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Lewis Morris (Льюис Моррис)

In Trafalgar Square

UNDER the picture gallery wall,
As a sea-leaf clings to a wave-worn rock,
Nor shrinks from the surging impetuous shock
Of the breakers which gather and whiten and fall
A child's form crouches, nor seems to heed
The ceaseless eddy and whirl of men :
Men and women with hearts that bleed,
Men and women of wealth and fame,
High in honour, or sunk in shame,
Pass on like phantoms, and pass again.
And he lies there like a weed.

A child's form, said I ; but looking again
It is only the form that is childish now,
For age has furrowed the low dull brow,
And marked the pale face with its lines of pain.
Yet but few years have fled, since I first passed by,
For a dwarf's life is short if you go by the sun,
And marked in worn features and lustreless eye
Some trace of youth's radiance, though faint and thin,
But now, oh, strange jest ! there's a beard to his chin.
And he lies there, grown old ere his youth is done,
With his poor limbs bent awry.

What a passer-by sees, is a monstrous head,
With a look in the eyes as of those who gaze
On some far-off sight with a dumb amaze ;
A face as pale as the sheeted dead,
A frail body propt on a padded crutch,
And lean long fingers, which flutter the keys
Of an old accordion, returning their touch
With some poor faint echoes of popular song,
Trivial at all times and obsolete long,
Psalm-tunes, and African melodies,
Not differing very much.

And there he sits nightly in heat and cold,
When the fountains fall soft on the stillness of June,
Or when the sharp East sings its own shrill tune,
Patiently playing and growing old.
The long year waxes and wanes, the great
Flash by in splendour from rout or ball,
Statesmen grown weary of long debate,
Hurry by homewards, and fling him alms ;
Pitiful women, touched by the psalms,
Bringing back innocence, stoop by the wall
Where he lies at Dives' gate.

What are his thoughts of, stranded there ?
While life ebbs and flows by, again and again,
Does the old sad Problem vex his poor brain ?
'Why is the world so pleasant and fair,
Why, am I only who did no wrong
Crippled and bent out of human form ?
Why are other men tall and strong ?
Surely if all men were made to rejoice,
Seeing that we come without will or choice,
It were better to crawl for a day like a worm,
Than to lie like this so long !

'The blind shuffles by with a tap of his staff,
The tired tramp plods to the workhouse ward,
But he carries his broad back as straight as a lord
And the blind man can hear his little ones laugh.
While I lie here like a weed on the sand,
With these crooked limbs, paining me night and day.
Would to Heaven, I were come to the promised land !
Of the sweet old faith which was preached for the poor,
Where none shall be weary or pained any more,
Nor change shall enter nor any decay,
And the stricken down shall stand ?'

And perhaps sometimes when the sky is clear,
And the stars show like lamps on the sweet summer night,
Some chance chord struck with a sudden delight,
Soars aloft with his soul, and brings Paradise near.
And then for even nature is sometimes kind
He lies stretched under palms with a harp of gold ;
Or is whirled on by coursers as fleet as the wind ;
And is no more crippled, nor weak nor bent ;
No more painful nor impotent ;
No more hungry, nor weary nor cold,—
But of perfect form and mind.

Or maybe his thoughts are of humbler cast,
For hunger and cold are real indeed ;
And he longs for the hour when his toil shall be past,
And he with sufficient for next day's need :
Some humble indulgence of food or fire,
Some music-hall ditty, or marvellous book,
Or whatever it be such poor souls desire ;
And with this little solace, for God would fain
Make even His measures of joy and pain,
He drones happily on in his quiet nook,
With hands that never tire.

Well, these random guesses must go for naught
Seeing it were surer and easier far
To weigh to an atom the faintest star,
Than to sound the dim depths of a brother's thought.
But whenever I hear those poor snatches of song,
And see him lie maimed in,tody and soul,
While I am straight and healthy and strong,
I seem to redden with a secret shame,
That we can thus differ who should be the same,
While I hear the World's thundering chariot-wheels roll
Unpitying along 

Lewis Morris's other poems:
  1. Waking
  2. The Apology
  3. A Yorkshire River
  4. A Hymn in Time of Idols
  5. A Cynic's Day-Dream

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