its glowing wheels were lit with stars, The royal Harvest’s car of cars.
The snowy yoke that drew the load On gleaming hoofs of silver trode, And music was its only goad : To no command of word or beck It moved, and felt no other check Than one white arm laid on the neck, —
The neck whose light was overwound With bells of lilies, ringing round Their odors till the air was drowned: The starry foreheads meekly borne, With garlands looped from horn to horn, Shone like the many-colored morn.
The field was cleared. Home went the bands, Like children linking happy hands While singing through their father’s lands ; Or, arms about each other thrown, With amber tresses backward blown, They moved as they were Music’s own.
The vision brightening more and more, He saw the garner’s glowing door, And sheaves, like sunshine, strew the floor, — The floor was jasper, — golden flails, Swift sailing as a whirlwind sails, Throbbed mellow music down the vales.
He saw the mansion, —all repose, — Great corridors and porticos Propped with the columns' shining rows ; And these — for beauty was the rule— The polished pavements, hard and cool, Redoubled, like a crystal pool.
And there the odorous feast was spread : The fruity fragrance widely shed Seemed to the floating music wed. Seven angels, like the Pleiad Seven, Their lips to silver clarions given, Blew welcome round the walls of heaven.
In skyey garments, silky thin, The glad retainers floated in, — A thousand forms, and yet no din : And from the visage of the Lord, Like splendor from the Orient poured, A smile illumined all the board.
Far flew the music’s circling sound, Then floated back with soft rebound, To join, not mar, the converse round,— Sweet notes that melting still increased, Such as ne’er cheered the bridal feast Of king in the enchanted East.
Did any great door ope or close, It seemed the birth-time of repose, — The faint sound died where it arose ; And they who passed from door to door, Their soft feet on the polished floor Met their soft shadows, — nothing more.
Then once again the groups were drawn Through corridors, or down the lawn, Which bloomed in beauty like a dawn : Where countless fountains leap alway, Veiling their silver heights in spray, The choral people held their way.
There, ’mid the brightest, brightly shone Dear forms he loved in years agone, — The earliest loved, — the earliest flown : He heard a mother1’s sainted tongue, A sister’s voice who vanished young, While one still dearer sweetly sung !
“ O master of these broad estates, Behold, before your very gates A worn and wanting laborer waits ! Let me but toil amid your grain, Or be a gleaner on the plain, So I may leave these fields of pain !
“ A gleaner, I will follow far, With never look or word to mar, Behind the Harvest’s yellow car : All day my hand shall constant be, And every happy eve shall see The precious burden borne to Thee ! ”
At morn some reapers neared the place, Strong men, whose feet recoiled apace,— Then gathering round the upturned face, They saw the lines of pain and care, Yet read in the expression there The look as of an answered prayer.