Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WANDERER: 3. IN ENGLAND: BABYLONIA, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE WANDERER: 3. IN ENGLAND: BABYLONIA, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Enough of simpering and grimace!
Last Line: The inmate of eternity.
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): England; Travel; English; Journeys; Trips

ENOUGH of simpering and grimace!
Enough of damning one's soul for nothing!
Enough of Vacuity trimmed with lace!
And Poverty proud of her purple clothing!
In Babylon, whene'er there's a wind
(Whether it blow rain, or whether it blow sand),
The weathercocks change their mighty mind;
And the weathercocks are forty thousand.
Forty thousand weathercocks,
Each well-minded to keep his place,
Turning about in the great and small ways!
Each knows, whatever the weather's shocks,
That the wind will never blow in his face;
And in Babylon the wind blows always.

I cannot tell how it may strike you,
But it strikes me now, for the first and last time,
That there may be better things to do,
Than watching the weathercocks for pastime.
And I wish I were out of Babylon,
Out of sight of column and steeple,
Out of fashion and form, for one,
And out of the midst of this doublefaced people.
Enough of catgut! Enough of the sight
Of the dolls it sets dancing all the night!
For there is a notion come to me,
As here, in Babylon, I am lying,
That far away, over the sea,
And under another moon and star,
Braver, more beautiful beings are dying
(Dying, not dancing, dying, dying!)
To a music nobler far.

Full well I know that, before it came
To inhabit this feeble, faltering frame,
My soul was weary; and, ever since then,
It has seemed to me, in the stir and bustle
Of this eager world of women and men,
That my life was tired before it began,
That even the child had fatigued the man,
And brain and heart have done their part
To wear out sinew and muscle.

Yet, sometimes, a wish has come to me,
To wander, wander, I know not where,
Out of the sight of all that I see,
Out of the hearing of all that I hear;
Where only the tawny, bold, wild beast
Roams his realms; and find, at least,
The strength which even the beast finds there,
A joy, though but a savage joy; --
Were it only to find the food I need,
The scent to track, and the force to destroy,
And the very appetite to feed;
The bliss of the sense without the thought,
And the freedom, for once in my life, from aught
That fills my life with care.

And never this thought hath so wildly crost
My mind, with its wildering, strange temptation,
As just when I was enjoying the most
The blessings of what is called Civilization: --
The glossy boot which tightens the foot;
The club at which my friend was blackballed
(I am sorry, of course, but one must be exclusive);
The yellow kid glove whose shape I approve,
And the journal in which I am kindly called
Whatever's not libellous -- only abusive:
The ball to which I am careful to go,
Where the folks are so cool, and the rooms are so hot;
The opera, which shows one what music -- is not;
And the simper from Lady...but why should you know?

Yet, I am a part of the things I despise,
Since my life is bound by their common span:
And each idler I meet, in square or in street,
Hath within him what all that's without him belies, --
The miraculous, infinite heart of man,
With its countless capabilities!
The sleekest guest at the general feast,
That at every sip, as he sups, says grace,
Hath in him a touch of the untamed beast;
And change of nature is change of place.
The judge on the bench, and the scamp at the dock,
Have, in each of them, much that is common to both;
Each is part of the parent stock,
And their difference comes of their different cloth.

'Twixt the Seven Dials and Exeter Hall
The gulf that is fixed is not so wide:
And the fool that, last year, at Her Majesty's Ball,
Sickened me so with his simper of pride,
Is the hero now heard of, the first on the wall,
With the bayonet-wound in his side.

O, for the times which were (if any
Time be heroic) heroic indeed!
When the men were few,
And the deeds to do
Were mighty, and many,
And each man in his hand held a noble deed.
Now the deeds are few,
And the men are many,
And each man has, at most, but a noble need.

Blind fool! ...I know that all acted time
By that which succeeds it, is ever received
As calmer, completer, and more sublime,
Only because it is finished: because
We only behold the thing it achieved;
We behold not the thing that it was.
For, while it stands whole and immutable,
In the marble of memory -- we, who have seen
But the statue before us, -- how can we tell
What the men that have hewn at the block may have been?
Their passion is merged in its passionlessness;
Their strife in its stillness closed forever:
Their change upon change in its changelessness;
In its final achievement, their feverish endeavor:
Who knows how sculptor on sculptor starved
With the thought in the head by the hand uncarved?
And he that spread out in its ample repose
That grand, indifferent, godlike brow,
How vainly his own may have ached, who knows,
'Twixt the laurel above and the wrinkle below?
So again to Babylon I come back,
Where this fettered giant of Human Nature
Cramped in limb, and constrained in stature,
In the torture-chamber of Vanity lies;
Helpless and weak, and compelled to speak
The things he must despise.
You stars, so still in the midnight blue,
Which over these huddling roofs I view,
Out of reach of this Babylonian riot, --
We so restless, and you so quiet,
What is difference 'twixt us and you?

You each may have pined with a pain divine,
For aught I know,
As wildly as this weak heart of mine,
In an Age ago:
For whence should you have that stern repose,
Which, here, dwells but on the brows of those
Who have lived, and survived life's fever,
Had you never known the ravage and fire
Of that inexpressible Desire,
Which wastes and calcines whatever is less
In the soul, than the soul's deep consciousness
Of a life that shall last forever?

Doubtless, doubtless, again and again,
Many a mouth has starved for bread
In a city whose wharves are choked with corn
And many a heart hath perished dead
From being too utterly forlorn,
In a city whose streets are choked with men.
Yet the bread is there, could one find it out:
And there is a heart for a heart, no doubt,
Wherever a human heart may beat;
And room for courage, and truth, and love,
To move, wherever a man may move,
In the thickliest crowded street.

O Lord of the soul of man, whose will
Made earth for man, and man for heaven,
Help all thy creatures to fulfil
The hopes to each one given!
So fair thou madest, and so complete,
The little daisies at our feet;
So sound, and so robust in heart,
The patient beasts, that bear their part
In this world's labor, never asking
The reason of its ceaseless tasking;
Hast thou made man, though more in kind,
By reason of his soul and mind,
Yet less in unison with life,
By reason of an inward strife,
Than these, thy simpler creatures, are,
Submitted to his use and care?

For these, indeed, appear to live
To the full verge of their own power,
Nor ever need that time should give
To life one space beyond the hour.
They do not pine for what is not;
Nor quarrel with the things which are;
Their yesterdays are all forgot;
Their morrows are not feared from far:
They do not weep, and wail, and moan,
For what is past, or what 's to be,
Or what's not yet, and may be never;
They do not their own lives disown,
Nor haggle with eternity
For some unknown Forever.

Ah yet, -- in this must I believe
That man is nobler than the rest: --
That, looking in on his own breast,
He measures thus his strength and size
With supernatural destinies,
Whose shades o'er all his being fall;
And, in that dread comparison
'Twixt what is deemed and what is done,
He can, at intervals, perceive
How weak he is, and small.

Therefore, he knows himself a child,
Set in this rudimental star,
To learn the alphabet of Being;
By straws dismayed, by toys beguiled,
Yet conscious of a home afar;
With all things here but ill agreeing,
Because he trusts, in manhood's prime,
To walk in some celestial clime;
Sit in his Father's house; and be
The inmate of Eternity.

Discover our poem explanations - click here!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net