Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

Westward - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

I found my Love among the fern. She slept.
My shadow stole across her, as I stept
More lightly and slowly, seeing her pillowed so
In the short--turfed and shelving green hollow
Upon a cushion of wild thyme, amid
Tall bracken--tufts that, roughly luminous, hid
Her hair in amber shadow. Then I stopped.
The light was in the West: the wind had dropped;
A burning fragrance breathed out of the ground,
And the sea--murmur rose remote around.
But my Love slept. My very heart was singing
With the sweet swarm of winged thoughts it was bringing:
And she lay there, with the just heaving breast,
So still. As a lark drops down to its nest,
I sank beside her, waiting for those eyes
To complete earth with light that nowhere lies
But in their depths for me, and carry home
The flight of my full spirit. I had come
From wandering wide beaches far beneath
This airy height of summer--scented heath.
I was alone, and the shore solitary,
And the sea glittered infinite and starry
As on the sands I paced, that dazzling wet
Shone round, until the tumbled rocks they met
At the gaunt cliff's root; silvery runnels, fed
From oozy levels draining to their bed,
Wound flashing between smoothly furrowed slabs
Which the sky coloured; there the youngling crabs
Had scrawled a trail, and weeds, dull--rose and green,
Lay by their shadows, where old foam had been,
Crusted with shells. A mist of finest spray
Blew from the western glory, and in the bay
The ever--streaming surges gleamed and roared
Like a rejoicing Power for ever poured
For the mere splendour of its motion: salt
The air came to the nostril; and the vault
Of heaven had burnt its colours into one
Unfathomable clearness, that the sun
Was soul of, as it journeyed down the West
And in the leaping waters made each crest
A moment of live fire. I breathed the immense
And shining silence. It was to my sense
Like youth, that's all horizon, and misgives
Nothing, and in the unbounded moment lives,
And names not hope yet among things endured
And unamended, being so assured
Of its desire and the long day, and so
Ignorant of that swift Night, saying No.

Ah, why should peace and liberty most bring
Into the heart that loves them most the sting
Of Time's oppression, and the thwarting thorns,
The loss, the want, the many clouded morns?
O for deliverance! To untwist the bond
Of circumstance; to breathe the blest Beyond
Where we would be; to incarnate clean and true
All we were born and dedicated to!
O Love, how often have we shared that sigh!
To me beside that boundless sea and sky
Intolerably came my briefness; all
The undone things. Why into hearts so small
Were crammed these hungering immensities,
Thrust each day back to a prison that denies
Their native satisfaction? I cast me down
On a great slope of rock that, ribbed and brown,
Was cloven at the top; and in between
The hollowed ledges I could lightly lean
And see the deep cup of a pool; it held
Its limpid leaving of the surge that swelled,
A tide since, over that sea--buried reef.
A round pool, deeply clear beyond belief,
Rough with minute white shells about its rim,
Its crystal in the shadow gleamed how dim
And small! while in my eye the homeless main,
Its brine was of, a splendid restless plain
Of water, spread a path for any keel
To take, the round world over, and to feel
Pressures of every wind, and haven far
Where it should choose, mirroring mast and spar
In sultry smooth lagoon, or under pines
Snow--plumed on iron fiord, or where lines
Of ships at a famed port with traffic hum
And chimes of foreign bells to sailors come,
And strange towers over crowded wharfs look high.
--Ah! such a drop of casual life was I,
At evening left: my simple, scanted, raw
Experience but the sipping of a straw
Snatched from me soon! I lifted up my gaze
Into the west and the spray--misted blaze
Where the sun gloried, and his glittering track
Allured me on and on. Then I looked back.
All was changed. Something had transfigured each
Of those hard cliffs that thrust into the beach
Their bouldered ramparts. Every narrow seam
Brimmed with the opposite light, and the warm gleam
Found out small clusters of sea--pink, and many
A samphire--tuft in its uneven cranny,
And bloomed a burning orange on the stain
Of lichen, and dissembled rosy grain
On the rock's blackness. At the summit showed
A gemmy green, where the grass patches glowed
Between those jutting crags. The air was hush;
And the shore quivered with a phantom flush
Of molten colours on far--shining sand.
All was as warm to sight as to the hand,
Distinct yet insubstantial, as if what
The eye saw had been created by a thought
Intenser than its vision. Memory played
A music in the mind, and Time delayed
To whisper names forgotten; I saw no more
The sculpture of those rocks, that vivid shore;
But far--off hours arose before me there
Beautiful in a bright unearthly air.
Memory touched her stops, and one by one
They came, each with its own shadow and sun
And its peculiar perfume: each a part
Of the quick blood and pulsing of my heart.
I carried riches; I was as a king,
Clothed in a more than royal apparelling,
Because of glories in the mind, and light
In eyes I knew, and the unended flight
Of thought, and friendship warmer than the sun,
And dateless joy, and hope shared, and things done
With all the soul's strength, and still precious pain.

