Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Tiger—lily - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

What wouldst thou with me? By what spell
My spirit allure, absorb, compel?
The last long beam that thou didst drink
Is buried now on evening's brink.
The garden's leafy alleys lone,
With shadowy stem and mossy stone,
Intangibly seem now to dress
Colour and odour motionless.
A stealing darkness breathes around,
As if it rose out of the ground,
And tingeing into it soft gold
Ebbs, and the dewy green glooms cold,
And dim boughs into black retire.
But thou, seven--throated Flower of Fire,
Sombring all the shadows near thee,
Dost still, as if the night did fear thee,
Glory amid the failing hues
And this invading dusk refuse,
And breathing out thy languid spice
My spirit to thine own entice.

Warm wafts that linger touch my cheek.
What is it in me thou wouldst seek?
Thou meltest all my thoughts away
As leaf on leaf is mingled grey
In shadow on shadow, past discerning.
O cold to touch, to vision burning,
What power is in thee so to change
And my familiar sense estrange?
Thou seemest born within a mind
That has no ken of human kind;
Remote from quick heart, curious brain,
Feeling in joy, thinking in pain,
Remote as beauty of sleeping snow
Is from a flame's wild shredded glow;
Remote from mirth, anger or care,
Or the deep wound and want of prayer,
Yet like some word of splendid speech
Beyond our human hearing's reach,
Whose meaning, could its sound be known,
Might earth's imprisoned secret own
That binds as with a viewless thread
This throbbing heart of joy and dread
With tremblings of the wayside grass
And pillars of the mountain pass
And circling of the stars extreme
In boundless heights of heaven. I dream
My dark heart into earth, I heap
My spirit over with cold sleep,
Resign my senses, one by one,
To glooms that never saw the sun,
Fade from this self to what behind
Earth's myriad shapes is urging blind,
Am emptied of man's name, become
A blankness, as the mountain dumb,
If so I may attain to win
The secret thou art rooted in.

Can life renounce not life? Must still
The inexorably moving will
Seek and make rankle the dulled sting
Of essence? Must the desert spring
Revive, and the forgotten seed
Be drawn again by its old need
Through blind beginnings of a sense,
And dark desire of difference,
And fear, and hope that feeds on fear,
To its own destined character?
I cannot lose nor abdicate
The separateness of my state,
Nor thou, that out of burial drawn
Through the black earth didst shoot and dawn
Tender and small and green, and mount
In air, a springing, silent fount,
Until the cold bud, sheathed so long,
Slow swelled and burst like sudden song
Into the sun's delight, and naught
Of costliest tissue ever wrought,
Fragrant and in rare colours dyed,
For the white body of a bride
Or king's anointing feast, could so
Enrich the noon or inly glow
To lose the sweetly--kindled sense
In mystery of magnificence.

Was there no cost to make thee fair?
Did no far--off long pains prepare
Those clustered curves of incense--breath?
Did nothing suffer unto death
To poise thee in thy glory? Came
No tinge upon thy coloured flame
From sighs? Was there no bosom bled
That thou mightest be perfected--
As, serving some taskmaster's doom
A brown slave patient at the loom
Toils, weaving his fine web of gold,
More precious than his race, to fold
In soft attire an idle queen,
When long his own thin hands have been
Dust, but in all their toil arrayed
She through her pillared palace--shade
Glows flower--like, and her young gaze has
No thought of any deep Alas!
Threaded into the sumptuous vest
That lies upon her perfumed breast;
Or as at crimsoned eve on high
Some dying warrior turns his eye
Where, lifted over spear and sword
Among the loud victorious horde,
A golden trophy gleams with blood
That from his own spent body flowed,
And trumpets sound across the sand
To sunset in a conquered land?

O thou wast from life's weltering ore
Breathed by enchanting mind before
Man was in his own shape. Far, far
Thou seemest as the evening star!
Yet movest me like that lone light
Fetched through the ages of the night
Into this breathing garden--close;
Or like the things that no man knows
In a child's eyes; or like, for one
Watching a seaward--sinking sun,
Beyond cold wastes of water pale
The dim communion of a sail.
Ah! though I know not what thou art,
Yet in the fastness of my heart
How shall I tell what lies unwrought
Into the figured films of thought,
Uncoloured yet by sharp or sweet,
Or what forge of transforming heat
Threatens this world of use and fact
Wherewith the busy brain is packed?
Thou art of me, O Flower of Flame,
What is not uttered, has no name,
The springing of a want unmated,
A joy no fallen hour has dated.
Some of my mystery thou holdest,
Secretly, splendidly unfoldest.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010



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