Robert Laurence Binyon
Douro - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon
The dripping of the boughs in silence heard
Softly; the low note of some lingering bird
Amid the weeping vapour; the chill fall
Of solitary evening upon all
That stirs and hopes and apprehends and grieves,
With pining odours of the ruined leaves
Have like a dew distilled upon my heart
The air of death: but now recoiling start
Longing and keen remembrance out of sighs;
And forward the desiring spirit flies
Toward the wild peace of that illumined shore,
Which, left behind her, yet still shines before;
To Douro, rushing through the mighty hills.
Now his great stream with fancied splendour fills
Even this brooding twilight; a swift ghost,
Journeying forever to the glimmering coast,
Where his majestic voice is heard afar,
Exulting dim upon that ocean bar.
O Douro, gliding by dark woods, and fleet
Beneath thy shadowy rocks in the noon heat,
How my heart faints to follow after thee
On one true course to my deep destined sea!
To take no care of dimness or sunshine,
Urged ever by an inward way divine,
Nor falter in this heavy gloom that brings
So thick upon me lamentable things
Of earth, and hinders the swift spirit's wings,
And clouds the steadfast vision that sustains
Alone the trembling heart amid perpetual pains.
Dear friend, who thirstest, even as I, to be
Heir and possessor of sweet liberty,
Once more in memory let us pluck the hour
That bloomed so perfect, and renew the power
Of joy within our wondering breasts, to feel
That freshness of eternal things, and heal
All our unhappy thoughts in those pure rays.
Not yet the last of these delightful days
Into the dark unwillingly has flown,
And thou and I upon a hill o'ergrown,
That indolently shadows Douro stream,
Together watch the wonderful clear dream
Of evening. Under the dark shore of pines
Noiselessly running, the wide water shines.
Curving afar, from where the mountains lift
Their burning heads, through many a forest rift
The River comes, scenting the spaces free
In this broad channel, of his welcoming sea.
No more by silent precipices hewn
Out of the night, murmuring a lonely tune
To craggy Fregeneda; nor where shines
Regoa, throned among her purple vines,
Impetuously seeking valleys new;
But smoothing his broad mirror to the hue
And peace of heaven, unhasting now he flows
And with the sky unfathomably glows,
Even as on yonder shore the woods receive
In their empurpled bosoms the warm eve.
As when a lover gazes tenderly
Upon his loved one, and, as tender, she
Hushes her heart, her joy to realize,
So hushed, so lovely, so contented lies
Earth, by that earnest--gazing glory blest.
But on this hither bank that fervent West
Is hidden behind us, and the stems around
Spring shadowy from the bare and darkling ground.
Only a single pine out of the shade
Emerges, in what splendour soft arrayed!
Magical clearness, warming to the sight
As to the touch it would be: plumed with light,
Motionless upward the tree soars and burns.
But now the dews upon the freshened ferns
In the dim hollow gather, and cool scent
Of herbage with the pine's pure odour blent,
And voices of the villagers below
As home, with music, up the stream they row,
Greet us descending; every blossom sleeps,
And bluer and more blue the evening steeps
Water and fragrant grass and the straight stems
In tender mystery. Down a path that hems
The hollow, to our waiting boat we come.
Pale purple flames shining amid the gloom
Signal the autumn crocus: look, afar,
Betwixt the tree--tops, the first--ventured star!
Soon gliding homeward under shadowy shores
And deepened sky, to the repeated oars'
Strong chime we hasten. Now along pale sand
Our ripple leaps in silver; now the land,
High over the swift water darkly massed,
Echoes our falling blades as we go past;
Until, enthroned upon her hills divine,
The city nears us: lights begin to shine
Scarce from the stars distinguished, so the gloom
Has mingled earth and sky; more steeply loom
The banks on either side, at intervals
Tufted with trees, or crowned with winding walls;
And now at last the river opens large,
Filled with the city's murmur; from his marge,
Slope over slope, the glimmering terraces
Rise, and their scattered lamps' bright images
Cast on the wavering water; and we hear
The sound of soft bells, and cries faint or near
From the dim wharves, or anchored ships, whose spars
Entangle in dark meshes the white stars.
And pale smoke rising blue on the blue air
Sleeps in a thin cloud under heights that bear
Towers and roofs lofty against the west,
Where yet a clearness lingers. Now the breast
Of Douro heaves, foreboding whither bound
His currents hasten, and with joyous sound,
As though the encountering brine new pulses gave,
Lifts, to outrace our speed, his buoyant wave.
For, hearken, up the peaceful evening borne
Out of the wide sea--gates, low thunders warn
Of Ocean beating with his sleepless surge
Along the wild sand--marges: the deep dirge
Of mariners, that wakes the widow's ear
At night, far inland, terrible and near.
Fainter, this eve, he murmurs than as oft
His troubled music: here, by distance soft,
The abrupt volley, the sharp shattering roar,
And seethe of foam flung tumbling up the shore,
Mingle in one wide rumour, that all round
Is heard afar, robing the air with sound.
Deep in my heart I hear it. The still night
Deepens, as we ascend the homeward height,
And loud or low, in following intervals,
Over the hills the sound unwearied falls;
And as upon my bed my heavy eyes
Close up, the drowsing mind re--occupies.
O what a vision floats into my sleep!
As a night--shutting flower, my senses keep
The live day's lingering odours and warm hues,
That thought and motion with themselves transfuse,
Till sound and light and perfume are but one,
Mingled in fires of the embracing sun.
Yet still I am aware of Ocean stirred
Far off, and like a grave rejoicing heard.
Am I awake, or in consenting dreams
Pour thither all my thought's tumultuous streams?
His voice, to meet them, a deep answer sends:
My soul, to listen, her light wing suspends,
And, pillowed upon undulating sound,
For all desire hath satisfaction found.
He calls her thither, where the winds uncage
Vast longing, that the unsounded seas assuage.
Breeze after breeze her wingèd pinnace bears
Over the living water, that prepares
Still widening mystery: she her speed the more
Urges, exulting to have lost the shore,
Supported by the joy that sets her free,
Delighted mistress of her destiny,
Fills the wide night with beating of her wing,
And is content, for ever voyaging
By timeless courses, over worlds unknown,
Lifted and lost, abounding and alone.
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