About me leagues of houses lie,
by Arthur Henry Adams
Above me, grim and straight and high,
They climb; the terraces lean up
Like long grey reefs against the sky.
Packed tier on tier the people dwell;
Each narrow, hollow wall is full;
And in that hive of honeycomb,
Remote and high, I have one cell.
And when I turn into my street
I hear in murmurous retreat
A tide of noises flowing out --
The city ebbing from my feet!
And lo! two long straight walls between,
There dwells a little park serene,
Where blackened trees and railings hem
A little handkerchief of green!
Yet I can see across the roof
The sun, the stars and . . . God! For proof --
Between the twisting chimney-pots
A pointing finger, old, aloof!
The traffic that the city rends
Within my quiet haven ends
In a deep murmur, or across
My pool a gentle ripple sends.
A chime upon the silence drab
Paints music; hooting motors stab
The pleasant peace; and, far and faint,
The jangling lyric of the cab!
And when I wander, proud and free,
Through my domain, unceasingly
The endless pageant of the shops
Marches along the street with me.
About me ever blossoming
Like rich parterres the hoardings fling
An opulence of hue, and make
Within my garden endless Spring.
The droning tram-cars spitting light:
And like great bees in drunken flight
Burly and laden deep with bloom,
The 'busses lumbering home at night!
Sometimes an afternoon will fling
New meaning on each sombre thing,
And low upon the level roofs
The sultry sun lies smouldering.
Sometimes the fog -- that faery girl --
Her veil of wonder will unfurl,
And crescent gaunt and looming flat
Are sudden mysteries of pearl!
New miracles the wet streets show;
On stems of flame the gas-lamps glow.
I walk upon the wave and see
Another London drowned below!
And when night comes strange jewels strew
The winding streets I wander through:
Like pearls upon a woman's throat
The street-lamps' swerving avenue!
In every face that passes mine
Unfathomed epics I divine:
Each figure on the pavement is
A vial of untasted wine!
Through lands enchanted wandering,
To all a splendour seems to cling.
Lo! from a window-beacon high
Hope still the Night is questioning!
And so, ere sleep, I lie and mark
Romance's stealthy footsteps. Hark!
The rhythm of the horse's hoof
Bears some new drama through the dark!
So in this tall and narrow street
I lie as in Death's lone retreat
And hear, loud in the pulse of Life,
Eternity upon me beat!