The Precinct. Rochester

by Amy Lowell

The tall yellow hollyhocks stand,

Still and straight,

With their round blossoms spread open,

In the quiet sunshine.

And still is the old Roman wall,

Rough with jagged bits of flint,

And jutting stones,

Old and cragged,

Quite still in its antiquity.

The pear-trees press their branches against it,

And feeling it warm and kindly,

The little pears ripen to yellow and red.

They hang heavy, bursting with juice,

Against the wall.

So old, so still!

The sky is still.

The clouds make no sound

As they slide away

Beyond the Cathedral Tower,

To the river,

And the sea.

It is very quiet,

Very sunny.

The myrtle flowers stretch themselves in the sunshine,

But make no sound.

The roses push their little tendrils up,

And climb higher and higher.

In spots they have climbed over the wall.

But they are very still,

They do not seem to move.

And the old wall carries them

Without effort, and quietly

Ripens and shields the vines and blossoms.

A bird in a plane-tree

Sings a few notes,

Cadenced and perfect

They weave into the silence.

The Cathedral bell knocks,

One, two, three, and again,

And then again.

It is a quiet sound,

Calling to prayer,

Hardly scattering the stillness,

Only making it close in more densely.

The gardener picks ripe gooseberries

For the Dean's supper to-night.

It is very quiet,

Very regulated and mellow.

But the wall is old,

It has known many days.

It is a Roman wall,

Left-over and forgotten.

Beyond the Cathedral Close

Yelp and mutter the discontents of people not mellow,

Not well-regulated.

People who care more for bread than for beauty,

Who would break the tombs of saints,

And give the painted windows of churches

To their children for toys.

People who say:

"They are dead, we live!

The world is for the living."

Fools! It is always the dead who breed.

Crush the ripe fruit, and cast it aside,

Yet its seeds shall fructify,

And trees rise where your huts were standing.

But the little people are ignorant,

They chaffer, and swarm.

They gnaw like rats,

And the foundations of the Cathedral are honeycombed.

The Dean is in the Chapter House;

He is reading the architect's bill

For the completed restoration of the Cathedral.

He will have ripe gooseberries for supper,

And then he will walk up and down the path

By the wall,

And admire the snapdragons and dahlias,

Thinking how quiet and peaceful

The garden is.

The old wall will watch him,

Very quietly and patiently it will watch.

For the wall is old,

It is a Roman wall.


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