I saw these dreamers of dreams go by,
I trod in their footsteps a space;
Each marched with his eyes on the sky,
Each passed with a light on his face.
They came from the hopeless and sad,
They faced the future and gold;
Some the tooth of want’s wolf had made mad,
And some at the forge had grown old.
Behind them these serfs of the tool
The rags of their service had flung;
No longer of fortune the fool,
This word from each bearded lip rung:
“Once more I ’m a man, I am free!
No man is my master, I say;
To-morrow I fail, it may be,—
No matter, I ’m freeman to-day.”
They go to a toil that is sure,
To despair and hunger and cold;
Their sickness no warning can cure,
They are mad with a longing for gold.
The light will fade from each eye,
The smile from each face;
They will curse the impassable sky,
And the earth when the snow torrents race.
Some will sink by the way and be laid
In the frost of the desolate earth;
And some will return to a maid,
Empty of hand as at birth.
But this out of all will remain,
They have lived and have tossed;
So much in the game will be gain,
Though the gold of the dice has been lost.