After Three Days

Author: Lewis Carroll  | Date: 1861


["Written after seeing Holman Hunt’s picture,

The Finding of Christ in the Temple."]

I STOOD within the gate

Of a great temple, ’mid the living stream

Of worshippers that thronged its regal state

Fair-pictured in my dream.

Jewels and gold were there;

And floors of marble lent a crystal sheen

To body forth, as in a lower air,

The wonders of the scene.

Such wild and lavish grace

Had whispers in it of a coming doom;

As richest flowers lie strown about the face

Of her that waits the tomb.

The wisest of the land

Had gathered there, three solemn trysting-days,

For high debate: men stood on either hand

To listen and to gaze.

The aged brows were bent,

Bent to a frown, half thought, and half annoy,

That all their stores of subtlest argument

Were baffled by a boy.

In each averted face

I marked but scorn and loathing, till mine eyes

Fell upon one that stirred not in his place,

Tranced in a dumb surprise.

Surely within his mind

Strange thoughts are born, until he doubts the lore

Of those old men, blind leaders of the blind,

Whose kingdom is no more.

Surely he sees afar

A day of death the stormy future brings;

The crimson setting of the herald-star

That led the Eastern kings.

Thus, as a sunless deep

Mirrors the shining heights that crown the bay,

So did my soul create anew in sleep

The picture seen by day.

Gazers came and went-

A restless hum of voices marked the spot-

In varying shades of critic discontent

Prating they knew not what.

"Where is the comely limb,

The form attuned in every perfect part,

The beauty that we should desire in him?"

Ah! Fools and slow of heart!

Look into those deep eyes,

Deep as the grave, and strong with love divine;

Those tender, pure, and fathomless mysteries,

That seem to pierce through thine.

Look into those deep eyes,

Stirred to unrest by breath of coming strife,

Until a longing in thy soul arise

That this indeed were life:

That thou couldst find Him there,

Bend at His sacred feet thy willing knee,

And from thy heart pour out the passionate prayer,

"Lord, let me follow Thee!"

But see the crowd divide:

Mother and sire have found their lost one now:

The gentle voice, that fain would seem to chide,

Whispers, "Son, why hast thou"-

In tone of sad amaze-

"Thus dealt with us, that art our dearest thing?

Behold, thy sire and I, three weary days,

Have sought thee sorrowing."

And I had stayed to hear

The loving words, "How is it that ye sought?"-

But that the sudden lark, with matins clear,

Severed the links of thought.

Then over all there fell

Shadow and silence; and my dream was fled,

As fade the phantoms of a wizard’s cell

When the dark charm is said.

Yet, in the gathering light,

I lay with half-shut eyes that would not wake,

Lovingly clinging to the skirts of night

For that sweet vision’s sake.

Feb. 16, 1861.

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Chicago: Lewis Carroll, After Three Days Original Sources, accessed May 25, 2024,

MLA: Carroll, Lewis. After Three Days, Original Sources. 25 May. 2024.

Harvard: Carroll, L, After Three Days. Original Sources, retrieved 25 May 2024, from