Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DAY'S END IN DURHAM, by GEORGE HERBERT CLARKE



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DAY'S END IN DURHAM, by            
First Line: In the abbey at durham, / with its great stony silence
Last Line: I wondered, and woke.
Subject(s): Durham, England; Dusk; Prayer; Silence; Wisdom


IN the Abbey at Durham,
With its great stony Silence,
Builded of silences,
I bowed me and knelt.

After a long time
I prayed to the Silence
To enter my spirit,
And give me to know.

And the dim-sweeping arches
And solemn spaces,
Deepening, darkening,
Regarded the mortal,
The humble human,
Kneeling there, praying.

At last spake the Silence,
Silently, after its wont:

"We columns and cloisters
Are very ancient;
The tale of our years
Is nearing a thousand;
Once it resounded—
Our vast-flung vaulting—
With glory and passion
To the chants of our masters,
Your fathers long vanished;
Now we are dreaming
Of memories only:
Alike they and we
Are sinking to ruin.
Slowly to death,
Reluctant or willing,
Must all things yield them."

And the darkness deepened.

"Slowly to death,"
Were the words re-echoed,
"Must all things yield them."

And while I knelt there,
Unfolded a vision:
Before me was tending
The Earth in her orbit,—
An old pulsing planet,
Blind beating the void;—
And out of her bosom,
With castles and palaces,
Prisons and temples,
Crumbling upon it,
There came the old sorrow:
"Slowly to death
Must all things yield them."

"Customs and continents,
The secret-souled ocean,
Wars and war's rumours,
Men's poetry and music,
Their quarrelling systems,
Their sure revelations
Of the Made and the Maker,
The counters they trade in,
Their greeds and red rivalries,
Brave bursts of brotherhood,
Kindliest ministries,
Wooings and marryings,
Their ventures victorious,
Their gloomy forebodings,—
All shall decay and pass
Down to oblivion,
With me, their old Mother,
The Ruin they dwell on.

"All they are, all they have,
All they think or imagine,
Can little avail them
In the blind end of being;—
They are midges that hover
By my withering bosom,
And I but a midge
On the breast of Eternity!

"On the breast of Eternity!"
She spake, and was silent,
Save for the sudden
Tremor that shook her:
"Ah! what is Eternity?
Is It, too, a Ruin?"

In the Abbey at Durham,
With its great stony Silence,
Builded of silences,
I wondered, and woke.





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