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Ambrose Bierce: The Key Note

 

Ambrose Bierce

(1842-1914?)

 

The Key Note


I dreamed I was dreaming one morn as I lay

In a garden with flowers teeming.

On an island I lay in a mystical bay,

In the dream that I dreamed I was dreaming.

 

The ghost of a scent–had it followed me there

From the place where I truly was resting?

It filled like an anthem the aisles of the air,

The presence of roses attesting.

 

Yet I thought in the dream that I dreamed I dreamed

That the place was all barren of roses–

That it only seemed; and the place, I deemed,

Was the Isle of Bewildered Noses.

 

Full many a seaman had testified

How all who sailed near were enchanted,

And landed to search (and in searching died)

For the roses the Sirens had planted.

 

For the Sirens were dead, and the billows boomed

In the stead of their singing forever;

But the roses bloomed on the graves of the doomed,

Though man had discovered them never.

 

I thought in my dream ’twas an idle tale,

A delusion that mariners cherished–

That the fragrance loading the conscious gale

Was the ghost of a rose long perished.

 

I said, “I will fly from this island of woes.”

And acting on that decision,

By that odor of rose I was led by the nose,

For ’twas truly, ah! truly, Elysian.

 

I ran, in my madness, to seek out the source

Of the redolent river–directed

By some supernatural, sinister force

To a forest, dark, haunted, infected.

 

And still as I threaded (’twas all in the dream

That I dreamed I was dreaming) each turning

There were many a scream and a sudden gleam

Of eyes all uncannily burning!

 

The leaves were all wet with a horrible dew

That mirrored the red moon’s crescent,

And all shapes were fringed with a ghostly blue,

Dim, wavering, phosphorescent.

 

But the fragrance divine, coming strong and free,

Led me on, though my blood was clotting,

Till–ah, joy!–I could see, on the limbs of a tree,

Mine enemies hanging and rotting!

 

Ambrose Bierce poetry

fleursdumal.nl magazine

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