Laurence Binyon.

Porphyrion and other poems online

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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 aspe6l 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 in joy, eager as captives 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 armed 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 forego
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 spealc : 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 w^ords of his own tongue,

And hold communion with the mind he made.

As with the light such things as know not shade,

were not this the joy of joy to win.
And Paradise indeed to enter in ?

1 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 ?

could I penetrate thy peace, and haste
Thither where thou art gone ! O now in vain
My heart swells with unconquerable pain.

My desolation now too well I know.

1 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.



Our voices break on a stillness bright and strange
Of early morning. Pines upon either hand
People the sunshine : deep as eye can range,
Their lofty throngs in a darkling order stand.

Our sandy path, new-washed with rains of night,
Already is dry : but dewily shine its banks.
And cool, the shadows asleep upon stems upright,
Unevenly dapple the silent, endless ranks.

The shadows, they lie so lightly, I think if a wind
Blew hither, his breath would lift them, as all sad cares
Are lifted, blown from the cleared and eager mind,
That now unbidden its native pleasure dares.

O pines of ardent branches, that plume with green

The delicate blue of morning, and softly house

The warm light poured from a splendour half unseen ;

forest still and scented, hear my vows !

My body is warm to my heart, and I rejoice.

1 clothe myself with the light, as ye are clad :
As ye breathe forth your perfume, I my voice
Will utter in morning freshness, alert and glad.


As the thistledown melts in the air, of very Hghtness,
Is scattered the web that trouble has vainly spun ;
And my spirit arising bold, and bathed in brightness,
Hymns the excellent, sweet, victorious sun.



Earth, I love thee well ;
And well dost thou requite me.
I have no tongue to tell
How this day thou hast thrilled
With wonder, to delight me.
My heart, intensely stilled.

On the white-walled knoll I stand
And feel beneath me glowing
The noon-hushed, lovely land :
Hills beyond hills, and few
Far towns a faint crest showing
Faint in the rounding blue.

Blue sea and radiant sky.
Blue sky and mountain marry ;
And the mind, raised up on high.
Onward and onward springs ;
Where'er she choose to tarry,
On every side are wings.

To the sun the sun-bathed pines
Their strength and sweetness render.


From where the far foam shines
Like the rim of a dazzling shield,
All fervent things and tender
Life, joy, and perfume yield.

Me, too, with mastering charm
From husks of dead days freeing.
The sun draws up, to be warm
And to bloom in this sweet hour ;
The stem of all my being
Waited to bear this flower.

Upward, a burning flame,
My spirit springs enkindled.
No more of place, nor name,
Nor time aware, it flees
Aloft, in the noon to be mingled.
In fire its fire to appease.

DOURO. 141


The dripping of the boughs in silence heard

Softly ; the low note of some lingering bird

Amid the weeping vapour ; the chill fall

Of solitary evening upon all

That stirs and hopes and apprehends and grieves,

With pining odours of the ruined leaves

Have Hke a dew distilled upon my heart

The air of death : but now recoiling start

Longing and keen remembrance out of sighs ;

And forward the desiring spirit flies

Toward the wild peace of that illumined shore,

Which, left behind her, yet still shines before ;

To Douro, rushing through the mighty hills.

Now his great stream with fancied splendour fills

Even this brooding twihght ; a swift ghost,

Journeying forever to the glimmering coast,

Where his majestic voice is heard afar,

Exulting dim upon that ocean bar.

O Douro, gliding by dark woods, and fleet

Beneath thy shadowy rocks in the noon heat.

How my heart faints to follow after thee

On one true course to my deep destined sea !

To take no care of dimness or sunshine,

142 DOURO.

Urged ever by an inward way divine,

Nor falter in this heavy gloom that brings

So thick upon me lamentable things

Of earth, and hinders the swift spirit's wings,

And clouds the steadfast vision that sustains

Alone the trembling heart amid perpetual pains.

Dear friend, who thirstest, even as I, to be
Heir and possessor of sweet liberty,
Once more in memory let us pluck the hour
That bloomed so perfect, and renew the power
Of joy within our wondering breasts, to feel
That freshness of eternal things, and heal
All our unhappy thoughts in those pure rays.
Not yet the last of these delightful days
Into the dark unwillingly has flown,
And thou and I upon a hill o'ergrown.
That indolently shadows Douro stream.
Together watch the wonderful clear dream
Of evening. Under the dark shore of pines
Noiselessly running, the wide water shines.
Curving afar, from where the mountains lift
Their burning heads, through many a forest rift
The River comes, scenting the spaces free
In this broad channel, of his welcoming sea.
No more by silent precipices hewn
Out of the night, murmuring a lonely tune
To craggy Fregeneda ; nor where shines
Regoa, throned among her purple vines,
Impetuously seeking valleys new j

DOURO. 143

But smoothing his broad mirror to the hue

And peace of heaven, unhasting now he flows

And with the sky unfathomably glows,

Even as on yonder shore the woods receive

In their empurpled bosoms the warm eve.

As when a lover gazes tenderly

Upon his loved one, and, as tender, she

Hushes her heart, her joy to realize.

So hushed, so lovely, so contented lies

Earth, by that earnest-gazing glory blest.

But on this hither bank that fervent West

Is hidden behind us, and the stems around

Spring shadowy from the bare and darkling ground.

