Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

Unsated Memory - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Emerging from deep sleep my eyes unseal
To a pursuing strangeness. O to be
Where but a moment past I was, though where
The place, the time I know not, only feel
Far from this banished and so shrunken me,
Struck conscious to the alien dawn's blank peer!

Between two worlds, homeless, I doubt of both,
Knowing only that I seemed possessing realms
And now have nothing. In this glimmering cave
Of daylight, whither I return so loath,
The emptiness of silence overwhelms;--
Still, vision--haunted, like the blind, I crave.

For splendour beats along my blood in gleams
As of a skyey largeness closed and lost,
That memory torments itself to clutch,
Hungering unsated for that light of dreams
Pursued down shadowy paths that foil, exhaust,
And lose me in a cloud I cannot touch.

Fixed as in frost the motionless dim shape
Of each accustomed thing about my bed
Is like an enmity at watch for stale
Habit to repossess me past escape.
In the dead light all seems apart and dead,
Yet menaces. The ticked hour is my jail.

Yet I had sense as of a forge whose blast
Could fuse this stark world into glorious flow
Of young power streaming irresistible,
And I, dilated, roamed a region vast,
Feasting in vision, with a soul aglow,
And Time a steed to pace or race at will.

Where is that world that I am fallen from?
Look, as a sea--weed left at ebb to pine
Hueless and shrunken, that had liberty
To wander sparkle--fresh in its own foam,
Trailing its rosy hair in the long brine,
So am I cast up; from what haunted sea?

An ocean of the mind, without access
Save in the labyrinths of sleep, a main
Deep with the memory of all memories,
Thoughts, and imaginations numberless
That ever lodged in the brief--living brain,
Washing our sun--lit ignorance: was it this?

Then miserable I, that have but sucked
Dull oozings, vanished into vaporous dew,
From springs that custom closes like a stone
And leaden fear and clayey doubt obstruct.
Heir of the earth's youth and of all it knew,
What am I but a vessel charged with oblivion?

Ah, surely I was rather native there
Where all desires were lovely, and the power
Of Time irrevocably creeping sure
Was uncreated, than in this numb air
Of mapped days and of hour pursuing hour,
Endless impediment and forfeiture.

O we go shrouded from ourselves, and hide
The soul from its own splendour, and encrust
The virgin sense with thinking. Then some chance
Moment reveals us: we are deified,
Feeling and seeing; gold gleams from the rust;
And, marvelling at our lost inheritance,

We breathe the air of beauty; we regale
The mind with innocence; joy has no stint;
And we are chartered for the world's wide sea,
Reason the rudder, not the sky--filled sail.--
Still clings about us some imputing hint
Of strangeness, even in self--captivity.

Before me comes a vision of the old,
With dear experience sunken in their eyes
And furrowed on their faces; scarce a spark
Betrays the quick fire that once made them bold.
All their strength's only for that enterprise
Which takes them soon into the engulfing dark.

I think of old ships stranded, how they stir
The mind to see their beauty in its decay.
For they, unmemoried and mute, have been
Companions of the wild winds without fear,
And carried far adventure, who shall say
Into what glories we have never seen?

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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