"The Rock of Cader Idris" by Felicia Dorothea Hemans
Updated: Oct 30, 2018
As Halloween approaches, I couldn't think of a more appropriate piece of work to set the mood for the return of the dead in the world of the living. I chose this poem in particular due to the way Felicia Hemans describes how the fear before the uncanny and the supernatural can lead to poetic transcendence. So, please enjoy and embrace the ghastly figures hidden in the dark, especially this time of year.
"The Rock of Cader Idris"
Felicia Dorothea Hemans
From Welsh Melodies (1822)
[It is an old tradition of the Welsh bards that, on the summit of the mountain Cader Idris, is an excavation resembling a couch, and that whoever should pass a night in that hollow would be found in the morning either dead, in a state of frenzy, or endowed with the highest poetical inspiration.]
I lay on that rock where the storms have their dwelling,
The birthplace of phantoms, the home of the cloud;
Around it for ever deep music is swelling,
The voice of the mountain wind, solemn and loud.
'Twas a midnight of shadows all fitfully streaming,
Of wild waves and breezes that mingled their moan,
Of dim shrouded stars, as from gulfs faintly gleaming,
And I met the dread gloom of its grandeur alone.
I lay there in silence – a spirit came o'er me;
Man's tongue hath no language to speak what I saw:
Things glorious, unearthly, passed floating before me,
And my heart almost fainted with rapture and awe.
I viewed the dread beings around us that hover,
Though veiled by the mists of mortality's breath;
And I called upon darkness the vision to cover,
For a strife was within me of madness and death.
I saw them – the powers of the wind and the ocean,
The rush of whose pinion bears onward the storms;
Like the sweep of the white-rolling wave was their motion,
I felt their dim presence, but knew not their forms!
I saw them – the mighty of ages departed –
The dead were around me that night on the hill:
From their eyes, as they passed, a cold radiance they darted –
There was light on my soul, but my heart's blood was chill.
I saw what man looks on, and dies – but my spirit
Was strong, and triumphantly lived through that hour;
And, as from the grave, I awoke to inherit
A flame all immortal, a voice, and a power!
Day burst on that rock with the purple cloud crested,
And high Cader Idris rejoiced in the sun –
But Oh, what new glory all nature invested,
When the sense which gives soul to her beauty was won!