Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Vision Of Augustine And Monica - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Mother, because thine eyes are sealed in sleep,
And thy cheeks pale, and thy lips cold, and deep
In silence plunged, so fathomlessly still
Thou liest, and relaxest all thy will,
Is it indeed thy spirit that is flown?
And gazing on thy face, am I alone?
O wake and tell me it is false: I fear;
And yet my heart persuades me thou art near
With living love. I cannot weep nor wail,
Nor feel thee taken from me; the tears fail
Within me, and my lips their moan reject.
Nay, as I watch, each instant I expect
Thine eyes will shine upon me unaware
And thy lips softly part, and to thy hair
Laying one hand, like those who come from dreams
So bright, that the dim morning only seems,
Thou wilt stretch forth the other into mine,
And to thy tender gaze thy love resign,
And speak, as thou wast wont, in thy low voice
Words wise and gentle, and my heart rejoice
With comfort poured into a trusted ear.
Mother, thou hearest? Surely thou dost hear,
Though thy tired eyes, blissfully closed, defer
The heavy world, the weight of human lot.
A change has fallen, and yet I know not what.
The deep communion of thy calm enfolds
My spirit also, and suspended holds
Lament, that knows not why to weep, yet yearns
For something missed, a fear it dimly learns.

And yet time has not touched us: the full glow
Salutes us, even as when five eves ago,
By this same window, over the same seas,
With thoughts of home brought by the shadowy breeze
From regions dearer than these golden skies,
We looked, and the same glory filled our eyes.
Even so the sun transfiguring the land
Upon the outstretched waters and bright sand
Reclined: the same faint odours floated sweet
From the green garden flowering at our feet.
Silent we gazed, and the serene large air
Appeased our thoughts; the burden that they bare
Departed: marvelling at our own release
We greeted wave and ray as kindred. Peace
Descended then, and touched us; and we knew
Our joy, attired in light, and felt it true.
Dust of the journey, the hot din of Rome
Fell from us: with an aspect kind, like home,
The silent and interminable sea
Our longing matched with his immensity:
We followed the far sails that, one by one,
Were drawn into the huge and burning sun;
And our souls set to freedom; and they cast
Away the soiled remembrance of things past,
And to the things before, with radiant speed,
Ran on as eager as a captive freed,
Far to the last horizon's utmost bound,
Onward and onward, and no limit found.

Then thou rememberest how regarding long
This lovely earth, an inward vision strong
O'ercame us, till terrestrial beauty took
An insubstantial seeming, the far look
Of regions known in dream. Forsaking fear
We rose together to that ampler sphere,
Where the sun burns, and in his train the moon
And myriad stars upon the darkness strewn
Illumine earth: on splendour past access
Of fleshly eye, revolving weariless,
We gazed; yet even as we gazed, the pang
Of the eternal touched us: then we sprang
From those bright circles, and each boundary passed
Of sense, and into liberty at last,
To our own souls we came, the haunted place
Of thought, companionless as ancient space,
Her lonely mirror; and uplifted thence
Sighed upward to the eternal Effluence
Of life, the intense glory that imbues
With far--off sheddings of its radiant hues
Mortality; that from the trees calls forth
Young leaves, and flowers from the untended earth;
And from the heart of man, joy and despair,
Rapture and adoration, the dim prayer
Of troubled lips, tears and ecstatic throes,
And fearful love unfolding like the rose,
And hymns of peace: whose everlasting power
Draws up ten thousand spirits every hour,
As the bright vapour from ten thousand streams,
Back to their home of homes, where thou with beams
Of living joy, O Sun of humankind,
Feedest the fainting and world--wounded mind,
And from remembrance burnest out all fear.
Sustained a moment in that self--same sphere
By wings of ecstasy, we hung, we drew
Into our trembling souls the very hue
Of Paradise, permitted the dear breath
Of truth; us also ignorance of death
Made mighty, and joy beyond the need of peace.
We of the certain light of blessedness
A moment tasted: then, since even desire
Perishes of its own exceeding fire,
Sighing our spirits failed, and fell away,
And sank into the tinge of alien day
Unwillingly, to memory and the weight
Of hope on the unsure heart, to armèd fate,
And prisoning time, and to the obscuring sound
Of human words, O even to the ground!

