Richard Monckton Milnes Houghton

(1809-1885 / England)

The Illuminations Of St. Peter’s

Temple! where Time has wed Eternity,
How beautiful Thou art, beyond compare,
Now emptied of thy massive majesty,
And made so faery--frail, so faery--fair:
The lineaments that thou art wont to wear
Augustly traced in ponderous masonry,
Lie faint as in a woof of filmy air,
Within their frames of mellow jewelry.--
But yet how sweet the hardly--waking sense,
That when the strength of hours has quenched those gems,
Disparted all those soft--bright diadems,--
Still in the Sun thy form will rise supreme
In its own solid clear magnificence,
Divinest substance then, as now divinest dream.

My heart was resting with a peaceful gaze,
So peaceful that it seemed I well could die
Entranced before such Beauty,--when a cry
Burst from me, and I sunk in dumb amaze:
The molten stars before a withering blaze
Paled to annihilation, and my eye,
Stunned by the splendour, saw against the sky
Nothing but light,--sheer light,--and light's own haze.
At last that giddying Sight took form,--and then
Appeared the stable Vision of a Crown,
From the black vault by unseen Power let down,
Cross--topped,--thrice girt with flame:--Cities of men,
Queens of the Earth! bow low,--was ever brow
Of mortal birth adorned as Rome is now?

Past is the first dear phantom of our sight,
A loadstar of calm loveliness to draw
All souls from out this world of fault and flaw,
To a most perfect centre of delight,
Merged in deep fire;--our joy is turned to awe,
Delight to wonder. This is just and right;--
A greater light puts out the lesser light,--
So be it ever,--such is God's high law.
The self--same Sun that calls the flowers from earth
Withers them soon, to give the fruit free birth;--
The nobler Spirit to whom much is given
Must take still more, though in that more there lie
The risk of losing All;--to gaze at Heaven,
We blind our earthly eyes;--to live we die.

Submitted: Tuesday, October 05, 2010

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