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"Each Age Is A Dream That Is Dying"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Arthur William Edgar O'Shaughnessy was himself a man who dreamed a dream; although he was vitally interested in literature and wanted a career as a poet and scholar, he spent his adult life in the natural history department of the British Museum, earning a living by the preserving of fish. Yet from that unpoetic work he emerged as a poet, albeit a minor one, of the Victorian era. Dead at the age of thirty-seven, he did not live long enough to come to grips with great themes in poetry, but he did prove in his short career as a poet that he had a real lyric talent; the Ode testifies to that talent. In the poem he tells the reader that he sees history as belonging to men who dream dreams and make music; these men, he says, "are the movers and shakers/ Of the world forever, it seems." One man, he writes, with a dream can conquer a crown; three others with a song can "trample a kingdom down." And he writes in the third and last stanza:

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with one sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.