The flame that fledged to that remotest height
Our spirits winged upon impassioned flight,
Sped us no more; but yet the usurping press
Of mortal hours their wonted heaviness
Relaxed, and on our rapture lightly leaned.
Now, as we gazed, a glory intervened:
We saw, yet saw not: our thoughts lingered, where
The rays yet pierced them of celestial air;
And with hearts hushed, as children that have learned
The meaning of some fear or joy, we turned
To one another, and spoke softly, and drew
Sighs, when that light smote on our thoughts anew.

O could the tumult of the senses sleep,
We murmured then: the mutinous body keep
Due pace, and this surrounding bath of light,
And these unwearying waves of day and night,
Following in beauty, the bright death and birth
Of suns, the sweet apparel of the earth,
Awhile be dimmed: could but the moon forgo
Her splendour, and the winds forget to blow,
Ocean no more his troubling water heave,
And air its many--coloured web unweave,
Could but those visions pale that with affright
Pierce us, or unapproachable delight,
And all disturbing charm that at our eyes
Darts arrows, and for ever laughs and flies;
Could all be hushed, and memory turn her face,
And hope her low flute silence for a space,
And the soul slip the clinging leash of thought,
And cast the raiment she herself hath wrought,
And, as a flower springs upward unaware,
Naked ascend into the eternal air:
While he, who all this lovely warp of earth
With pomp of time inweaves, and still from birth
Moves his creation to death's other door,
If he through perishable mouths no more
Should speak: not dimly through the veil of sense
Reported, nor conjectured influence
Of stars, nor through the thunder, nor by dream,
Nor by whatever of prophetic theme
Angel or man melodiously hath sung,
But utter very words of his own tongue,
And hold communion with the mind he made,
As with the light such things as know not shade,
O were not this the joy of joy to win,
And Paradise indeed to enter in?

I too, I too, in my own feverish youth
That light desired; and fainted after truth,
Unripe in fervour: in a misty morn
Of passion and unrestful ferment borne
Hither and thither, many uncertain flames
Did I pursue, and stumbled among shames,
And wandered where my own rash spirit drove,
Misleading to sad joys. In love with Love,
I looked in many faces, searching him,
And passionately embraced with phantoms dim,
Nor knew what my heart hungered for. But thou,
Who understandest, who beginnest now
In glory visible to fill mine eyes,
Thou that obscure desire didst authorise,
And by degrees unto itself disclose.
O by that beam how momentary shows
The world: 'tis but the bush that burns with thee:
And I the sandals of mortality
Long to put off, and with these chains have done,
That bind me, and fly homeward to the sun.

Mother, but thou? O what a pang is this
That wounds me? Mother, of what cup of bliss
Hast thou partaken, that I may not taste?
O could I penetrate thy peace, and haste
Thither where thou art gone! For now in vain
My heart swells with unconquerable pain.
My desolation now too well I know.
I cannot come where my soul chafes to go,
But lay my wet cheek down to thine, and feel
Thy cold cheek desolate my heart, and steal
Peace and delight away. Dost thou not move,
Thou that wert used to weep sad tears of love
For me that grieved thee? Now thou weep'st no more,
But I with all the hurt I caused thee sore,
Weep all thy tears afresh. The door is closed
Upon me fast, and darkness interposed!
Now terrible thy calm seems, and this peace
Of night dismays me, longing for release
That will not visit me. On earth and skies
The hush of slumber falls, on thy closed eyes,
My mother, on the shore and on the sea;
All things the night appeases, but not me.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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