by Robert Laurence Binyon
With beckoning fingers bright
In heaven uplifted, from the darkness wakes,
Upon a sudden, radiant Fire,
And out of slumber shakes
Her wild hair to the night;
Bewitching all to run with hurried feet,
And stand, and gaze upon her beauty dire.
For her the shrinking gloom
Yields, and a place prepares;
An ample scene and a majestic room:
Slowly the river bares
His bank; above, in endless tier,
Glittering out of the night the windows come
To that bright summons; and at last appear,
Hovering, enkindled, and unearthly clear,
Steeple, and tower, and the suspended dome.
But whence are these that haste
So rapt? What throngs along the street that press,
Raised by enchantment from the midnight waste
That even now was sleeping echoless?
Men without number, lured from near and far
As by a world--portending star!
Lo, on the bright bank without interval
Faces in murmuring line,
With earnest eyes that shine,
Across the stream gaze ever; on the wall
Faces; and dense along the bridge's side
Uncounted faces; softly the wheels glide
Approaching, lest they break the burning hush
Of all that multitude aflush
With secret strange desire.
Warm in the great light, as themselves afire,
Thousands are gazing, and all silently!
How to the throbbing glare their hearts reply,
As tossing upward a dim--sparkled plume,
The beautiful swift Fury scares the sky.
The stars look changed on high,
And red the steeples waver from the gloom.
Distantly clear over the water swells
The roar: the iron stanchions dribble bright,
And faltering with strong quiver to its fall,
Drops, slowly rushing, the great outer wall.
From lip to lip a wondering murmur goes,
As crouching a dark moment o'er its prey,
Swiftly again upleaps
The wild flame, and exulting madly glows;
The city burns in an enchanted day.
Still the great throng impassioned silence keeps,
Like an adoring host in ecstasy.
Did ever vision of the opened sky
Entrance more deeply, or did ever voice
Of a just wrath more terribly rejoice?
The houseless beggar gazing has forgot
His hunger; happy lovers' hands relax;
They look no more into each others' eyes.
Wrapt in its mother's shawl
The fretting child no longer cries.
And that soul--piercing flame
Melts out like wax
The prosperous schemer's busy schemes:
The reveller like a visionary gleams.
An aged wandering pair lift up their heads
Out of old memories; to each, to all,
Time and the strong world are no more the same,
But threatened, perishable, trembling, brief,
Even as themselves, an instant might destroy,
With all the builded weight of years and grief,
All that old hope and pleasant usage dear.
Glories and dooms before their eyes appear;
Upon their faces joy,
Within their bosoms fear!
Is it that even now
In all, O radiant Desolation, thou
Far off prefigurest
To each obscurely wounded breast
The dream of what shall be?
And in their hearts they see
Rushing in ardent ruin out of sight
With all her splendour, with her streaming robe
Of seas, and her pale peoples, the vast globe
A sullen ember crumble into night!
Last updated January 14, 2019