Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Sirens: An Ode by Laurence Binyon [extract]

The Sirens: An Ode


I REMEMBER a night of my youth, I remember a night
The earth and the sea were a shadow, but over me opened
Heaven into uttermost heaven, and height into height
With stars, with stars, with stars.
I remember the dew on my face, I remember the mingled
Homely smell of grass and unearthly beauty
Out of the ends of the air and the unscaled darkness
Poured in a rain, in a river,
Into my marrow,—thro' all the veins of delight
Poured into me.
O the divine solitude, the intoxicating silence!
I was a spirit unregioned, worthy of them;
I, even I, was a creature of infinite flight,
Born to be free.
In the midst of the worlds, as they moved, I moved with them all,
A sense and a joy; I was hidden, and yet they were nigh;
For they came to me as lovers,
Those stars from on high.

Thus as my whole soul drank of the star-thrilled air,
I felt more than heard, like a whisper
Invading me out of immensity, hinted, haunting
Of waves, of waves, of waves.
And I felt in the blood of my flesh to the roots of my hair,
That it sought me, a mind in the muteness:
In the midst of the worlds I trembled,
I in the night a mortal
What was I?   What was I?   Nothing
But a Moment, aware
Of the ruins of Time!
Yet a memory of memories awaking, I marvelled from where,
Out of shadows unshapen within me, and dust under dust,
From burial of realms and of ages, and darkness astir
In the roots of the hungering forest, the ancientest lair,
Rose to claim
This my body, the sap of its veins and its secret to share;
To emerge with the star-watching eyes of the venturer, Man.
And my body was brimmed with its meaning; it knew whence it came,
For I was the word on Earth's lips
That she needed to name.

But tell me, I cried, O whispering, troubling waves,
Tell me, O journeying wildernesses of stars,
Why do you near me & choose me? Whither would you lure me,
The earth-child?
To be brimmed with desire overflowing the bounds of the world,
To be wingless & stretched on a longing that boundlessly craves,
Who has known not this, in the bloom of a midnight marvelling
But thus to be sought from afar by phantom waves,
In the still of the night to be neared by stooping stars,
As if all immensity sought for a home in the mind
At its core,
This draws my dark being up from its secret caves,
And the flesh is no longer a home, nor can comforting Earth
Shelter me more.
I am known to the Unknown; chosen, charmed, endangered:
I flow to a music ocean-wild and starry,
And feel within me, for this mortality's answer,
Sea without shore.

Laurence Binyon, The Sirens: An Ode (London: Macmillan & Co., 1925), 1-3.

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