Alexander Anderson

1845-1909 / Scotland

A Dreamer's Paradise

'Forget the snorting steam and piston stroke,
Forget the spreading of the hideous town.'
—The Earthly Paradise
Yes, William Morris, it were well
To listen to your quiet teaching,
And for a few weeks breathe the spell
That rises from your placid preaching.
This endless hurry up and down
Is getting quite a serious question;
And what with worry and the town,
We lose our livers and digestion.
What happy times were long ago,
When people free from all dejection
Lived at their ease, nor made a show,
Nor bored themselves with introspection;
But took life as it came, and thought
That even winter could be sunny;
Who did not care a single jot
For racing after fame or money.
Sweet-lettered ease—ah, yes! for then
One could sit down and write epistles,
And give full freedom to the pen,
And stick them full of puns and bristles.
Or anything to raise a laugh,
To fill out column after column,
And breaking now and then from chaff,
To show just that you could be solemn.
And fancy what sweet walks were theirs
By wood and stream, and onward faring,
Their talk would be of home affairs,
And criticisms kind and sparing.
They had not then our thirst for news,
Nor cared to burn the midnight taper;
They never sprang up to peruse
The columns of the daily paper.
'Mine be a cot beside a rill,'
Where books would be my only lodgers;
(The first line's from another quill,
So kindly put it down to Rogers).
'Beside a rill'—the rill itself
Would still its grassy banks be flouting,
With here and there a rocky shelf,
Suggestive of successful trouting.
Yes! that would be a pleasant thing—
A cot, a rill, and, near, a garden,
Where flowers could grow and blackbirds sing,
And I could smoke my pet 'church-warden.'
And, smoking, watch the spiral rings
Go up, and in my dreaming fashion
Philosophise on human things,
And lead a life of quiet passion.
I sometimes think—but never mind,
I'm open to your admonitions,
This daily rubbing with one's kind,
It does not sweeten dispositions.
And so I think the wiser men
Were those who took to rocky portals,
And, hermit-like, from human ken
Lived, keeping little touch with mortals.
And as for books; well, let me see,
I'd have nice sets of those old fellows,
Who, true to Nature, frank and free,
Spoke out, and were not over zealous
To change their desks to pulpits, so
As to put in a gentler pleader,
Nor ended tales of mirth or woe
With fitting moral for the reader.
Ah, how unlike our present age;
Its rush and fret and toil incessant,
And certain novels all the rage,
Whose purpose is not very pleasant.
The page is sickly, and a stain
Rests on the leaves to those who read them;
Far better to go back again
To those old fellows, for we need them.
The winds of heaven blow fresh and fair
Within and all about their stories;
They laughed (a gift that's getting rare),
And humour lent its ready chorus.
A healthy laughter-loving set,
They left this spinning planet wiser,
In books that keep their spirit yet,
As gold has value for the miser.
Mais en evant; the cot and rill,
My dreams and all my other wishes,
Are with me still to fly at will,
Like worthy Sancho Panza's dishes,
Whose doctor stood his friend, you see,
His ills and stomach aches to banish;
Fate takes the doctor's place with me,
She speaks, and all my dreamings vanish.
Well, well; so be it, after all
We do not lose so much enjoyment;
And building castles great and small
Is certainly a nice employment.
And though our dreams may come to mock,
Accept the good they bring or leave us,
And this will keep the piston stroke
From having any sound to grieve us.
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