To A Derelict

by Robert Laurence Binyon

Laurence Binyon

O travelled far beyond unhappiness
Into a dreadful peace!
Why tarriest thou here? The street is bright
With noon; the music of the tidal sound
Of London fills the trembling air with power
Flowing and freed around;
No corner but is stirred
With motion and with voices mingling heard,
That every hour
Bring thousand faces trooping into light
Past thee. O hide thyself beneath the ground!
Trouble not our sunshine longer, lest we see
Too clearly inscribed on thee
All that we fear to be
What dost thou with the sun?
Long since thy race was run.
What spectral task employs
Thy hands? The very boys
That mocked thee, mock no more; they pass thee by,
Like a dumb stone that cannot make reply.
Yet, even as a stone
Will from the turbulent sea
Take voice and motion not its own,
Words on thy lips mechanically stray
With echoes and with gleams that fade and come
Unrecognized, unknown.
And as from some extinguished star
The orphan ray
Still vainly travels its eternal way,
A light of meaning flickers from afar
From what long since was dumb.
Still at the accustomed place
Appears thy ruined face;
And in thy niche all the resounding day,
'Mid busy voices haunting motionless
Thou standest; and to every loitering eye
Resign'st thy history.
Alas! thou also, thou that art so cold,
Thou also once wert young;
And once didst hang upon thy mother's breast
And laugh upon thy father's knee.
But now thy flesh is nearer to the mould
Than the light grass,--and still thou lingerest!
Woe to thee now, because thou chosest ill,
Because each hour thou didst resign
A little more of thy slow--ebbing will,
And to the invading silence didst assent;
Because to Life saying for ever Nay,
To Death thou saidest Yea,
Who leaves thee now engraven with defeat
In this triumphal street,
With all that was and is no longer thine
Yielded and spent
At what a priceless cost.
O face of many battles, and all lost!
Now all thy dues paid, Death possesses thee;
But too secure
To occupy his easy kingdom, spares
To enforce his title; cruelly forbears,
And suffers thee to languish in thy lot,
In this most woeful, that thou weepest not.
So in some street
Stirred with the rushing feet
Of life that glitters and that thunders past,
An aged house, broken and doomed at last,
Ere yet it vanish quite,
Abandons helpless to the light
Spoiled sanctuaries, filled with emptiness,
Where late the weary harboured, and young fears
Were cradled into peace,
And sacred kisses kissed, and private tears
Were dried, and true hearts hid their close delight.
But now the fires are ashes, all is bare,
The torn, gay paper flutters old,
And a phantasmal stair
Climbs into floorless chambers, and hearths cold.

Last updated January 14, 2019