1Through jewelled windows in the walls
2     The tempered daylight smiles,
3And solemn music swells and falls
4     Adown these stately aisles;
5Beneath that carven chancel-rood
6Low murmurs, hushed to silence, brood;
7     One voice in prayer appeals
8For Holy Spirit's quickening grace
9To light his now anointed face
10     Who at the altar kneels.
11One hour ago, like us, he trod
12     Along these cloisters dim --
13Now we are bid to reverence God
14     Made manifest in him;
15To mock at our enlightened sense
16And dearly won experience,
17     So far beyond his own;
18To take him for our heaven-sent guide
19Upon these seas, so wild and wide,
20     To him as yet unknown.
21Unconscious of the coming strife,
22     Unformed in mind and thought,
23Without one ripe idea of life
24     Save what his school books taught,
25An ignorant boy, he vows a vow
26To think and feel as he does now
27     Till his gold locks are grey;
28Pledges his word to learn no more --
29To add no wisdom to the store
30     His young mind holds to-day.
31How shall he keep this senseless oath
32     When once a full-grown man?
33How shall he check his upward growth
34     To fit this meagre plan?
35Only by ruthless pinching out
36Of all the fairest shoots that sprout,
37     As on a healthy tree,
38From his expanding brain and heart --
39Defrauding his diviner part
40     Of its virility.
41And thus shall youthful passion pale
42     In native force and fire;
43And thus shall soaring pinions fail,
44     Bedraggled in the mire;
45This tender conscience, now so bright,
46Lose its fine sense of wrong and right --
47     Dulled with a moral rust;
48This ardent intellect be damped,
49This eager spirit starved and cramped --
50     Choked in mediæval dust.
51Thus shall the fettered arm grow numb,
52     And blind the bandaged eye;
53Thus shall the silenced voice grow dumb,
54     As year by year goes by;
55Until at last, from long abuse
56And lack of free and wholesome use,
57     All manhood's powers decline;
58And, like a lamp unfed, untrimmed,
59Intelligence, once bright, is dimmed,
60     No more to burn and shine.
61Then may we see this sanguine youth --
62     Born for a nobler lot --
63Turn traitor to the highest truth
64     Because he knows it not;
65Serving for Mammon, veiled as God,
66Cringing for high-born patron's nod,
67     For social place and gain,
68While he mechanically yields
69The produce of his fallow fields --
70     Husks of long-garnered grain.
71No more a brave and honest man,
72     Whose conscience is his own,
73But worse than thief and courtesan
74     To degradation grown;
75A cheat and hypocrite, content,
76In shelter of base precedent,
77     The downward path to tread,
78Lest he should lose his Esau's bowl,
79That bought the birthright of his soul,
80     And have to earn his bread.
81Or, if remorsefully aware
82     Of his ignoble case,
83Owning himself too weak to dare
84     A brother's hostile face,
85Too weak to stand alone and fight
86Against the strong world's might with right --
87     A leader's part to take;
88Dying a daily death in life,
89At outward peace and inward strife,
90     For poor convention's sake.
91Let organ music swell and peal,
92     And priests and people pray,
93Let those who can at altar kneel --
94     I have no heart to stay.
95I cannot bear to see it done --
96This fresh young life, scarce yet begun,
97     Closed by that iron door;
98A free-born spirit gagged and bound,
99Tethered to one small plot of ground,
100While all the great world spreads around,
101     And doomed to fly no more.
Publication Notes: 
Unspoken Thoughts (New South Wales: English Department, University College, 1988): 126-132.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire