by Robert Laurence Binyon
Angered Reason walked with me
A street so squat, unshapen, bald,
So blear--windowed and grimy--walled,
So dismal--doored, it seemed to be
The abortion of a mind that had
Nor wit nor will to make, but left
Its impotence in image, reft
Of even the means of seeming glad.
And there, like never--ripened fruit,
Unsunned and starved, were human lives
In joyless, neighbour--dreading hives
Of care, with half their senses mute.
It pressed on me, that patient street,
It hurt me that it housed my kind:
It was so abject and resigned
And so deformed, I hated it.
The stars that flowered above grew bright;
The evening filled with wondrous blue;
The lampshine glistened in the dew;
The gliding trams were ships of light.
And through my rebel heart there ran
The want of things not bought or sold;
The spirit free to make and mould;
The naked glory of a man.
And fevered I began to build
A city, like the body, worth
The natural happiness of earth,
And with this folk its streets I filled,
No more from widest joy exiled
Nor helpless in a caging net.
Suddenly by a lamp I met
A woman carrying her child.
I stopped the building of my dream:
For there was all the future's book
Written in that enfolding look,
And there the never--ending theme,
And there the builder of the strong
City of men's desire; but there
Also the shadow of the snare
And the corruption and the wrong.
Ah, now I doubted of my thought
That could so easily perfect
Wishes in dream, and raise the wrecked,
And make all noble as it wrought.
Those mother's eyes, absorbed, unknown,
Had made my vision wan and thin.
There was a harder world to win
From flesh and blood than wood and stone.
O now of those, life's prisoners, none,
Soiled, soured, or hardened, but had speech
To me of secret wonder; each
Was once so wonderful to one!
Yet she that bears the pang, and hears
The first young cry and stills its want,
And can with her vast hope enchant
The promise of betraying years,--
Who should have beauty's best but she
To whom a son is given? That street
Of life's denial and defeat
Stood in my mind, accusing me.
Last updated January 14, 2019