The House of Dust; a symphony
By Conrad Aiken
PART I. I.The sun goes down in a cold pale flare of light.The trees grow dark: the shadows lean to the east:And lights wink out through the windows, one by one.A clamor of frosty sirens mourns at the night.Pale slate-grey clouds whirl up from the sunken sun.And the wandering one, the inquisitive dreamer of dreams,The eternal asker of answers, stands in the street,And lifts his palms for the first cold ghost of rain.The purple lights leap down the hill before him.The gorgeous night has begun again.'I will ask them all, I will ask them all their dreams,I will hold my light above them and seek their faces.I will hear them whisper, invisible in their veins . . .'The eternal asker of answers becomes as the darkness,Or as a wind blown over a myriad forest,Or as the numberless voices of long-drawn rains.We hear him and take him among us, like a wind of music,Like the ghost of a music we have somewhere heard;We crowd through the streets in a dazzle of pallid lamplight,We pour in a sinister wave, ascend a stair,With laughter and cry, and word upon murmured word;We flow, we descend, we turn . . . and the eternal dreamerMoves among us like light, like evening air . . .Good-night! Good-night! Good-night! We go our ways,The rain runs over the pavement before our feet,The cold rain falls, the rain sings.We walk, we run, we ride. We turn our facesTo what the eternal evening brings.Our hands are hot and raw with the stones we have laid,We have built a tower of stone high into the sky,We have built a city of towers.Our hands are light, they are singing with emptiness.Our souls are light; they have shaken a burden of hours . . .What did we build it for? Was it all a dream? . . .Ghostly above us in lamplight the towers gleam . . .And after a while they will fall to dust and rain;Or else we will tear them down with impatient hands;And hew rock out of the earth, and build them again. II.One, from his high bright window in a tower,Leans out, as evening falls,And sees the advancing curtain of the showerSplashing its silver on roofs and walls:Sees how, swift as a shadow, it crosses the city,And murmurs beyond far walls to the sea,Leaving a glimmer of water in the dark canyons,And silver falling from eave and tree.One, from his high bright window, looking down,Peers like a dreamer over the rain-bright town,And thinks its towers are like a dream.The western windows flame in the sun's last flare,Pale roofs begin to gleam.Looking down from a window high in a wallHe sees us all;Lifting our pallid faces towards the rain,Searching the sky, and going our ways again,Standing in doorways, waiting under the trees . . .There, in the high bright window he dreams, and seesWhat we are blind to,-we who mass and crowdFrom wall to wall in the darkening of a cloud.The gulls drift slowly above the city of towers,Over the roofs to the darkening sea they fly;Night falls swiftly on an evening of rain.The yellow lamps wink one by one again....
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