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Well is it, shrouded Sun, thou spar'st no ray
To illumine this sad street! A light more bare
Would but discover more this bald array
Of roofs dejected, window patched that stare
From sordid walls: for the shy breath of Spring,
Her cheek of flowers, or fragrance of her hair,
Thou could'st not, save to cheated memory, bring.

Alas! I welcome this dull mist, that drapes
The path of the heavy sky above the street,
Casting a phantom dimness on these shapes
That pass, by toil disfeatured, with slow feet
And with mistrustful eyes; though in the mud
Children the play of ages old repeat,
Because of quenchless wanting in their blood.

Yet oh, what clouds of heaviness deter
My spirit; what sad vacancy impedes!
I am like some far--ventured traveller,
Whom, in a forest vast, entangled weeds
Have hindered; over whom green darkness fills
The inextricable boughs and stifling feeds
A poisonous fear, that sinks on him and chills.

Nor finds he faith, amid the monstrous trees
Rooted in silence, peopled with strange cries
And stealthy shadows (where alone he sees
Rank growths of the hot marsh, but watching eyes
Imagines), to believe the self--same bark
He leans on, lifts to the unclouded skies
Its crest victorious from that cradle dark.

I with like pain and languor am opprest:
Me too a forest upon poison fed,
Me too the marsh and the rank weeds infest.
Almost I trace in the dumb pall o'erhead
A net of stubborn boughs that dimly mesh
The air; I stifle: like a chain of lead
They weigh upon my soul, they bind my flesh.

I cannot breathe: the last and worst despair
Begins to invade me, numbing even desire
That panted for sweet draughts of light and air.
Dumb walls against me with blind heaven conspire:
Incredible the sun seems now, a ghost
I dreamed of in my dreams; unreal fire.
The light is blotted out, the blue is lost.

Was it mirage, the glow I fancied warm
On human cheeks, the beauty of my kind?
I feel it fading from me, a brief charm
Flying at touch. Blow hither, storms of wind!
Strike hither, strong sun, to my dulled heart's core!
Awake, disturb me, lest mine eyes grow blind,
By fatal use to a foul dream resigned,
Accept for Nature's body this, her sore.

© Robert Laurence Binyon