Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.



By Joanna Baillie (1762–1851)

IT is a goodly sight through the clear air,

From Hampstead’s heathy height to see at once

England’s vast capital in fair expanse,—

Towers, belfries, lengthened streets, and structures fair.

St. Paul’s high dome amidst the vassal bands

Of neighboring spires, a regal chieftain stands,

And over fields of ridgy roofs appear,

With distance softly tinted, side by side

In kindred grace, like twain of sisters dear,

The towers of Westminster, her Abbey’s pride:

While far beyond the hills of Surrey shine

Through thin soft haze, and show their wavy line.

Viewed thus, a goodly sight! but when surveyed

Through denser air when moistened winds prevail,

In her grand panoply of smoke arrayed,

While clouds aloft in heavy volumes sail,

She is sublime. She seems a curtained gloom

Connecting heaven and earth,—a threatening sign of doom.

With more than natural height, reared in the sky,

’T is then St. Paul’s arrests the wondering eye;

The lower parts in swathing mist concealed,

The higher through some half-spent shower revealed,

So far from earth removed, that well, I trow,

Did not its form man’s artful structure show,

It might some lofty alpine peak be deemed,—

The eagle’s haunt, with cave and crevice seamed.

Stretched wide on either hand, a rugged screen

In lurid dimness, nearer streets are seen

Like shoreward billows of a troubled main

Arrested in their rage. Through drizzly rain

Cataracts of tawny sheen pour from the skies,

Of furnace smoke black curling columns rise,

And many tinted vapors slowly pass

O’er the wide draping of that pictured mass.

So shows by day this grand imperial town,

And, when o’er all the night’s black stole is thrown,

The distant traveller doth with wonder mark

Her luminous canopy athwart the dark,

Cast up, from myriads of lamps that shine

Along her streets in many a starry line:

He wondering looks from his yet distant road,

And thinks the northern streamers are abroad.

“What hollow sound is that?” Approaching near,

The roar of many wheels breaks on his ear.

It is the flood of human life in motion!

It is the voice of a tempestuous ocean!

With sad but pleasing awe his soul is filled,

Scarce heaves his breast, and all within is stilled,

As many thoughts and feelings cross his mind,—

Thoughts, mingled, melancholy, undefined,

Of restless, reckless man, and years gone by,

And time fast wending to eternity.