THE POET'S DREAM
SEQUEL TO THE NORMAN BOY
JUST as those final words were penned, the sun broke out in power,
And gladdened all things; but, as chanced, within that very hour,
Air blackened, thunder growled, fire flashed from clouds that hid the
And, for the Subject of my Verse, I heaved a pensive sigh.
Nor could my heart by second thoughts from heaviness be cleared,
For bodied forth before my eyes the cross-crowned hut appeared;
And, while around it storm as fierce seemed troubling earth and air,
I saw, within, the Norman Boy kneeling alone in prayer.
The Child, as if the thunder's voice spake with articulate call,
Bowed meekly in submissive fear, before the Lord of All;
His lips were moving; and his eyes, up-raised to sue for grace,
With soft illumination cheered the dimness of that place.
How beautiful is holiness!--what wonder if the sight,
Almost as vivid as a dream, produced a dream at night?
It came with sleep and showed the Boy, no cherub, not transformed,
But the poor ragged Thing whose ways my human heart had warmed.
Me had the dream equipped with wings, so I took him in my arms,
And lifted from the grassy floor, stilling his faint alarms,
And bore him high through yielding air my debt of love to pay,
By giving him, for both our sakes, an hour of holiday.
I whispered, "Yet a little while, dear Child! thou art my own,
To show thee some delightful thing, in country or in town.
What shall it be? a mirthful throng? or that holy place and calm
St. Denis, filled with royal tombs, or the Church of Notre Dame?
St. Ouen's golden Shrine? Or choose what else would please thee most
Of any wonder Normandy, or all proud France, can boast!"
"My Mother," said the Boy, "was born near to a blessed Tree,
The Chapel Oak of Allonville; good Angel, show it me!"
On wings, from broad and stedfast poise let loose by this reply,
For Allonville, o'er down and dale, away then did we fly;
O'er town and tower we flew, and fields in May's fresh verdure drest;
The wings they did not flag; the Child, though grave, was not
But who shall show, to waking sense, the gleam of light that broke
Forth from his eyes, when first the Boy looked down on that huge oak,
For length of days so much revered, so famous where it stands
For twofold hallowing--Nature's care, and work of human hands?
Strong as an Eagle with my charge I glided round and round
The wide-spread boughs, for view of door, window, and stair that
Gracefully up the gnarled trunk; nor left we unsurveyed
The pointed steeple peering forth from the centre of the shade. 40
I lighted--opened with soft touch the chapel's iron door,
Past softly, leading in the Boy; and, while from roof to floor
From floor to roof all round his eyes the Child with wonder cast,
Pleasure on pleasure crowded in, each livelier than the last.
For, deftly framed within the trunk, the sanctuary showed,
By light of lamp and precious stones, that glimmered here, there
Shrine, Altar, Image, Offerings hung in sign of gratitude;
Sight that inspired accordant thoughts; and speech I thus renewed:
"Hither the Afflicted come, as thou hast heard thy Mother say,
And, kneeling, supplication make to our Lady de la Paix;
What mournful sighs have here been heard, and, when the voice was
By sudden pangs; what bitter tears have on this pavement dropt!
Poor Shepherd of the naked Down, a favoured lot is thine,
Far happier lot, dear Boy, than brings full many to this shrine;
From body pains and pains of soul thou needest no release,
Thy hours as they flow on are spent, if not in joy, in peace.
Then offer up thy heart to God in thankfulness and praise,
Give to Him prayers, and many thoughts, in thy most busy days;
And in His sight the fragile Cross, on thy small hut, will be
Holy as that which long hath crowned the Chapel of this Tree;
Holy as that far seen which crowns the sumptuous Church in Rome
Where thousands meet to worship God under a mighty Dome;
He sees the bending multitude, he hears the choral rites,
Yet not the less, in children's hymns and lonely prayer, delights.
God for his service needeth not proud work of human skill;
They please him best who labour most to do in peace his will:
So let us strive to live, and to our Spirits will be given
Such wings as, when our Saviour calls, shall bear us up to heaven."
The Boy no answer made by words, but, so earnest was his look,
Sleep fled, and with it fled the dream--recorded in this book, 70
Lest all that passed should melt away in silence from my mind,
As visions still more bright have done, and left no trace behind.
But oh! that Country-man of thine, whose eye, loved Child, can see
A pledge of endless bliss in acts of early piety,
In verse, which to thy ear might come, would treat this simple theme,
Nor leave untold our happy flight in that adventurous dream.
Alas the dream, to thee, poor Boy! to thee from whom it flowed,
Was nothing, scarcely can be aught, yet 'twas bounteously bestowed,
If I may dare to cherish hope that gentle eyes will read
Not loth, and listening Little-ones, heart-touched, their fancies
80 'The Norman boy.'
"Among ancient Trees there are few, I believe, at least in
France, so worthy of attention as an Oak which may be seen in the
'Pays de Caux,' about a league from Yvetot, close to the church,
and in the burial-ground of Allonville.
"The height of this Tree does not answer to its girth; the
trunk, from the roots to the summit, forms a complete cone; and
the inside of this cone is hollow throughout the whole of its
"Such is the Oak of Allonville in its state of nature. The hand
of Man, however, has endeavoured to impress upon it a character
still more interesting, by adding a religious feeling to the
respect which its age naturally inspires.
"The lower part of its hollow trunk has been transformed into a
Chapel of six or seven feet in diameter, carefully wainscoted and
paved, and an open iron gate guards the humble Sanctuary.
"Leading to it there is a staircase, which twists round the body
of the Tree. At certain seasons of the year divine service is
performed in this Chapel.
"The summit has been broken off many years, but there is a
surface at the top of the trunk, of the diameter of a very large
tree, and from it rises a pointed roof, covered with slates, in
the form of a steeple, which is surmounted with an iron Cross,
that rises in a picturesque manner from the middle of the leaves,
like an ancient Hermitage above the surrounding Wood.
"Over the entrance to the Chapel an Inscription appears, which
informs us it was erected by the Abbe du Detroit, Curate of
Allonville in the year 1696; and over a door is another,
dedicating it 'To Our Lady of Peace.'"
"Vide 14 No. Saturday Magazine."