Dream-Poem which closes the Herman Hesse novel ‘The Glass Bead Game.’


Guest at a monastery in the hills,

I stepped, when all the monks had gone to pray,

Into a book-lined room. Along the walls,

Glittering in the light of fading day,

I saw a multitude of vellum spines

With marvelous inscriptions. Eagerly,

Impelled by rapturous curiosity,

I picked the nearest book, and read the lines:

The squaring of the circle – Final Stage.

I thought: I’ll take this and read every page!

A quarto volume, leather tooled in gold,

Gave promise of a story still untold:

How Adam also ate of the other tree

The other tree? Which one? The tree of life?

Is Adam then immortal? Now I could see

No chance had brought me here to this library.

I spied the back and edges of a folio

Aglow with all the colors of the rainbow,

Its hand-painted title stating a decree:

The interrelationships of hues and sound:

Proof that for every color may be found

In music a proper corresponding key.

Choirs of colors sparkled before my eyes

And now I was beginning to surmise:

Here was the library of Paradise.

To all the questions that had driven me

All the answers could be given me.

Here I could quench my thirst to understand,

For here all knowledge stood at my command.

There was provision here for every need:

A title fill of promise on each book

Responded to my every rapid look.

Here there was fruit to satisfy the greed

Of any student’s timid aspirations,

Here was the inner meaning, here the key,

To poetry, to wisdom, and to science.

Magic and erudition in alliance

Opened the door to every mystery.

Those books provided pledges of all power

To him who came here at this magic hour.


A lectern stood near by; with hands that shook

I placed upon it one enticing book,

Deciphered at a glance the picture writing,

As in a dream we find ourselves reciting

A poem or lesson we have never learned.

At once I soared aloft to starry spaces

Of the soul, and with the zodiac turned,

Where all the revelations of all races,

Whatever intuition has divined,

Millennial experience of all nations,

Harmoniously met in new relations,

Old insights with new symbols recombined,

So that in minutes or in hours as I read

I traced once more the whole path of mankind,

And all that men have ever done and said

Disclosed its inner meaning to my mind.

I read, and saw those hieroglyphic forms

Couple and part, and coalesce in swarms,

Dance for a while together, separate,

Once more in newer patterns integrate,

A kaleidoscope of endless metaphors-

And each some vaster, fresher sense explores.


Bedazzled by these sights, O looked away

From the book to give my eyes a moment’s rest,

And saw that I was not the only guest.

An old man stood before that grand array

Of tomes. Perhaps he was the archivist.

I saw that he was earnestly intent

Upon some task, and I could not resist

A strange conviction that I had to know

The manner of his work, and what it meant.

I watched the old man, with frail hand and slow,

Remove a volume and inspect what stood

Written upon its back, then saw him blow

With pallid lips upon the title-could

A title possibly be more alluring

Or offer greater promise of enduring

Delight? But now his finger wiped across

The spine. I saw it silently erase

The name, and watched with fearful sense of loss

As he inscribed another in its place

And then moved on to smilingly efface

One more, but only a newer title to emboss.

For a long while I looked at him bemused,

The turned, since reason totally refused

To understand the meaning of his actions,

Back to my book -I’d seen but a few lines-

And found I could no longer read the signs

Or even see the rows of images.

The world of symbols I had barely entered

That had stirred me to such transports of bliss,

In which a universe of meaning centered,

Seemed to dissolve and rush away, careen

And reel and shake in feverish contractions,

And fade out, leaving nothing to be seen

But empty parchment with a hoary sheen.

I felt a hand upon me, felt it slide

Over my shoulder. The old man stood beside

My lectern, and I shuddered while

He took my book and with a subtle smile

Brushed his finger lightly to elide

The former title, then began to write

New promises and problems, novel inquiries,

New formulas for ancient mysteries.

Without a word, he plied his magic style.

Then, with my book, he disappeared from sight.



About j. j. marino

As a creaky & cranky a-social agoraphobic anchorite, living in seclusion in the Great North Woods & keeping centered by the Power of the Written Word, a blog would seem to be a fat pitch in my strike zone.

Posted on March 10, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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