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Poem by Robert Leighton


IN Liverpool, the good old town, we miss
  The grand old relics of a reverend past,
Cathedrals, shrines that pilgrims come to kiss,
        Walls wrinkled by the blast.

Some crypt or keep, historically dear,
  You find, go where you will, all England through:
But what have we to venerate,all here
        Ridiculously new.

We have our Castle Street, but castle none;
  Redeross Street, but its legend who can learn;
Oldhall Street, too, we have, the old hall gone;
        Tithebarn Street, but no barn.

Huge warehouses for cotton, rice, and corn,
  Tea and tobacco, log and other woods,
Oils, tallow, hides that smell so foully foreign,
        Yea, all things known as goods,

These we can show, but nothing to restore
  The spirit of old times, save here and there
An ancient mansion with palatial door,
        In some degenerate square.

Then rise the merchant princes of old days,
  Their silken dames, their skippers from the strand,
Who brought their sea-borne riches, not always
        Quite free from contraband.

And these their mansions, to base uses come,
  Harbors for fallen fair ones, drifting tars;
Some manufactories of blacking, some
        Tobacco and cigars.

We have a church that one almost reveres,
  St. Nicholas, nodding by the river-side,
In old times hailed by ancient mariners
        That came up with the tide.

And there s St. Peters, too, not quite so frail,
  Yet old enough for antiquated thoughts:
Ah, many a time I lean against the rail
        To hear its sweet cracked notes.

For when the sun has clomb the middle sky,
  And wandered down the short hour after noon,
Then to the heedless world that hurries by
        The clock bells clink a tune.

They give us Home, Sweet Home in plaintive key,
  And in its turn breaks out The Scolding Wife,
To show that home, however sweet it be,
        Is yet not free from strife.

But sometimes Auld Lang Syne comes clinking forth,
  And surely every listening heart is charmed;
For what are even the sorrows of the earth
        When, past, they are transformed?

Yet all is so ridiculously new,
  Except, perhaps, the river and the sky,
The waters and the immemorial blue
        Forever sailing by.

Ay, they are old, but new as well as old,
  For old and new are just the same sky dream,
One metal in a slightly different mould,
        The same refiltered stream.

Robert Leighton

Poem Theme: Cities of England

Robert Leighton's other poems:
  1. The Gorsy Glen
  2. Seven Churches of Clonmacnoise
  3. Glen-Messen
  4. Near Dunbar
  5. York Minster

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Letitia Landon Liverpool ("Where are they bound, those gallant ships")

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