The City of Present Sorrow
From The Book of Lost Tales 2 Chaper IV: The History of Eriol or Ælfwine
There is a city that far distant lies
And a vale outcarven in forgotten days –
There wider was the grass, and the lofty elms more rare;
The river-sense was heavy in the lowland air.
There many willows changed the aspect of the earth and skies
Where feeding brooks wound in by sluggish ways,
And down the margin of the sailing Thames
Around his broad old bosom their old stems
Were bound, and subtle shades lay on his streams
Where their grey leaves adroop o’er silver pools
Did knit a coverlet like shimmering jewels
Of blue and misty green and filtering gleams.
O agéd city of all too brief sojourn,
I see thy clustered windows each one burn
With lamps and candles of departed men.
The misty stars thy crown, the night thy dress,
Most peerless-magical thou dost possess
My heart, and old days come to life again;
Old mornings dawn, or darkened evenings bring
The same old twilight noises from the town.
Thou hast the very core of longing and delight,
To thee my spirit dances oft in sleep
Along thy grey streets, or down
A little lamplit alley-way at night –
Thinking no more of cities it has known,
Forgetting for a while the tree-girt keep,
And town of dreams, where men no longer sing.
For thy heart knows, and thou shedst many tears
For all sorrow of these evil years.
Thy thousand pinnacles and fretted spires
Are lit with echoes and lambent fires
Of many companies of bells that ring
Rousing pale visions of majestic days
The windy years have strewn down different ways;
And in thy walls still doth thy spirit sing
Songs of old memory amid thy present tears,
Or hope of days to come half-sad with many fears.
Lo! Though along thy paths no laughter runs
While war untimely takes thy many sons,
No tide of evil can thy glory drown
Robed in sad majesty, the stars thy crown.
Submitted by Eärendils_Beloved