Only a single pine out of the shade

Emerges, in what splendour soft arrayed !

Magical clearness, warming to the sight

As to the touch it would be : plumed with light,

Motionless upward the tree soars and burns.

But now the dews upon the freshened ferns

In the dim hollow gather, and cool scent

Of herbage with the pine's pure odour blent.

And voices of the villagers below

As home, with music, up the stream they row,

Greet us descending ; every blossom sleeps,

And bluer and more blue the evening steeps

Water and fragrant grass and the straight stems

In tender mystery. Down a path that hems

The hollow, to our waiting boat we come.

Pale purple flames shining amid the gloom

Signal the autumn crocus : look, afar.

144 DOURO.

Betwixt the tree-tops, the first-ventured star !

Soon gliding homeward under shadowy shores

And deepened sky, to the repeated oars'

Strong chime we hasten. Now along pale sand

Our ripple leaps in silver j now the land.

High over the swift water darkly massed.

Echoes our falling blades as we go past ;

Until, enthroned upon her hills divine.

The city nears us : lights begin to shine

Scarce from the stars distinguished, so the gloom

Has mingled earth and sky ; more steeply loom

The banks on either side, at intervals

Tufted with trees, or crowned with winding walls ;

And now at last the river opens large.

Filled with the city's murmur ; from his marge,

Slope over slope, the glimmering terraces

Rise, and their scattered lamps' bright images

Cast on the wavering water j and we hear

The sound of soft bells, and cries faint or near

From the dim wharves, or anchored ships, whose spars

Entangle in dark meshes the white stars.

And pale smoke rising blue on the blue air

Sleeps in a thin cloud under heights that bear

Towers and roofs lofty against the west.

Where yet a clearness lingers. Now the breast

Of Douro heaves, foreboding whither bound

His currents hasten, and with joyous sound,

As though the encountering brine new pulses gave.

Lifts, to outrace our speed, his buoyant wave.

DOURO. 145

For, hearken, up the peaceful evening borne
Out of the wide sea-gates, low thunders warn
Of Ocean beating with his sleepless surge
Along the wild sand-marges : the deep dirge
Of mariners, that wakes the widow's ear
At night, far inland, terrible and near.
Fainter, this eve, he murmurs than as oft
His troubled music : here, by distance soft.
The abrupt volley, the sharp shattering roar.
And seethe of foam flung tumbling up the shore.
Mingle in one wide rumour, that all round
Is heard afar, robing the air with sound.
Deep in my heart I hear it. The still night
Deepens, as we ascend the homeward height.
And loud or low, in following intervals.
Over the hills the sound unwearied falls ;
And as upon my bed my heavy eyes
Close up, the drowsing mind re-occupies.

O what a vision floats into my sleep !

As a night-shutting flower, my senses keep

The live day's lingering odours and warm hues.

That thought and motion with themselves transfuse.

Till sound and light and perfume are but one.

Mingled in fires of the embracing sun.

Yet still I am aware of Ocean stirred

Far off, and like a grave rejoicing heard.

Am I awake, or in consenting dreams

Pour thither all my thought's tumultuous streams ?

His voice, to meet them, a deep answer sends :


146 DOURO.

My soul, to listen, her light wing suspends.

And, pillowed upon undulating sound.

For all desire hath satisfaction found.

He calls her thither, where the winds uncage

Vast longing, that the unsounded seas assuage.

Breeze after breeze her winged pinnace bears

Over the living water, that prepares

Still widening mystery : she her speed the more

Urges, exulting to have lost the shore.

Supported by the joy that sets her free,

Delighted mistress of her destiny.

Fills the wide night with beating of her wing,

And is content, for ever voyaging

By timeless courses, over worlds unknown.

Lifted and lost, abounding and alone.



Because out of corruption burns the rose,

And to corruption lovely cheeks descend ;

Because with her right hand she heals the woes

Her left hand wrought, loth nor to wound nor mend ;

I praise indifferent Nature, affable
To all philosophies, of each unknown ;
Though in my listening ear she leans to tell
Some private word, as if for me alone.

Still, like an artist, she her meaning hides.
Silent, while thousand tongues proclaim it clear ;
Ungrudging, her large feast for all provides j
Tender, exultant, savage, blithe, austere,

In each man's hand she sets its proper tool,
For the wise, wisdom, folly for the fool.


Page I. The poem " Porphyrion " was suggested by a story
of Rufiniis, told in " Historia Monachorum," cap. I. It will be
found in Mr. Lecky's "History of European Morals," 1869,
vol. ii., p. 127. The author has adapted the legend to his own
uses, and it bears therefore a quite altered complexion in the

Page 83. "The Supper" was privately printed last year (1897)
in a very small edition.

Page 130. These lines, composed as an exercise for the Oxford
Sacred Poem Prize, but reje6led, are in great measure a paraphrase
from the Confessions of Augustine.

The Author offers his cordial thanks to the Editor of "The
Spe6tator " for permission to reprint the part of this poem, which
appeared in that journal ; to the Editors of " The Westminster
Gazette," and "The Dome," for permission to reprint "Mid-
summer Noon " and " The Paralytic : " and to the Rev. C.
Henry Daniel, for permission to reprint several of the " Various
Poems" from a volume issued by him at his private press in
Oxford, 1895.


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Online LibraryLaurence BinyonPorphyrion and other poems → online text (page 6 of 6)