By George Sterling

I had a dream of some great house of stone,
    Not dark, but open to the northern ray.
    Beneath a cold and somber sky it lay,
Soundless and secret, mournful and alone.

It had no prospect save upon the sky—
    Set in a great and old and windy wood.
    Profound its essence seemed, but not of good;
Yet had one asked, none could have answered why.

A single door it had, that faced the east,
    Ponderous, brazen and without a lock.
    I thought, as stubbornly I dared to knock,
That past the sill a cryptic murmur ceased.

And none said "Enter!" yet I entered there,
    And saw that house was all one marble room,
    Austere, and given to the dead, for whom
The walls held chiseled couches, scant and bare.

Arctic, immense, no pillar stayed that hall,
    And from the north the melancholy light
    Sank through translucent windows, vast and white,
On alabaster niche and frozen pall.

Rigid they lay, that session of the dead,
    From whom the hands of Change seemed held a space,
    With folded arms and enigmatic face,
Marmorean, as portion of their bed.

And half I thought that wafts of presence stole
    On the urned air significantly still,
    Upon whose wintry crystal crept a chill
That fell not on the body but the soul.

That air unused, it seemed to crave escape
    From that sad hall, to be a wind again.
    I felt a terror of those tranquil men,
And feared the wisdom of each silent shape.

Whereat I turned, importunate, to win
    My way to life's complacencies once more;
    Which done, behind the safety of the door
Again I heard that muttering begin.

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