Parisian Dream

By Roy Campbell

To Constantin Guys
Of the dread landscape that I saw,
Where human eyes were never set,
I still am ravished by the awe
That, vague and distant, haunts me yet.
Sleep is of miracles so fain
That I (O singular caprice!)
As being formless, could obtain
That vegetable life should cease.
A painter, in my genius free,
I there exulted in the fettle
Derived from a monotony
Composed of marble, lymph, and metal.
Babels of stairways and arcades,
Endless and topless to behold,
With ponds, and jets, and steep cascades
Filling receptacles of gold:
Ponderous cataracts there swung
Like crystal curtains, foaming shawls —
Dazzling and glittering they hung
Suspended from the metal walls.
Not trees, but colonnades, enclosed
Motionless lakes, besides whose shelves
Gigantic naiades reposed,
Like women, gazing at themselves.
Blue sheets of water interlay
Unnumbered quays of green and rose,
That stretched a million leagues away
To where the bounds of space impose.
‘Twas formed of unknown stones that blazed
And magic waves that intersect,
Where icebergs floated, seeming dazed
With all they mirror and reflect.
Impassive, cold, and taciturn,
Great Ganges, through the sky’s vast prism,
Each poured the treasures of its urn
Into a diamond abysm.
Architect of my fairy scene,
I willed, by wondrous stratagems,
An ocean, tamed, to pass between
A tunnel that was made of gems.
There all things, even the colour black,
Seemed irridescently to play,
And liquid crystalised its lack
Of outline in a frozen ray.
No star, no sun could be discerned,
Even low down, in that vast sky:
The fire was personal that burned
To show these marvels to the eye.
Above these moving wonders sheer
There soared (that such a thing should be!
All for the eye, none for the ear!)
A silence of eternity.
My opening eyes, as red as coal,
The horror of my lodging met.
I felt re-entering my soul
The knife of cares and vain regret.
The clock with brutal accent played
Funereal chimes. The time was noon
And heaven covered, with its shade,
The world, this fatuous balloon!

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