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The Dream of Eugene Aram

2681

THE DREAM OF EUGENE ARAM

'Twas in the prime of summer time,

An evening calm and cool,
And four-and-twenty happy boys

Came bounding out of school:
There were some that ran and some that leaped,

Like troutlets in a pool.

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Away they sped with gamesome minds,

And souls untouched by sin;
To a level mead they came, and there

They drave the wickets in:
Pleasantly shone the setting sun

Over the town of Lynn.

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Like sportive deer they coursed about,

And shouted as they ran,
Turning to mirth all things of earth,

As only boyhood can;
But the Usher sat remote from all,

A melancholy man!

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His hat was off, his vest apart,

To catch heaven's blessed breeze;
For a burning thought was in his brow,

And his bosom ill at ease:
So he leaned his head on his hands, and read

The book between his knees.

Leaf after leaf, he turned it o'er,

Nor ever glanced aside,
For the peace of his soul he read that book

In the golden eventide:
Much study had made him very lean,

And pale, and leaden-eyed.

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He strained the dusky covers close,

And fixed the brazen hasp:
“Oh, God! could I so close my mind,

And clasp it with a clasp!”

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Then leaping on his feet upright,

Some moody turns he took,
Now up the mead, then down the mead,

And past a shady nook, -
And, lo! he saw a little boy

That pored upon a book.

"My gentle lad, what is't

you

read-
Romance or fairy fable?
Or is it some historic page,

Of kings and crowns unstable?”
The young boy gave an upward glance, -

"It is 'The Death of Abel.'"

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And how the sprites of injured men

Shriek upward from the sod;
Aye, how the ghostly hand will point

To show the burial clod;
And unknown facts of guilty acts

Are seen in dreams from God!

The Dream of Eugene Aram

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He told how murderers walk the earth

Beneath the curse of Cain,
With crimson clouds before their eyes,

And flames about their brain:
For blood has left upon their souls

Its everlasting stain. “And well,” quoth he, “I know for truth,

Their pangs must be extreme, -
Woe, woe, unutterable woe,

Who spill life's sacred stream!
For why? Methought, last night, I wrought

A murder, in a dream!

“One that had never done me wrong,

A feeble man and old:
I led him to a lonely field;

The moon shone clear and cold:
Now here, said I, this man shall die,

And I will have his gold!

“Two sudden blows with a ragged stick,

And one with a heavy stone,
One hurried gash with a hasty knife, -

And then the deed was done;
There was nothing lying at my foot

But lifeless flesh and bone!

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"Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,

That could not do me ill;
And yet I feared him all the more,

For lying there so still:
There was a manhood in his look,

That murder could not kill.

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"And, lo! the universal air

Seemed lit with ghastly flame;
Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes

Were looking down in blame:
I took the dead man by his hand

And called upon his name!

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“My head was like an ardent coal,

My heart as solid ice;
My wretched, wretched soul, I knew,

Was at the Devil's price;
A dozen times I groaned: the dead

Had never groaned but twice!

“And now,

from forth the frowning sky From the Heaven's topmost height, I heard a voice--that awful voice

Of the blood-avenging sprite: 'Thou guilty man! take up thy dead

And hide it from my sight!'

“I took the dreary body up,

And cast it in a stream,
A sluggish water, black as ink,

The depth was so extreme: -
My gentle Boy, remember this

Is nothing but a dream!

“Down went the corse with a hollow plunge

And vanished in the pool;
Anon I cleansed my bloody hands,

And washed my forehead cool,
And sat among the urchins young,

That evening in the school.
“Oh, Heaven! to think of their white souls

And mine so black and grim!
I could not share in childish prayer

Nor join in Evening Hymn:
Like a Devil of the Pit I seemed,

'Mid holy Cherubim!

The Dream of Eugene Aram

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“And peace went with them, one and all,

And each calm pillow spread: But

uilt was my grim Chamberlain That lighted me to bed, And drew my midnight curtains round,

With fingers bloody red!

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“One stern tyrannic thought, that made

All other thoughts its slave: Stronger and stronger every pulse

Did that temptation crave, Still urging me to go and see

The Dead Man in his grave!

“Heavily I rose up, as soon

As light was in the sky,
And sought the black accursèd pool

With a wild misgiving eye:
And I saw the Dead in the river bed,

For the faithless stream was dry!

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“Merrily rose the lark, and shook

The dew-drop from its wing;
But I never marked its morning flight,

I never heard it sing,
For I was stooping once again

Under the horrid thing.

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