The Fever-Dream

written by

« Reload image

IT was a fever-dream; I lay
Awake, as in the broad bright day,
But faint and worn I drew my breath
Like those who wait for coming death;
And my hand lay helpless on my pillow
Weak as a reed or bending willow;
And the night-lamp, with its shadowy veil,
And its light so sickly, faint, and pale,
Gleamed mournfully on objects round;
And the clock's stroke was the only sound;
Measuring the hours of silent time
With a heavy and unwelcome chime,
As still monotonously true
To its pulse-like beat, the minutes flew.

I was alone, but not asleep;
Too weary, and too wetk to weep.
My eyes had closed in sadness there;
And they who watched o'er my despair
Had placed that dim light in the room,
And deepened the surrounding gloom,
By curtaining out the few sad rays
Which made things present to my gaze;
And all because they vainly thought
At last the night its rest had brought,--
Alas! rest came no more to me
So heavy was my misery!

They left me, and my heart was filled
With wandering dreams, whose fancies thrilled
Painfully through my feeble brain,
Till I almost wished them back again.
Yet wherefore should I bid them stay?
They could not chase those dreams away,
But only watch me as I lay.

They left me, and the midnight stroke
From the old clock the silence broke;
And with a wild repining sigh
I wished it were my time to die!
And then, with spirit all dismayed,
For that wild wish, forgiveness prayed,
Humbling myself to God's high power
To bear His will, and wait His hour.

And while I darkly rested there,
The breath of a young child's floating hair,
Perfumed, and warm, and glistening bright,
Swept past me in the shrouding night;--
And the footsteps of children, light and quick,
(While my heart beat loud, and my breath came thick)
Went to and fro on the silent floor;--
And the lock was turned in the fastened door,
As a child may turn it, who tiptoe stands
With his fair round arms and his dimpled hands,
Putting out all their strength in vain
Admittance by his own means to gain:
Till his sweet impatient voice is heard
Like the chirp of a young imprisoned bird,
Seeking an entrance still to win
By fond petitions to those within.

A child's soft shadowy hair, bright smiles,
His merry laugh, and coaxing wiles,
These are sweet things,--most precious things,--
But in spite of my brain's wild wanderings,
I knew that they dwelt in my fancy only,
And that I was sad, and left, and lonely;
And the fear of a dreadful madness came
And withered my soul like a parching flame;
And I felt the strong delirium growing,
And the thread of my feeble senses going,
And I heard with a horror all untold
Which turned my hot blood icy-cold,
Those light steps draw more near my bed;
And by visions I was visited,
Of the gentle eyes which I might not see,
And the faces that were so far from me!

And blest, oh I blest was the morning beam
Which woke me up from my fever-dream!

© Caroline Norton