Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

(1834-1894 / England)

In London - Poem by Roden Berkeley Wriothesley Noel

THE mighty towers of Westminster
Loom beneath me in murk air,
While a vast expanse of street
Echoes to loud-hurrying feet
Of men and horses, and swift wheels,
Where a clanging steeple peals,
Where he, who with deep feeling cons
The souls of animals, in bronze
Wrought majestic lion forms,
Brooding, slumbering, dark storms,
Symbols of our England's power,
Whose dread lightnings brood and glower,
Like those fulvous eyes; their claws
Are death, hid sheathed in vasty paws.
On the lion a child gazes;
Grave brown wondering eyes he raises
To the form: compelled to leave,
With all my sight to him I cleave
In departing; often since
As from a sickening stroke I wince,
Journeying by the very place
Where I beheld his little face
Pondering on the mighty beast,
More than all to me, though least,
Seeing now through tear-suffusion
Without him all the loud confusion!

Once again the living creatures,
With their weary sullen features,
I behold behind the bars,
Where the den's dull limit mars
All wild splendour of their pride,
Abates the grandeur of their stride
Bondage tames the fervid eyes,
As night doth the torrid skies,
To a lurrid sultriness,
Clouded o'er with vague distress;
Emblems of our human race,
Fallen from their lofty place,
Blind, bewildered, bound within
By the manacles of sin!

With a glad and grave surprise
The terror of their gleaming eyes
He considers, mirthful mime
Of them in a little time.
Again I view the elephant,
Slow-pacing in his wonted haunt,
On whose tall, broad, howdah'd back
The child and I along the track
Three years ago swung, full of glee -
Now the child is not with me!

When our wild praying seemed to stir
God's awful executioner,
Whose blank, set countenance faint quavered,
Whose dull resolve a moment wavered,
And when sweet life appeared to quell
Death's white horror, it befell
That when he would descend the stair,
Patient he paused for one to bear
Him feeble, and I filled the want;
So he named me his elephant.

Passing through the gay arcade,
Where toys for children are displayed,
Anon I pause before a toy,
Dreaming how a little boy
Will lighten with mirth from his dear face
If I buy it - for a space
Unremembering my home
Without him is but blind and dumb!
His sacred toys lie idle now;
O'er them the pale anguished brow
Of Love's forlorn despair we bend,
Hoping life's dull pain may end;
Till anon some organ sounds
In the street, but no glad bounds
Of a child's light feet we note
Run to hear the music float,
Climb upon a chair to see
Dancing dolls' bedizened glee,
Or the monkey's mimicry.

What shall I do? . . . Full many others,
Little ones who seem his brothers,
Take delight in things like these!
Do they ail, or doth the breeze
Of pleasure ripple o'er their faces,
I will contemplate their graces;
I will be a minister
The fountain of their joy to stir,
In such resorts, and by such measures,
As were wont to yield him pleasures;
Or where little hearts may ail,
Love's yoke-fellow, I will not fail,
Where are tears and visage pale,
To quell the tyranny of Fate,
Or man, that renders desolate:
And I deem he will approve
In the bowers of holy Love,
Near and nearer to me move.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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