Robert Laurence Binyon
The Reformer - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon
August from a vault of hollow brass
Steep upon the sullen city glares.
Yellower burns the sick and parching grass,
Shivering in the breath of furnace airs.
Prone upon their pale, outwearied brows
Miserable forms lie heavily,
Cumbering the earth; untimely boughs
Fallen from this world--o'ershadowing tree,
London, that with every buried sun
Shakes from her strong life a thousand lives,
Feeds her heart with blood of hearts undone;
Nourished with a million sorrows, thrives.
Hither the Reformer comes; a flame
Burns within his dark, enthusiast gaze.
Still he thirsts to show mankind their shame,
Lift and drag them from their sinful ways.
Now amid the prostrate scattered throng
Standing, he uplifts his earnest cry:
``Wake, awake, rise up from lust and wrong,
Quickly seek God's mercy ere you die!
``Thunder on your hesitation hangs.
God prepares your fearful punishment.
Flee, while yet 'tis time, those endless pangs,
Hearken, wretched sinners, and repent.''
Scarce the motion of a listless arm,
Scarce the uneasy lifting of a head,
Answers that stern trumpet of alarm.--
Still he sounds his vehement note of dread.
Hand in hand three children solemn--eyed
Wonder up into his face, and pass,
Often turning backward, o'er the wide
Hueless desert of the hazy grass.
Fierce the lava--torrent of his speech
Pours on those dejected souls around;
Yet his words no single bosom reach,
Wither and fall idle on the ground.
Now at last he falters; his own thought,
His own voice, is strange and far to him.
The sun stares his meaning into naught;
In the stillness all his fire is dim.
From those miserable forms unstirred
Now a mute imploring cry he hears,
Like a stricken creature's, without word;
O what vain voice sounds upon our ears!
Powerless are thy terrors to appal.
Welcome even, so we feel the less
Heavy on our hearts and over all
This intolerable emptiness!
Empty is the earth for us, the skies
Empty; only lives the brazen sun.
Empty are our hearts; and if we rise,
There is nothing to be sought nor won.
If upon our silence thou intrude,
Speak a speech that we may understand!
Leave us to endure our solitude,
Or reach out to us a brother's hand.
Join us to this life that round us teems;
Let us breathe again that common breath!
Bring us sorrow, labour, terrors, dreams,
Madness; but deliver us from death!
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