Sydney Thompson Dobell

(1824-1874 / England)

To A Cathedral Tower: On The Evening Of The Thirty-Fifth Anniversay Of Waterloo - Poem by Sydney Thompson Dobell

And since thou art no older, 'tis to-day!
And I, entranced,-with the wide sense of gods
Confronting Time-receive the equal touch
Of Past and Present. Yet I am not moved
To frenzy; but, with how much calm befits
The insufficient passions of a soul
Expanding to celestial limits, take
Ampler vitality, and fill, serene,
The years that are and were. Unchanging Pile!
Our schoolboy fathers play in yonder streets,
Wherethro' their mothers, new from evening prayer,
Speak of the pleasant eve, and say Good Night.
Say on! to whom, oh never more shall night
Seem good; to whom for the last time hath eve
Been pleasant! Look up to the sunset skies
As a babe smiles into his murderer's face,
Nor see the Fate that flushes all the heaven,
Unconscious Mother! Hesper thro' the trees
Palpitates light; and thou, beholding peace,
Keepest thy vigil and art fond to think
His heart is beating for a world of bliss.
'Oh Sabbath Land!' Ah Mother, doth thine ear
Discern new silence? Dost thou dream what right
The earth may have to seem so still to thee?
Oh Sabbath Land! but on the Belgian plain
The bolt has fallen; and the storm draws off
In scattered thunders groaning round the hills
And tempest-drops of woe upon the field.
The king of men has turned his charger's head
Whose hoofs did shake the world, but clatter now
Unheeding sod. He turns, and in his track
The sorrows of the centuries to come
Cry on the air. He rides into the night,
Which as a dreadful spirit hails him in
With lightnings and with voices. Far behind,
In the War-marish, Victory and Glory
Fall by each other's hands, like friends of old,
Unconquered. And the genius of his race,
Pale, leaning on a broken eagle, dies.
High in the midst departing Freedom stands
On hills of slain; her wings unfurled, her hands
Toward heaven, her eyes turned, streaming, on the earth,
In act to rise. And all the present Fortunes,
Hopes, Oracles, and Omens of the world
Sitting alow, as mourners veiled and dumb,
Draw, with weird finger, in the battle-slime
The signs of Fate. Behold whom War salutes
Victor of victors. War, red-hot with toil,
Spokesman of Death. Death, pale with sated lust
And hoarse with greed. Behold! At his strong call
The bloody dust takes life, and obscene shapes
Clang on contending wings, wild wheeling round
His head exulting. How they hate the light
And rout the fevered sunset that looks back
Obtesting! How they scream up at the stars
And smite in rage the invisible air! How, like
A swoop of black thoughts thro' a stormy soul,
They rush about the Victor and snatch joys
For all the tyrants of the darkened globe.
Who shall withstand him? Him the evening star
Trembled to see. Our despots, from the first,
Bequeathed him each a feature, and he walks
The sum of all oppression and the sign.
O Earth! O Heaven! O Life! O Death! O Man!
Flesh of my flesh, my brother! Is there hope?
Soul, soul! behold the portent of the time.
High in the Heaven, the angels, much-attent,
With conscious faces and averted eyes
(As one who feels the wrong he will not see,)
Gaze upon God, and neither frown nor smile.
Grey Pile,
Who lookest with thy kindred hills upon
This quiet England, shadow-robed for sleep,
I also speak to thee as one whom kin
Emboldens. Demigod among the gods,
I charge thee by thy human nature speak!
Doth she sleep well? Thou who hast watched her face,
Tell me, for thou canst tell, doth the flesh creep?
Ah! and the soil of Albion stirred that day!
Ah! and these fields, at midnight, heaved with graves!


The vision ends. Collapsing to a point
In Time, I see thee, O red Waterloo,
A deadly wound now healed. From whose great scar
Upon the brow of Man, the bloody husks
Have newly fallen. 'Twas a Felon's blow
On one who reeling, drunk with life, above
A precipice, fell by the timely steel;
Bled, and, deplete, was whole; saw with sane eyes
The gulph that yawned; and rises, praising God,
To bind the Assassin.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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