Twilight, starlight —
Gloaming at the close of day,
And an owl calling,
Cool dews falling
In a wood of oak and may.
Darkness at the shut of day,
And lions roaring,
Their wrath pouring
In wild waste places far away.
Touchwood-light and toad-light,
And the sea a shimmering gloom of grey,
And a small face smiling
In a dream’s beguiling
In a world of wonders far away.
–Walter de la Mare, “Dream Song”
The listing of lights is what caught me first, and the gloaming, in my book of One Thousand Beautiful Things which I retrieved from the library discards in hope of at least one lovely thing among the thousand. But with each re-reading of this rhyme, I find more. I love the contrast of owls calling in cool, dewy woods with the lions roaring wrath in the wild waste places. I love that both the owls and the lions exist beneath one night, in one world, one poem, and that both must exist before there is “Elf-light … in a world of wonders far away.”
For this is our world: both the tranquil calling and refreshing dew, and the wrath and wild rending. They would be insipid sorts of dreams that held only the gentle things, and unbearable if they held only the wrath. It is where the two meet that glory erupts: grace and justice join; our God, the consuming fire, is also our peace; the Lion of Judah became like a lamb that is led to the slaughter. And we, who were prisoners in the shadow of death, are made children and heirs of life everlasting.
The world of wonders is not, perhaps, so far away.