An Old Picture by John Boyle O’Reilly

There are times when a dream delicious
Steals into a musing hour,
Like a face with love capricious
That peeps from a woodland bower;
And one dear scene comes changeless;
A wooded hill and a river;
A deep, cool bend, where the lilies end,
And the elm-tree shadows quiver.

And I lie on the brink there, dreaming
That the life I live is a dream;
That the real is but the seeming,
And the true is the sun-flecked stream.
Beneath me, the perch and the bream sail past
In the dim cool depths of the river;
The struggling fly breaks the mirrored sky
And the elm-tree shadows quiver.

There are voices of children away on the hill;
There are bees thro’ the flag-flowers humming;
The lighter-man calls to the lock, and the mill
On the farther side is drumming.
And I sink to sleep in my dream of a dream,
In the grass by the brink of a river,
Where the voices blend and the lilies end
And the elm-tree shadows quiver.

Like a gift from the past is the kindly dream,
For the sorrow and passion and pain
Are adrift like the leaves on the breast of the stream,
And the child-life comes again.
O, the sweet sweet pain of a joy that died—
Of a pain that is joy forever!
O, the life that died in the stormy tide
That was once my sun-flecked river

Poet: John Boyle O’Reilly
1844 – 1890

John Boyle O’Reilly was a poet, journalist, author and activist. As a youth, he was a member of the Fenians which led to him being transported to Australia. He escaped to the USA and became a prominent speaker for the Irish community and culture as editor of The Pilot.

John Boyle O’Reilly

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