Monday, July 10, 2017

A Tale of Two Cities


I.
This was the tale that was told unto me
In my dreams back in the asylum,
A tale of two cities, both wondrous to see
Whether we despise or admire 'em.
Though I fear that world will not understand
Yet I'll try my best to make plain
My sight of the city that dreams mid the sand
And the city where they dance in the rain.

II.
An echo of silence on night-shadowed wings
Flies o'er my mind; and in a moment I stand
At the heart of the desert; my memory brings
Me back to the city that dreams mid the sand.

The sands here are twisted like dragons at rest,
Mountains and valleys that change by the day--
Deep in these mazes, hid in its nest
Are the walls of a city where never comes day.
The walls are of stone, burnished tan like the dust
Turreted strong for a war never fought,
The towering gates have been reddened by rust,
The beams and the timbers long eaten by rot.
And ever the sands beat around on the wall
Rising like smoke from a fire that's fanned
And ever this cloud hides the sun like a pall
From the face of the city that dreams mid the sand.

The lanes of the city are pockmarked by age,
And no steps are marked in the sands of the street,
The shadows and silence both linger like rage
And seldom are stirred by the movement of feet.
For this is a city of ghosts more than men,
Though the men of the city are far more than ghosts.
Seldom they walk on these roadways--and then
They pass from our ken like rash, unfounded boasts.
But the city is peopled by scores upon scores,
Countless the ranks of its politan band
And in each in his chamber, behind barréd doors
Sleeps in the city that dreams mid the sand.

For the sands of this desert have power bizarre
To grant to men slumber and dreams, clear and plain,
So each in their sleeping may follow their star
And live out a life in the world of their brain.
What need have they, then, for the city outside?
For the walls and the walkways all ruined and old?
Each man has within him a place to abide
Where all things are perfect and shining as gold.
Some dream of pleasure and some, aiming higher,
Dream of success, love, or glory so grand
And here alone all find the thing they desire
Here in the city that dreams mid the sand.

Sometimes one wakes and walks the blank streets
(As lone as a ghost when it haunts a machine)
With scorn and despite for all that he meets,
Compared with the wonders within he has seen.
Two sometimes meet in those dark, empty rows--
A son and his father met once in those scenes
And they parted with strife and contemptuous blows
(The father had had better sons in his dreams).
So I turn in the silence, with night--shadowed wings,
And stare at the walls and the streets as they stand,
A kingdom of visions and unspoken things--
In the sleep of the city that dreams mid the sand.

III.
Sometimes in my mind when long I ponder
On words too heavy and worlds too vain
At last, in my mind I come to wander
Back to the city where they dance in the rain.

At the edge of the desert it rises alone,
Between the gold waste and the green, meadowed field
A mountain of cold, damp, desolate stone
Turned towards the desert like a threatening shield.
A single swift torrent descends from its peak
Plunging itself in precipitous mirth 
And high on its course is the thing that we seek
The nest of a city, lodged high o'er the earth.
The city is carved out of rocks rough, undone,
Set in a cleft by the river's swift train,
Its walls damp and cold glisten gray in the sun--
This is the city where they dance in the rain.

This is a city of bustle and noise,
Where movement and labor meet each way the sight
Where men and their wives, where the girls and the boys
Work at their labor from the dawn to the night.
For the nest of the city's a desolate place
So barren you'd say that there nothing could live--
And so all in the city, with good will and grace,
They strive so that life to each other can give.
Here the master has need of no whip
And here the slave is bound by no chain
For they work joined by need and comradeship
Together in the city where they dance in the rain.

But when the dark thunder is heard on the crest
The laboring ceases with a shout and glad cry
And all of the city, each clothed in their best
Stand out in the roadways and gaze at the sky
Awaiting the rain, which comes swiftly and cold,
Filling their wells and renewing the stream
With water more precious to them than pure gold;
Without it life here could be only a dream.
And they dance together in tumultuous strife
In pleasure as pure and pungent as pain
With a hymn of fresh gladness; a hymn of new life;
The hymn of the city where they dance in the rain.

And I fear the world cannot understand
How they come to joy in this simple thing;
How the ran which falls upon every land
To them such a special blessing can bring.
But they worship a God whose sovereign might
Has given them life in this desolate place
And the things of this world grow strangely bright
In the glow of His great and glorious grace.
So often when I ponder our lack
Our words too heavy and worlds too vain
At last in my mind I wander back--
Back to the city where they dance in the rain.

IV.
This was the tale that was told unto me
In my dreams back in the asylum,
A tale of two cities, both wondrous to see
Whether we despise or admire 'em;
And I fear our judgment too hasty might run
For 'twould easily go with the grain
To put those who sleep and dream of the sun
Over those who wake in the rain.
We might rather be alone with our dreams
Then with our brothers in the damp and cold--
If it were not for the end--the end of all things--
And the end of the tale I was told.
For after ten centuries have passed in that land,
When the sky is scorched and red,
A shudder shall pass through the city of sand
And the sleepers shall rise like the dead.
Then a war shall be fought, the last war of mankind,
And the desert and mountain shall shake
As the seeing fight to the death with the blind,
And the sleepers with those who wake.
Then God from His Heaven a word will send down
To sunder the tares from the grain
And the sands and the dreams and the slumbering town
Will be washed away by the rain.

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