Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

Adversaries - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Who are these that meet
At random in the street?
Adversaries! Yet they
Make no sign nor stay.
Neither he nor she
Knows what those Powers be
That bodied in them go
Among the peopled flow,
One toward the dusk and one
Toward the Western sun.

Secret eyes turn to her,
And bosoms throb astir,
As if a perfume blew
And made the evening new.
Lissom with budding breast,
She steps toward the bright West,
An airy--footed shape!
Above the neck's young nape
Springs wonderful her hair.
The round throat lifts in air
The flower that is her head.
Her lips are Peril's red;
Her eyes a shy surprise,
Shedding soft cruelties.

Of what will was she wrought,
Vivid, without a thought?
Fragrance of all that's young
And delicately sprung
Is round her like a lure
Voluptuously pure;--
Eternal soul of sense,
The moment's quintessence!
Of what will was she made,
With those fine lashes laid
Upon her bloom? She comes
From the wild Earth, that hums
With summer in the mead,
Glutting the flower--cups' greed
Of sunlight; ill to tame
As Hunger, Thirst or Flame.

But he that's striding East
Regards not her the least.
His thought is far away,
Circling the end of day.
Though young, the restless mind,
Moulding the flesh, has signed
His features; and his gaze,
Absented in retreat
From all this human street,
Holds musings that begin
To sharpen cheek and chin.
What speculation now
Beneath that ardent brow
Braves what it sees?--Among
Blind worlds, this planet swung
Like an old toy, a spark
In the gigantic dark,
A mote of dust alive,
Where millions meanly strive--
For what? If Thought alone
Keeps man upon his throne
Of courage, to outface
The Gorgon mask of Space,
What wills it with this house
Of flesh, that loves to drowse
And take the hours of sense
For sweetness and defence,--
Of flesh that is but clay
For Thought to sift away
Like powder of idle sand
Within the crumbling hand?

Two Cruelties are these,
And two Defiances.
Yet though they be apart
As East and West, the heart
Of man is twined in each.
Of them he makes his speech,
His torment and delight,
His songs, his tears, his height
Of wisdom, his despair.
Though both his being tear,
He knows not which to choose
Nor which he'd harder lose.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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