Youth, O sweet, careless Youth, flooding the vein
With easy blood, what time the body knows
Scarce that it is, so brimmingly life glows
Within it, and its motions are like words
Born happy on the lips, and like the birds
On April--blossomed boughs rich fancies throng
The mind's exuberance and spill in song,
I think my heart back into all the bloom
And feel it fresh. As one that enters home,
I am there: the shyness, and the secret flame
Of ecstasy that knew not any name,
The wild heart--eating fevers, the young tears,
The absorbed soul, the trouble, and the fears
Wide as the night, the joy without a thought
Meeting the morning,--Time has never taught
My heart to lose them. Still I smell that rose
Of so inscrutable sweetness; and still glows
The glory of the wonder when I first
Heard the enchanted poets, and they burst
In song upon my spirit, as if before
No one had ever passed that magic door,
But for me, first in all the world, they sang.
Sweetest of all things, Youth, sweet in the pang
As in the pleasure, you are in me yet,
Changed as the grape to wine: could I forget,
Then were this hand dust. In those yesterdays
Memory happy and familiar strays,
Exploring hours that, long in shadow lain,
Come effortlessly all distinct again,
As in my light boat I would track the banks
Of narrow streams that rippled past the ranks
Of yellow--flowered reeds, and knew not where
They led me, for no human sound was there,
But the shy wings were near me, and I to them,
And the wild earth was round me as in a dream
And I was melted into it. I can hear,
Lost in the green, bright silence, where I steer
Beneath gold shadows wavering on my arm
The water saying over its low charm
Among the reeds, and, dreading to disturb
The mirror of the blossomed willow--herb,
Drink it into my heart. O idle hours,
Floating with motion like the summer towers
Of cloud in the blue noon, I have not drained
Your fullness yet, for all that care has rained
Upon defeated days of dark sundown,
Like burial of all beauty and all renown,
When the spirit sits within its fortalice
And watches mute. One simple, passionate kiss
Can alter earth for ever. Out of what
Imagination, or what far forethought
Of Time, came Love in beauty new and strange
With eyes of light, my earth and sky to change
And bring me vision of a promised land,
As if long--sunken centuries had planned
The meeting of our lips? From far we came
To one another, ere we had a name.
Wonderful shape, white ecstasy, the cup
That God with living wine has so filled up!
O body made like music, like a word
Syllabled in spontaneous accord;
Quick--sensed with apprehension; capable
Of extreme joy, of pangs far--piercing; full
Of divine wants, like a wave moving through
The passionate and transparent soul of you;
O mystery and power, charged with unknown
Futurities; a lovely flame that's blown
In the wind of life, and sister'd to all fire
That has in it the peril of all desire;
Dearer than breath, what are you made of, whence
Come you? I know not; the eluded sense
Only replies, ``To name her is to tell
The very name of Love.'' It is to spell
A language more profound than tongue can use,
Written in the heart's blood of the world; to lose
All that is worth the losing, and to trust
In spite of withered leaf and charnel dust.

Who knows his own beginning? Hour from hour
Is born; in secret buds, and breaks to flower
Within us. Nothing we have ever been,
Nothing we have endured, nothing we have seen,--
Ay, and before we came into this light,
Were sacrificial hopes, and exquisite
Fears, and the jealous patience of the womb,
And throes of self--consuming martyrdom,
Imprinted on the fibre of our flesh,--
Nothing is ended, but is made afresh
Into a subtler potency; the eyes
See a more wondrous earth, the senses prize
More, its more pregnant meaning; and we go
To enrich a world beyond us, overflow
Into a mind of what thoughts who can tell?

O Love, we draw from an unfathomed well.
Where are the June nights that made heaven a whole
Blue jewel, throbbing through the very soul?
Where is the dizzying bloom and the perfume--
Earth--ecstasy, sighed up to starry gloom,
That in the touching lips' ineffable
Communion, was a spirit and a spell,
As if we had found within ourselves a being
More infinite than any shown to seeing?
Where is the beauty that stole thought away
And moved to tears some one remembered day?
Where is the laughter some sweet chance would start,
To leave its summer warmth about the heart?
Where are the places we shall see no more?
Are they not powers to haunt us at the core
Of feeling, and evoke the eternal Now,
Like music, out of nothing? Nay, I vow,
Most perishable, most immortal tastes;
And the frail flame, that touches us and hastes
Into the dark, endures more than the build
Of proudest fortress. We are found and filled;
And it suffices. For we pass among
Grandeurs, and from a grandeur we are sprung,
Marvellous in our destiny, and know
Man is most man meeting a giant foe,
Whether overcoming or defeated. We,
Who hear, like moving rumour of the sea
And march of ocean waves, the human sound
About us, filled with meaning more profound;
Who know what hearts beat by us, and have shared
In all the mighty martyr names have dared;
Who feel all earth beneath the stars, the race
Of rivers, and the mountains in their place,
Faculties of our being; and have a mind
Dyed in the ardent story of our kind;
We in our briefness, in our storm and ache,
Our loves magnificent in hearts that break,
We, all our bonds and bounds exceeding, ay,
Burning a loftier flame because we die,
We at Time's outpost, we the thrust spear--head
Against the opposing darkness of the dead,
We are the world's adventure! We speed on,
Stay not, but westward travel with the sun,
Westward into the splendour that takes all,
And carry far into the great light's fall
That infinite memory of the world we bear
Within our spirits, burning and aware.

Wake, Love, awake!--Her eyes shone into mine
That moment. In the air was light divine,
Sinking and yet suspended still, to hold
Rocks, ocean, heaven, within one bath of gold.
But in the soul that met me from those eyes,
Impassioning the beauty of the skies,
Was my completion. Earth, as newly made
Ev'n to the smallest shape of green grass--blade,
Lived; and the thrilled, bright silence sang to me;
For in the hush I heard the boundless sea.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010



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