Download document

NEWMAN, John Henry

The Dream of Gerontius

Soul of Gerontius

I WENT to sleep; and now I am refresh’d,

A strange refreshment: for I feel in me

Ah inexpressive lightness, and a sense

Of freedom, as I were at length myself,

And ne’er had been before. How still it is!

I hear no more the busy beat of time,

No, nor my fluttering breath, nor struggling pulse;

Nor does one moment differ from the next.

I had a dream; yes:—some one softly said

“He ’s gone;” and then a sigh went round the room.

And then I surely heard a priestly voice

Cry “Subvenite;” and they knelt in prayer.

I seem to hear him still; but thin and low,

And fainter and more faint the accents come,

As at an ever-widening interval.

Ah! whence is this? What is this severance?

This silence pours a solitariness

Into the very essence of my soul;

And the deep rest, so soothing and so sweet,

Hath something too of sternness and of pain.

So much I know, not knowing how I know,

That the vast universe, where I have dwelt,

Is quitting me, or I am quitting it.

Or I or it is rushing on the wings

Of light or lightning on an onward course,

And we e’en now are million miles apart.

Yet … is this peremptory severance

Wrought out in lengthening measurements of space,

Which grow and multiply by speed and time?

Or am I traversing infinity

By endless subdivision, hurrying back

From finite towards infinitesimal,

Thus dying out of the expansive world?
Another marvel: some one has me fast

Within his ample palm; ’tis not a grasp

Such as they use on earth, but all around

Over the surface of my subtle being,

As though I were a sphere, and capable

To be accosted thus, a uniform

And gentle pressure tells me I am not

Self-moving, but borne forward on my way.

And hark! I hear a singing; yet in sooth

I cannot of that music rightly say

Whether I hear, or touch, or taste the tones.

Oh, what a heart-subduing melody!


Thou speakest mysteries; still methinks I know

To disengage the tangle of thy words:

Yet rather would I hear thy angel voice,

Than for myself be thy interpreter.

When then—if such thy lot—thou seest thy Judge,

The sight of Him will kindle in thy heart

All tender, gracious, reverential thoughts.

Thou wilt be sick with love, and yearn for Him,

And feel as though thou couldst but pity Him,

That one so sweet should e’er have placed Himself

At disadvantage such, as to be used

So vilely by a being so vile as thee.

There is a pleading in His pensive eyes

Will pierce thee to the quick, and trouble thee.

And thou wilt hate and loathe thyself; for, though

Now sinless, thou wilt feel that thou hast sinn’d,

As never thou didst feel; and wilt desire

To slink away, and hide thee from His sight:

And yet wilt have a longing aye to dwell

Within the beauty of His countenance.

And these two pains, so counter and so keen,—

The longing for Him, when thou seest Him not;

The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,—

Will be thy veriest, sharpest purgatory.

My soul is in my hand: I have no fear,—

In His dear might prepared for weal or woe.

But hark! a grand, mysterious harmony:

It floods me like the deep and solemn sound

Of many waters.
Angels of the Sacred Stair

Father, whose goodness none can know, but they

Who see Thee face to face,

By man hath come the infinite display

Of Thy victorious grace;

But fallen man—the creature of a day—

Skills not that love to trace.

It needs, to tell the triumph Thou hast wrought,

An Angel’s deathless fire, an Angel’s reach of thought.

It needs that very Angel, who with awe,

Amid the garden shade,

The great Creator in His sickness saw,

Soothed by a creature’s aid,

And agonized, as victim of the Law

Which He Himself had made;

For who can praise Him in His depth and height,

But he who saw Him reel amid that solitary fight?

Thy judgment now is near, for we are come

Into the veilèd presence of our God.

Praise to His Name!

The eager spirit has darted from my hold,

And, with the intemperate energy of love,

Flies to the dear feet of Emmanuel; 95

But, ere it reach them, the keen sanctity,

Which with its effluence, like a glory, clothes

And circles round the Crucified, has seized,

And scorch’d, and shrivell’d it; and now it lies

Passive and still before the awful Throne.

O happy, suffering soul! for it is safe,

Consumed, yet quicken’d, by the glance of God.


Take me away, and in the lowest deep

There let me be,

And there in hope the lone night-watches keep,

Told out for me.

There, motionless and happy in my pain,

Lone, not forlorn,—

There will I sing, my sad perpetual strain,

Until the morn.

There will I sing, and soothe my stricken breast,

Which ne’er can cease

To throb, and pine, and languish, till possest

Of its Sole Peace.

There will I sing my absent Lord and Love:—

Take me away,

That sooner I may rise, and go above,

And see Him in the truth of Everlasting day.


Softly and gently, dearly ransom’d soul,

In my most loving arms I now enfold thee,

And, o’er the penal waters, as they roll,

I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.

And carefully I dip thee in the lake,

And thou, without a sob or a resistance,

Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,

Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance.

Angels, to whom the willing task is given,

Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;

And Masses on the earth, and prayers in heaven,

Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.

Farewell, but not for ever! brother dear,

Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;

Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,

And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.