Laurence Binyon, The Collected Poems of Laurence Binyon, II (London: Macmillan, 1931): 55-57.
1August from a vault of hollow brass
2Steep upon the sullen city glares.
3Yellower burns the sick and parching grass,
4Shivering in the breath of furnace airs.
5Prone upon their pale, outwearied brows
6Miserable forms lie heavily,
7Cumbering the earth; untimely boughs
8Fallen from this world-o'ershadowing tree,
9London, that with every buried sun
10Shakes from her strong life a thousand lives,
11Feeds her heart with blood of hearts undone;
12Nourished with a million sorrows, thrives.
13Hither the Reformer comes; a flame
14Burns within his dark, enthusiast gaze.
15Still he thirsts to show mankind their shame,
16Lift and drag them from their sinful ways.
17Now amid the prostrate scattered throng
18Standing, he uplifts his earnest cry:
19"Wake, awake, rise up from lust and wrong,
20Quickly seek God's mercy ere you die!
21"Thunder on your hesitation hangs.
22God prepares your fearful punishment.
23Flee, while yet 'tis time, those endless pangs,
24Hearken, wretched sinners, and repent."
25Scarce the motion of a listless arm,
26Scarce the uneasy lifting of a head,
27Answers that stern trumpet of alarm.---
28Still he sounds his vehement note of dread.
29Hand in hand three children solemn-eyed
30Wonder up into his face, and pass,
31Often turning backward, o'er the wide
32Hueless desert of the hazy grass.
33Fierce the lava-torrent of his speech
34Pours on those dejected souls around;
35Yet his words no single bosom reach,
36Wither and fall idle on the ground.
37Now at last he falters; his own thought,
38His own voice, is strange and far to him.
39The sun stares his meaning into naught;
40In the stillness all his fire is dim.
41From those miserable forms unstirred
42Now a mute imploring cry he hears,
43Like a stricken creature's, without word;
44O what vain voice sounds upon our ears!
45Powerless are thy terrors to appal.
46Welcome even, so we feel the less
47Heavy on our hearts and over all
48This intolerable emptiness!
49Empty is the earth for us, the skies
50Empty; only lives the brazen sun.
51Empty are our hearts; and if we rise,
52There is nothing to be sought nor won.
53If upon our silence thou intrude,
54Speak a speech that we may understand!
55Leave us to endure our solitude,
56Or reach out to us a brother's hand.
57Join us to this life that round us teems;
58Let us breathe again that common breath!
59Bring us sorrow, labour, terrors, dreams,
60Madness; but deliver us from death!
Publication Start Year:
London Visions (London: Elkin Mathews, 1896).
RPO poem Editors:
Ian Lancashire, assisted by Ana Berdinskikh