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Going Back

ISSUE:  Autumn 1925

I heard the bells of London town
Ringing out the day;
How could I hear those bells, and I
A wide world away?
Ah, one must need to penetrate
Full centuries of years
Before he understands the thing
Another sees and hears!

I heard the bells of London
Come sweeping down the road,
The self-same one that Whittington
Long ago strode;
A thorn-bush nodded to a star
That peered to watch me pass;
A lark went homing, black and far,
Above its meadow grass.

Rosemary, marjoram,
Bittersweet or rue,
I followed that clear calling
As a ghost is bound to do.—
Ah, he knows naught of Going Back
Who knows not ghostship, too!

I saw the lights of London
Come beckoning through the mist,
Down gray, old ways, wherein my heart
Had bowed and wept and kissed;
And there above the bridge’s line,
Beyond the thrum and stir,
Pointing to day’s red countersign,—
The towers of Westminster.

Turret in the ivy,
Bough above the wall,
Who knows what yet may lurk beneath
The dusk’s enchanted thrall?
Plume, ruff, farthingale,
Great folk, and small. . . .

They walked with me, they fared with me,
The heart that came back home;
I talked my fill to speechless things,—
Tower, spire, dome;—
Does twilight lift its magic wings
When one has far to come?

O, gray old ways that life has tried,
I pray you, do not change!
Where else, in all this harsher world
Shall memory’s spirit range?
Where else to doff its sterner load,
Wandering past lea or down,
To lilt above a Roman Road
And find its London Town?—

Rosemary, marjoram,
Bittersweet or rue—
Gray, old ways, same old ways,
The heart has need of you.


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