I laid me down on my luxurious couch,
And courted sleep on pillows soft with down,
Yet the Enchanter heeded not my prayer,
But turned from my advances with a frown.
On shadowy wings he rose and took his flight,
And fled mysterious thro' th realms of night.
He sped to homes where Poverty held sway,
Where tired workers burned the midnight oil—
With Lethe’s wand he touched their fever'd brow,
And bade them sleep and rest awhile from toil;
Then on he flew to some lone sufferer's bed,
And pressed cool fingers to his aching head.
And whilst I lay in odious self-content,
Resting half-way ’twixt wakefulness and sleep,
A vision broke upon my dazzled sight,
A voice l heard with tones as soft and deep
As church bells’ distant sound when twilight falls,
Or throstle's note when to his mate he calls.
And through the music of this wondrous voice
Words heard I none, so dull are mortal ears,
Until the Vision stretched forth his arm
And touched my hand and calmed my trembling fears;
Then spake he to me thus; “Come, child, with me,
And I will show you how men may be free."
And straight I flew with him into the air,
Sustained by the power of his arm—
Onwards we winged our flight, till lo! we reached
The summit of a mountain high and calm;
Then my guide bade me look towards the dawn
Where the sun's splendor heralded the morn.
In front of me a smiling valley lay
With divers paths that wandered here and there,
“A beauteous spot!" I cried, “here would I stay
And feast mine eyes upon a world so fair."
Sadly the Vision looked at me and spake;
“Look well ere such rash promises you make."
Then saw I that the men and women all
Were dwarfed in stature, and their backs were bowed
As though a weight were on their shoulders borne,
And none there were looked happy in that crowd;
But some would raise their eyes with wistful glance
To a high road where the bright sunbeams dance.
And looking still, I saw a road was there
Which from the Valley led and branched in twain;
One climbed a mountain side, a narrow path,
The other downwards led, easy and plain;
A sign-post showed them both with this device
“Self-seeking, down, or mount, self-sacrifice.
First mine eyes wandered clown the easy road,
And gazed at those who journeyed on that way—
Hard faces, bitter smiles, and scornful laugh,
And eyes that gazed not on the light of day,
But ever downwards looked where steeper still
And ever darker grew that dangerous hill.
Sadly I turned towards the higher road—
My heart leaped up, so joyous was the sight,
For splendid were the travelers on the mount—
Princes of men, majestic, clothed in light,
Who upwards strove, nor stayed to look behind,
Though hard to climb the path they seemed to find.
Then to the Valley once more turned mine eyes.
"Surely," said I, “the greater part remain."
Deep sighed the Angel, “True it is," he said,
“They will not start, either to lose or gain, “
The world is fair, they say, spite of the pain,
“And to the world they bend their glance again.
“And so they live and die, and back they come
"To live and die once more until they choose
“One of those roads that lead both high and low,
“Until they take the step to gain or lose.
“This have I shown thee, hoping that this day
“Thou mayest choose the true and only way."
The Vision vanished, and sleep came to me,
Calm, restful sleep that still'd my restless brain—
And the night passed and lo! it was the morn,
And I must rise and start the day again.
Long time I thought upon the Vision past.
“Choose thou!" the Voice had cried—I chose at last.
—Robert Louis Stevenson