Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Secret - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

I
I lay upon my bed in the great night:
The sense of my body drowsed;
But a clearness yet lingered in the spirit,
By soft obscurity housed.

As an inn to a traveller on a long road,
Happy sleep appeared.
I should come there, to the room of waiting dreams,
In the time that slowly neared;

But still amid memory's wane fancy delighted,
Like wings in the afterglow
Dipping to the freshness of the waves of living,
To recover from long--ago

A touch or a voice, then soaring aloft and afar
The free world to range.
At last, on the brink of the dark, by subtle degrees
Came a chilling and a change.

Solitude sank to my marrow and pierced my veins.
Though I roam and though I learn
All the wonder of earth and of men, it is here
In the end I must return,

To the something alone that in each of us breathes and sleeps,
Profound, isolate, still,
And must brave the giant world, and from hour to hour
Must prove its own will;

To this self, unexcused and unglorified, drawn
From its fond shadows, and bare,
Wherein no man that has been, none that is or shall be,
Shares, or can ever share.

And it tingled through me how all use and disguise
Hide nothing: none
Avails to shield, neither pleader nor protector,
But the truth of myself alone.

And the days that have made me, have I not made them also?
Are they not drops of my blood?
What have I done with them? Flower they still within me,
Or lie, trodden in the mud?

Why for god--like freedom an irreplaceable Here,
An irrevocable Now?
They were heavy like strong chains about my bosom,
Like hard bonds upon my brow.

The moments oozing out of the silence seemed
From my very heart lost
In the stream of the worlds: I felt them hot like tears
And of more than riches' cost.

Yet what was it alien in me stood and rebelled
And cried, Nevertheless
My passion is mine, my strength and my frailty; I am not
Thrall unto Time's duress!

Then suddenly rose before me, older than all,
Night of the soft speech,
With murmur of tender winds, yet terrible with stars
Beyond fancy's reach;

Without foundation, without summit, without
Haven or refuge, Night
Palpitating with stars that dizzy thought and desire
In their unimagined flight,

O these most terrible! vast surmises, touching
The pulse of a fear unknown,
Where all experience breaks like a frail bubble,
And the soul is left alone,

Alone and abandoned of all familiar uses,--
Itself the only place
It knows,--a question winged, barbed and burning
In the answerless frost of Space.

I was afraid; but my heart throbbed faster, fiercer.
I trembled, but cried anew:
I am strange to you, O Stars! O Night, I am your exile,
I have no portion in you.

Though you shall array your silences against me,
I know you and defy.
Though I be but a moth in an abyss of ages,
This at least is not yours; it is I.


II
O blessèd be the touch of thought
That marries moments from afar,
That finds the thing it had not sought,
And smells a spice no treasure bought,
And learns what never sages taught,
And sees this earth a dazzling star!

As in the sheen of a lamp unseen,
The lamp of memory shrouded long,
There sprang before me, sweet as song,
The vision of a branch of bloom,
A swaying branch of blossom scented;
And in that bloom amid the gloom
My heart was luminously tented.


III
A score of years was melted, and I was young
And the world young with me,
When in innocence of delight I laid me down
Beneath a certain tree.

The breathing splendour of that remembered May
Had yet seven days to spill
In fragrant showers of fairy white and red
And in notes from the blackbird's bill,

When I laid me down on a bank by the water's edge:
In the glowing shadow I lay.
My very body was drenched in a speechless joy
Whose cause I could not say.

The sky was poured in singing rivers of blue;
The ripple danced in sight;
Close to the marge was a coloured pebble; it burned
Amid kisses of liquid light.

Like a hurry of little flames the tremble of gleams
Shivered up through the leaves and was gone.
Like a shaking of heavenly bells was the sound of the leaves
In the tower of branches blown.

And odours wandering each from its honeyed haunt
Over the air stole,
Like memories out of a world before the world,
Seeking the private soul.

But I knew not where my soul was: in that hour
Neither time nor place it knew!
It was trembling high in the topmost blossom that drank
Of the glory of airy blue;

It was dark in the root that sucked of the plenteous earth;
It was lovely flames of fire;
It was water that murmured round and around the world;
It was poured in the sun's desire.

Not the bird, but the bird's bright, wayward swiftness;
Not the flowers in magic throng,
But the shooting, the breathing and the perfumed breaking;
Not the singer it was, but the song.

I touched the flesh of my body, and it was strange.
It seemed that my spirit knew
It was I no more; yet the earth and the sky answered
And cried aloud, It is you!

Then into my blood the word of my being thrilled,
(Not a nerve but aware)--It is I!
Yet I could not tell my thought from the green of the grass,
My bliss from the blue of the sky

Overbrimmed, overflowing, I rose like one who has drunk
Of a radiance keener than wine.
I stood on the marvellous earth, and felt my blood
As the stream of a power divine.

Laughter of children afar on the air came to me
And touched me softly home.
There were tears in me like trembling dew; I knew not
Where they had stolen from.

Who is not my brother, and who is not my sister?
O wonder of human eyes,
Have I passed you by, nor perceived how luminous in you
All infinity lies?

Love opened my eyes and opened my ears; not one,
But his soul is as mine is to me!
I heard like a ripple around the world breaking
The voices of children in glee;

I saw the beauty, secret as starlit wells,
Treasured in the bosoms of the old.
I heard like the whisper of leaf to leaf in the nightwind
Hopes that the tongue never told.

Was it the grass that quivered about me? I felt
Not that, but the hearts beating
Close to my own, unnumbered as blades of the grass,
And the dead in the quick heart meeting;

And I knew the dreams of wandering sorrow and joy
Breathed in the sleep of the night
From the other side of the earth, that for me was glowing
To the round horizon's light;

The earth that moves through the light and the dark for ever,
As a dancer moves among
The maze of her sister stars, with a silent speed
In a dance that is always young:

And the heart of my body knew that it shared in all;
It was there, not alone nor afraid.
It throbbed in the life that can never be destroyed,
In the things Time never made.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010



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