LOVE AMONG THE RUINS - Richard Harris Barham Poems

 
 

Poems » richard harris barham » love among the ruins

LOVE AMONG THE RUINS
Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
      Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
      Half-asleep
Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop
      As they crop--
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
      (So they say)
Of our country's very capital, its prince
      Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
      Peace or war.

Now the country does not even boast a tree,
      As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
      From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
      Into one)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
      Up like fires
O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
      Bounding all
Made of marble, men might march on nor be prest
      Twelve abreast.

And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
      Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'er-spreads
      And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
      Stock or stone--
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
      Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
      Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
      Bought and sold.

Now--the single little turret that remains
      On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
      Overscored,
While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks
      Through the chinks--
Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
      Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
      As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
      Viewed the games.

And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
      Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
      In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
      Melt away--
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
      Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
      For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
      Till I come.

But he looked upon the city, every side,
      Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades'
      Colonnades,
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,--and then
      All the men!
When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
      Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
      Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
      Each on each.

In one year they sent a million fighters forth
      South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
      As the sky
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force--
      Gold, of course.
O heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
      Earth's returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
      Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
      Love is best.

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