The Road

by Ivor Gurney

Ivor Gurney

Out beyond Aldgate is a road,
And a broad,
Clean, noble thing it runs,
For the sun's
And wind's and man's delight,
And the high stars at night.
There go Jewesses
And Poles and Russ and these
Pale-faced sons,
Daughter of Thames and Paul's
Betwixt walls and high walls
Of sooted brick, ugly turned.
A hard life, hardly earned;
Routine that galls,
Being so cunning turned.
Seldom marvellous
Comes down tremulous,
Or steady on that East
is light increased.
Through smoke-fog or river mist. . . .
Never fades the sun
Out in pageants that stun
The heart from talking thereon.
Always something mars
Magnificence from stars.
From strange faces and thunder
Men must draw wonder:
Of trams and buses crammed,
Or Saturday-night damned-
Up, seething, dodging,
Grumbling, laughing, over-busy
Crowd in Mile End crammed;
Or in one hour of joys
When football plays
Marvellous music on these jigging heart-strings,
And one lucky kick brings
Battle-winning in a Niagara of noise -
Or some furtive
Trick of professionalism
Plunges a crowd into Hell's
Own tumult and scorn and hot-alive
Furious cataclysm -
The referee quells.
Or in sight of a painted
Pace, through the tainted
Smoke-blue atmosphere
Of Music-hall, Cinema,
Where happy Tom Parker
Or Chaplin would grin him a
Further defiance of consequence here,
Or in drinkings of beer,
Or eatings of strange fish
Or shelled things from barrows;
Stewed eels, winkles: -
Roast pea-nut mingles
Well with the whole.
Or in sight of fallen horses
Or axle-broken wheeled things
The market-gardener brings
Or the hawker his cabbages,
Some Essex husbandryings
For London's vast maw.
Or fire-engine's law
Of free-way when the quickest sees
Smoke or sparks rising
In places surprising
And rings in fears' ecstasies.
For quick horseless carriages,
Brass-helmeted heroes -
But it might be advertising.
Anyhow folk live there
And daily strive there,
And earn their bread there,
Make friends, see red there,
As high on the clean hills
Where soft sea-rapture fills
The gladdened lungs.
And young souls are fleshed there
And tyrants immeshed there
As in Athens or Ukraine,
And the heart hurts the brain
Or the spirit is lashed there,
And thought is as vain,
Hope constant, and smashed there,
As away a day's journey by train.

Last updated July 01, 2015