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

London Streets


By Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)

THE SUN is on the crowded street;

It kindles those old towers,

Where England’s noblest memories meet,

Of old historic hours.

Vast, shadowy, dark, and indistinct,

Tradition’s giant fane,

Whereto a thousand years are linked

In one electric chain.

So stands it when the morning light

First steals upon the skies,

And, shadowed by the fallen night,

The sleeping city lies.

It stands with darkness round it cast,

Touched by the first cold shine;

Vast, vague, and mighty as the past,

Of which it is the shrine.

’T is lovely when the moonlight falls

Around the sculptured stone,

Giving a softness to the walls,

Like love that mourns the gone.

Then comes the gentlest influence

The human heart can know,

The mourning over those gone hence

To the still dust below.

The smoke, the noise, the dust of day,

Have vanished from the scene;

The pale lamps gleam with spirit ray

O’er the park’s sweeping green.

Sad shining on her lonely path,

The moon’s calm smile above,

Seems as it lulled life’s toil and wrath

With universal love.

Past that still hour, and its pale moon,

The city is alive;

It is the busy hour of noon,

When man must seek and strive.

The pressure of our actual life

Is on the waking brow;

Labor and care, endurance, strife,

These are around him now.

How wonderful the common street,

Its tumult and its throng,

The hurrying of the thousand feet

That bear life’s cares along.

How strongly is the present felt,

With such a scene beside;

All sounds in one vast murmur melt

The thunder of the tide.

All hurry on,—none pause to look

Upon another’s face:

The present is an open book

None read, yet all must trace.

The poor man hurries on his race,

His daily bread to find;

The rich man has yet wearier chase,

For pleasure ’s hard to bind.

All hurry, though it is to pass

For which they live so fast,—

What doth the present but amass

The wealth that makes the past?

The past is round us,—those old spires

That glimmer o’er our head;

Not from the present is their fires,

Their light is from the dead.

But for the past the present’s powers

Were waste of toil and mind

But for those long and glorious hours

Which leave themselves behind.