Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Threshold - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

An Ode
I walked beside full--flooding Thames to--night
Westward; upon my face the sunset fell:
The hour, the spacious evening, pleased me well.
Buoyant the air breathed after rain, and kind
To senses flattered with soft sound and light
Of merry waves that leapt against the wind,
Where, broadly heaving barge and boat at rest,
The River came at flood; from golden skies
Issuing through arches, black upon the West,
To flame before the sunset's mysteries.

Far off to--night as a remembered dream
That different Thames, familiar as a friend,
That youthful Thames, to whom his willows bend
With private whisper; where my boat would come,
Heaped with fresh flowers, and down the cool smooth stream
Follow his green banks through the twilight home.
Far from these paven shores, these haughty towers,
Where wave and beam glorying together run,
As though they would disown those cradling bowers,
And gushed immediate from the molten sun.

Dazzled I turn; and lo, the solemn East
Before me comes. Soft to my eyes, yet bright,
London her vastness stretches in hushed light
Murmuring; wharf and terrace curve afar
Past bridge and steeple, thronging, great with least,
To Paul's high cross that sparkles like a star.
The distant windows glitter; and high o'er them,
Clouds unapproachable, illumined snows,
Tinged with calm fire that blushes like a gem,
As though themselves burned inwardly, repose.

All things, methought, that inward glory shared,
A radiant strangeness: nothing I beheld
But spoke in a new tongue to me, or spelled
New meanings; and within me a deep sense
Of portals opening, of an hour prepared,
Prophesied; and a light, transported thence,
Of expectation on me also came.
Glowing, the city waits what shall arrive:
The steep clouds smoulder as to sudden flame
They would burst forth, and the wave leaps alive.

Immediately stole over me the thought
Of this age ending; painful and oppressed,
Its cry, entreating still--rejected rest,
Echoed behind me. But I seemed to stand
Beyond; and over the near threshold brought
Of days to be, the air blew strong and bland.
I listened; and a voice, wherein bore part
Cloud, light, and wind, and water, thus began
Aerial tones; a voice from the deep heart
Of all things speaking to the heart of man.

Say, troubled one, what sorrow is it keeps
Thy spirit? Because thy latest dream is shed,
Is the root sapped, and the strong branches dead?
Forget'st thou that thy generations have
Their seasons, and for them her due term sleeps
Spring, with her buds, dreaming in Autumn's grave?
Because 'twas Autumn with thee, thou sit'st mute,
To the fall of the leaf consenting: yet thine eyes
Cast round thee, and consider what fair fruit
The full seeds bear in charge! Wake, and arise!

Wake, and for blither energy remit
This tedious questing in the inscrutable past,
This pondering the before and after vast.
O couldst thou take, like us, Time's quiet bloom,
On life alone expend thy freshened wit,
The burden and the joy alone resume!
The mountains groan not that the streams devour
With thievish tongue their ancient high estate,
Nor of her pining leaf complains the flower;
But thou enjoy'st not nor reject'st thy fate.

Pitying thee, the Powers that on thee cast
Thy destiny, 'mid labour solace sent.
For veiled they keep that infinite ascent
Of years, and by degrees the pathway show
Up which thou mountest, deemest still the last
Step won, and numbered all the stones of woe.
And easily triumphant thou lean'st forth
To grasp the final palm; when that eludes,
As easily dejected: placid Earth
Remains, a mirror for thy hundred moods.

Dream--builder, for whose dreams thy lips invent
Names of sweet sound, freedom and peace and truth,
Upon the bright fermenting mists of youth
Projecting a foredoomed reality:
Happy, if gross joys could thy brain content,
Or could thy faith match thy credulity;
Ever inweaving Earth's plain warp with thread
Of thy deep wishes, thine own heart's strong hue,
The mind thy prison, thought thy narrow bed,
With truth, with freedom what hast thou to do?

O yet, I answered, not in vain desire
Spurs us to gaze into the infinity,
To dip our hands in that wide whispering sea.
How shall one flower the whole wood's voices tell,
Or one small sphere interpret that full choir
Of orb with orb, music ineffable
From all worlds mingled? Yet since our best joy
Not in possession but beyond us lies,
Our hearts at last, weary of earth's annoy,
Only that far--off music satisfies.

Name beyond names, Heart of the Eternal Life,
Whom our faint thought hardly at times conceives,
Who hear'st but as the oak his fluttered leaves
The cry of parting spirits; who in the pang
For children born rejoicest; from whose strife
And travail issuing the bright worlds outsprang;
If the wide thought of thee my childish grief
Ever effaced, accept my manhood's vow!
O sweet and insupportable, O chief
And first and last of all loves, hear me now!

Me, whom this living vastness once appalled,
And this uproar disheartened and oppressed,
Now larger thoughts enfranchise, with sweet zest
Nourish, and this immensity sustains;
Buoyed as a swimmer upon ocean, called
From time to the eternal, my due pains
Accepting, in thy bosom I repose,
Of joys and griefs together make my bed,
In longing to set sure against all foes
My spirit freed, and with thy spirit wed.

Thou, thou remainest ever in lovely power
Triumphant, whom beginning never knew;
'Tis we alone that our own strength undo,
'Tis we alone that, to thy ardour lame,
Often defeated, miserably deflower
The joy thou gavest, quench the imparted flame,
And native sweet sourly to ashes turn.
O help, inspire! Us with thyself endow!
Through our brief actions let thy greatness burn,
As through the clouds the light is burning now!

For me, since thou this hour to see thee whole
Vouchsafest, no more shall my heart deny
That thou proceed'st, because I fail and cry.
Henceforth will I endure to walk right on
Nor my bliss too much ponder, nor my dole.
And since dear peace fortifies faith alone,
I trust thee, and not loth resign my heart,
Nor though thou shouldst betray me, wound and rend,
Would my course alter, that the better part
Have chosen, enduring to the unknown end.

So inwardly my lifted spirit sang.
And lo, that solemn joy to authorize,
With answering bloom before my lifted eyes
The clouds moved softly; the far western fires
A moment o'er the steeples paused and sprang.
Now on the eye the fading light expires.
But 'tis to me as if Earth cast off Day,
Assuming her own glory, and her flight
Unwearied urging on the eternal way,
Already glowed among the lamps of Night.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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