He came to us with dreams to sell—
Ah, long ago it seems!
From regions where enchantments dwell,
He came to us with dreams to sell,—
And we had need of dreams.
Our thought had planned with artful care,
Our patient toil had wrought,
The roomy treasure-houses where
Were heaped the costly and the rare,—
But dreams we had not bought:
Nay; we had felt no need of these,
Until with dulcet strain,
Alluring as the melodies
That mock the lonely on the seas,
He made all else seem vain;
Bringing an aching sense of dearth,
A troubled, vague unrest,
A fear that we, whose care on Earth
Had been to garner things of worth,
Had somehow missed the best.
Then, as had been our wont before,—
Unused in vain to sigh,—
We turned our treasure o’er and o’er,
But found in all our vaunted store
No coin that dreams would buy.
We stood with empty hands: but gay
As though upborne on wings,
He left us; and at set of day
We heard him singing, far away,
The joy of simple things!
He left us, and with apathy
We gazed upon our gold;
But to the world’s ascendancy
Submissive, soon we came to be
Much as we were of old.
Yet sometimes when the fragrant dawn
In early splendor beams,
And sometimes when, the twilight gone,
The moon o’er-silvers wood and lawn,
An echo of his dreams
Brings to the heart a swift regret
That is not wholly pain,
And, grieving, we would not forget
The vision, hallowed to us yet,—
The hope that seemed so vain.
And then we envy not the throng
That careless passes by,
With no remembrance of the song,
Though we must listen still, and long
To hear it till we die!
— Florence Earle Coates, born this day in 1850
Altruria was the setting of a novel of social reform by William Dean Howells