Robert Laurence Binyon
The Cathedral Porch - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon
Towering, towering up to the noon--blaze,
Up to the hot blue, up to blinding gold,
Pillar and pinnacle, arch and corbel, scrolled,
Flowered and tendrilled, soar, aspire and raise
The giant porch, with kings and prophets old
High in their niches, like one shout of praise,
From earth to heaven.--In shadow of the door
Cringeing, a beggar stands;
He holds out abject hands;
His lips for pity and alms mechanically implore.
Splendour of air and the bright splintered beam
Carve all afresh in strong reverberate glow
As if even now the passionate master--blow
Struck from the stone the shapes of beauty's dream.
Can a mere hand ever have fashioned so
Desire's adventure, god--like force, supreme
Sky--scaling joy?--The beggar's toneless drone
Comes from his laughterless
As from a long--dried well, where off--cast clutter's thrown.
Prophet and saint and kingly king, whose eyes,
Flashing authority, gaze and awe, you came
From wombs of flesh, though now enthroned in fame.
A mother heard the helpless wailing cries
Of voices that have won the world's acclaim
By wisdom, suffering, truth. August you rise
Above this wreck, by whom the children run
Careless with dancing limb,
And laugh, and mock at him;
And beggar, children, towering porch are equal in the sun.
From the opened door bursts upon glorious wings
Music: the shadowy silence moves with sound
That overflows and rolls returning round.
As if to itself, the pillared grandeur sings
Of deeper than all thought has ever found,
Of richer than the heart's imaginings,
Of higher than all hope has dared to see.
Like comment of a crow,
Dulled, reiterate, slow,
The human plaint croaks answer: Vanity! look on me!
Who made the stark unfeatured quarry--block
Live in those song--like pillars? And who smote
The ancient silence into note on note
Melodious as the river from the rock?
Out of the heart of man such splendours float
As make his vileness and his misery mock
The prisoned soul: which shall bespeak him more,
Grandeur of stone and sound,
Or fawning abject, bound
To his abasement, close as to a dungeon floor?
Sunken eyes, craving hands, defeated shape,
Whom to look on so humbles, you appear
But as the avoided husk, shrivelled and sere,
Cast by the spirit that springs up to escape
To its own reality and radiance there
For ever fresh as young bloom on a grape,
Triumphing to be human, yet to win
An amplitude beyond
Dull care and fancy fond,
And breathe the light that man was born to glory in.
Yet littleness, and envy, and obscure pain
Were mortised into that magnificence!
Trading his wretchedness for pity's pence,
Though this poor ruin from the depth complain,
Slave to his self--lamenting impotence,
Nor can his proud humanity regain;
O Wonder of Man, in his indignity,
Forfeit, disgrace, and rue,
Shares he not still in you?
Did not man sink so low, could he aspire so high?
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