The sun is on the crowded street,
     It kindles those old towers;
Where England's noblest memories meet,
     Of old historic hours.

Wast, shadowy, dark, and indistinct,
     Tradition's giant fane,
Whereto a thousand years are link'd,
     In one electric chain.

So stands it when the morning light
     First steals upon the skies;
And shadow’d by the fallen night,
     The sleeping city lies.

It stands with darkness round it cast,
     ouch'd by the first cold shine;
Wast, vague, and mighty as the past
     Of which it is the shrine.

'Tis 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 vanish'd from the scene;
The pale lamps gleam with spirit ray
     O'er the park's sweeping green.

Sad shining on her lonely path,
     he moon's calm smile above,
Seems as it lull'd 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;
Labour 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.             [300-01]

Related material: Other “Scenes from London”


Landon, Latitia E. The Poetical Works of Miss Landon. Philadelphia: E.L. Cary and A. Hart, 1839. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the New York Public Library. Web. 17 July 2020.

Last modified 17 July 2020