As I sat quietly by the fire I had a waking dream
The whole wide world before me spread,
I saw the living and the dead,
Massed like a mighty choir
Pass in an endless stream.
And loud so loud, their voices rang
Each voice so loud and clear,
And youth and joy in descant sang
And age, an undertone of fear,
Stood elbow- close and sang to me
Of war and death and misery,
And murmured in my ear.
I felt the famine and the flood,
I felt the joy of being born,
I felt the sudden flow of blood
As men by war were tom.
And always bubbling like a spring,
The joy of rapt young love rang out.
And disillusionment and doubt
Each nursed a broken wing.
The calloused barrier of defence,
Which reef like guards the quivering mind?
From seas of human sorrows,
Black yesterdays, unseen tomorrows,
Failed me then.
Woe that I should find awareness of humanity.
Racking my every sense.
The dream has passed, as nightmares will,
Leaving its dim remembered shade hovering o’er the scar it made
Though purblind once again, I feel it still and am afraid.
Written by Harry St Vincent Beechey
(Winter of 1954/55)