In The British Museum

by Robert Laurence Binyon

Laurence Binyon

Shafts of light, that poured from the August sun,
Glowed on long red walls of the gallery cool;
Fell upon monstrous visions of ages gone,
Still, smiling Sphinx, winged and bearded Bull.
With burnished breast of ebon marble, queen
And king regarded full, from a tranquil brain
Enthroned together, conquered Time; serene
In spite of wisdom, and older than ancient pain.
Hither a poor woman, with sad eyes, came,
And vacantly looked around. The faces vast,
Their strange motionless features, touched with flame,
Awed her: in humble wonder she hurried past;
And shyly beneath a sombre monument sought
Obscurity; into the darkest shade she crept
And rested: soon, diverted awhile, her thought
Returned to its own trouble. At last she slept.
Not long sweet sleep alone her spirit possest.
A dream seized her: a solemn and strange dream.
For far from home in an unknown land, opprest
By burning sun, in the noon's terrible beam
She wandered; around her out of the plain arose
Immense Forms, that high above her stared.
Calm they seemed, and used to human woes;
Silent they heard her sorrow, with ears prepared.
Now like a bird, flitting with anxious wings,
Imprisoned within some vast cathedral's aisles,
Hither and thither she flutters: to each she brings
Her prayer, and is answered only with grave smiles.
Indescribably troubled, ``Crush me,'' she cries,
``Speak, speak, or crush me!'' The lips are dumb.
--She woke, no longer in shadow, the sun on her eyes,
And sighed, and arose, and returned to her empty home.

Last updated January 14, 2019