“City Visions” by Emma Lazarus

City Visions


Emma Lazarus



As the blind Milton’s memory of light,

The deaf Beethoven’s phantasy of tone,

Wrought joys for them surpassing all things known

In our restricted sphere of sound and sight,—

So while the glaring streets of brick and stone

Vex with heat, noise, and dust from morn till night,

I will give rein to Fancy, taking flight

From dismal now and here, and dwell alone

With new-enfranchised senses. All day long,

Think ye ’t is I, who sit ’twixt darkened walls,

While ye chase beauty over land and sea?

Uplift on wings of some rare poet’s song,

Where the wide billow laughs and leaps and falls,

I soar cloud-high, free as the winds are free.




Who grasps the substance? who ’mid shadows strays?

He who within some dark-bright wood reclines,

’Twixt sleep and waking, where the needled pines

Have cushioned all his couch with soft brown sprays?

He notes not how the living water shines,

Trembling along the cliff, a flickering haze,

Brimming a wine-bright pool, nor lifts his gaze

To read the ancient wonders and the signs.

Does he possess the actual, or do I,

Who paint on air more than his sense receives,

The glittering pine-tufts with closed eyes behold,

Breathe the strong resinous perfume, see the sky

Quiver like azure flame between the leaves,

And open unseen gates with key of gold?

Source: “City Visions” by Emma Lazarus

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