by Robert Laurence Binyon
Give me your hand, Beloved! I cannot see;
So close from shadowy--branching tree to tree
Dark leaves hang over us. How vast and still
Night sleeps! and yet a murmur, a low thrill,
Sighed out of mystery, steals slowly near,
Solitary as longing or as fear,
Through the faint foliage, stirring it, and shy
Amid the stillness, ere it tremble by,
Touches us on the cheek and on the brow
Light as a dew--dript finger! Listen now,
'Tis not alone the hushings of the bough,
But on the slabbed rock--beaches far beneath
Listen, the liquid breath
Of the vast lake that rustles up all round
Whispering for ever! Soon shall we be where
The trees end, and the promontory bare
Breathes all that wide and water--wandering air
Which shall our foreheads and our lips delight,
Blown darkly through the breadth and depth and height
Of soft, immense, and solitary Night.
Where is the Day,
Bright as a dream, that on this same cliff--way
Fretted light shadows on old olive stems
By whose gray, riven roots like scarlet gems
The little poppies burned? Where those clear hues
Of water, melted to diviner blues
In the deep distance of each radiant bay,
But close beneath us, past the narrowed edge
Of shadow from sheer crag and jutting ledge,
Shallowing upon the low reef into gold,
A ripple of keen light for ever rolled
Up to the frail reed sighing on the shore?
Where are those mountains far--enthroned and hoar
Above the glittering water's slumbrous heat,
With old blanched towns sprinkled about their feet,
Lifting majestic shoulders, that each side
Of that steep misty northern chasm divide,
Where, ambushed in the dim gulf ere they leap,
Wild spirits of the Wind and Thunder sleep?
'Tis flown, that many--coloured dream is flown,
And with the heart of Night we are alone.
This is the verge. The promontory ends.
Now the dim branches cover us no more.
Abrupt the path descends:
But here will we sit, high above the shore,
Here, where we know what wild flowered bushes cloak
Old ruined walls, and crumbling arches choke
With mounded earth, though buried from our eyes
In dark now, as beneath dark centuries
The marble--towered magnificence of Rome,
From whose hot dust the passionate poet fled
Hither, and laid his head
Where these same waters laughed him welcome home!
It is all dark; but how the air breathes free!
Beloved, lean to me!
Feel how the stillness like a bath desired
With happy pressure heals our senses tired;
And drink the keen sweet fragrance from the grass
And wafts from hidden flowers that come and pass,--
None here but we, and we have left behind
The world, and cares confined,
All with the daylight drowned
In darkness on this height of utmost ground,
Where under us the sighing waters cease
And over us are only stars and peace.
O Love, Love, Love, look up! Let your head lean
Back on my shoulder. Ah, I feel the keen
Indrawing of your breath, and your heart beat
Under my own, and sighing through you sweet
The wonder of the Night that widely broods
Over us with her glittering multitudes.
Oh, in Night's garden has a fountain sprung
That over old earth showers forever young
A fairy splendour of still--dropping spray?
Or in mad rapture has enamoured May
Through the warm dusk mounted like wine, and towered
And in far spaces infinitely flowered,
Breaking the deep heaven into milky bloom?
So beautiful in this most tender gloom
Ten thousand thousand stars through height on height
Burn over us, how breathless and how bright!
Some wild, some fevered, some august and large,
Royal and blazing like a hero's targe,
Some faint and secret, from abysses brought,
Lone as an incommunicable thought--
They throng, they reign, they droop, they bloom, they glow
Upon our gaze, and as we gaze they grow
In patience and in glory, till the mind
Is brimmed and to all other being blind;
They hang, they fall towards us, spears of fire,
Piercing us through with joy and with desire.
Ah me, Beloved, comes an alien gust,
A sudden cold thought, blowing bitter dust
Upon this rapture. They are dead, all dead!
'Tis but the beauty of Medusa's head
Gleaming on us in icy masks, that stare
From everlasting winter blind and bare;
They have no answer for our hearts that yearn,
They have no joy in burning, only burn
Upon their senseless motion. Ah, no, no!
Can you not feel the warm truth overflow?
Light to light answers, even as heart to heart,
And by their shining we in them have part.
Lo, the same light that in the tiniest spark
Makes momentary beauty from the dark,
The light that blesses warm earth and inweaves
A million colours in young flowers and leaves,
That our sick thoughts and melancholy eyes
Confounds with magical simplicities,
Yea, that by dawn's beginning shall unfold
Wide glimmering waters, and to glory mould
Frore peaks, wild torrents in the vales between.
And golden mists on lawns of living green,
'Tis the same light that now above us showers
These star--drops, white and fair as falling flowers;
And silent rings a cry from star to sun,
Through all the worlds, Light, life and love are one!
Hush your heart now, Beloved, hush to sink
Your thought down, deep as the still mind can think,
Then climb as high as boldest thought can climb!
Were these dark heavens the unfathomed gulfs of Time,
So might we see bright peopling spirits star
The memoriless ages, burning far,
Splendid or faint, tempestuous or serene,
All quick and fiery spirits that have been,
From whose immortal ecstasies and pains
Drops of red life run sanguine in our veins;
Who lived and loved, and prodigally spent
Their strength, their prayers, upon one pure intent,
In whom no deed was willed, no lonely thought
Attempered and to sword--blade keenness brought,
But it has helped us, even us, for whom
They shine in glory from the ages' gloom.
But oh, it is not only these I see:
Look up, behold unnumbered hosts to be!
What shall we do for them, whose hope endears
Futurity's dark wilderness of years?
Heroes, that shall adventure and attain
What broke our wills in passion and in pain;
Sages, to find all that we vainly seek,
Poets, to utter all we cannot speak!
And they at last shall into strong towers build
The stones we bled to gather, the unfulfilled
House of our dream; what was but fable sung,
Or indignation on a prophet's tongue,
Made form and hue of life's own tissue, wrought
Into the rich reality of thought.
And women, ah, what majesty of fate
Is theirs, for whom the little is made great,
The tender strong; far--off they also wait
The glory of their burden. Love, what deep
Of mystery unfolds! Let your heart leap!
Lo, at your bosom all the world to come,
A child! It waits, it watches, it is dumb,
Yet hearkens and desires; the vision grows
Before us, and behind us overflows,
Mingling, as throng on throng of stars o'erhead,
One undivided host, the mighty dead,
The mightier unborn! Time is rent away;
There is no morrow, no, nor yesterday,
Nor here, nor there, nor sleeping nor awaking;
But, like full waters into ocean breaking,
Lost at this moment in our heart's high beating
The boundless tides of either world are meeting;
And by the love--cry in my heart that rings,
And by the answer in your heart that sings,
We feel, at once exulting and afraid,
Near to the glowing of the Hand that made
And out of earth, with divine fire instinct,
Moulded us for each other's need, and linked
Our brief breath with the eternal will. That light
Shall kindle, in the dulling world's despite,
The inmost of our spirits, burning through
The shadow of all we suffer, dream and do,
As surely as mine eyes, new facultied
In vision to the estranging day denied,
Still shall behold, when this fair night is fled,
All the stars shine round your belovèd head.
Last updated January 14, 2019