Alexander Anderson

1845-1909 / Scotland

Tasso

All pale by the dungeon door he stands,
His own sweet sky above,
And he holds a book in his trembling hands,
The labour of years and love.
And, lo, as he opens that single book,
As if by some holy ray,
The dungeon shadows grow pale in look
And forever pass away.
They pass away from the dull, drear cell
To give place to a spirit sweet,
Who paces its floor as the ages swell
With sweetly sounding feet.
And wherever their sound has the power to reach,
They come of the kindred mind
Like pilgrims to hear that spirit preach
Which the poet has left behind.
From many a distant and colder land
They come and in silence look,
And see by the dungeon the poet stand
Still clasping that single book.
They enter in, and the cell grows bright
As the wings of the cherubim,
While the footsteps grow soft, and sweet, and light,
Like leaves at their evening hymn.
They bow, and their spirit is not alone,
For swift from the calm past years
The dead man's being strikes full on their own,
And their heart grows big with tears.
O wonderful unseen power that still
As the ages roll along
Heaps scorn on the tyrant's might and will,
But deifies endless song.
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