Back from the City of Sleep – Kipling’s short story, “The Brushwood Boy”

Reading so many short stories lately has motivated me to share with you a recommendation… Rudyard Kipling’s story “The Brushwood Boy” is one of my all-time favorites. It’s simply magical. The hero of the story, over the years, has crafted a kind of dream landscape that he visits over and over in his slumbers. He assumes he alone knows of this dream world, but finds out otherwise. I won’t include any other spoilers here ’cause I’m hoping you’ll take the half hour or so to read it for yourself. (you can find it free online in many places).http://ghostwolf.dyndns.org/words/authors/K/KiplingRudyard/prose/TheDaysWork/brushwoodboy.html

It includes the following beautiful verse/song:

Over the edge of the purple down,
Where the single lamplight gleams,
Know ye the road to the Merciful Town
That is hard by the Sea of Dreams-
Where the poor may lay their wrongs away,
And the sick may forget to weep?
But we – pity us! Oh, pity us!
We wakeful; ah, pity us! –
We must go back with Policeman Day –
Back from the City of Sleep!

Weary they turn from the scroll and crown,
Fetter and prayer and plough
They that go up to the Merciful Town,
For her gates are closing now.
It is their right in the Baths of Night
Body and soul to steep
But we – pity us! ah, pity us!
We wakeful; oh, pity us! –
We must go back with Policeman Day –
Back from the City of Sleep!

Over the edge of the purple down,
Ere the tender dreams begin,
Look – we may look – at the Merciful Town,
But we may not enter in !
Outcasts all, from her guarded wall
Back to our watch we creep:
We – pity us! ah, pity us!
We wakeful; oh, pity us! –
We that go back with Policeman Day –
Back from the City of Sleep

Maybe I’m reminded of this today because I’m verrrry sleepy after an insomniacal night and am thinking of the comfort that Georgie’s dream world provided…

Below: an illustration (by F.H. Townsend) from the 1899 publication of the story.

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