Crumble, crumble down the houses,
Break the ceilings, rip the doors;
Dig out walls and wrench out panels,
Rend the staircase and the doors.
Half concealed by heavy dust-clouds,
Breaking from the scatter'd lime,
See them working out destruction
On those skeltons of lime.
Step by step, but surely, surely,
They are loosening the stones;
Thud, and thud, and thud we hear them,
Fall in mournful monotones.
Ancient homes and ancient fashions,
Grim memorials — down at last;
In our delving for the present.
We must barrow out the past.
While along that future highway
Clouds of ashy mortar rolled,
Close I stood to watch the crowbars
Eating at the things of old.
London, as it was, departeth
From an old man's puzzled gaze;
Change — that heavy coultered ploughshare —
Turns tho sod of other days.
Then, as now, did love and hatred,
Tide-like, surf upon the mind, hark!
I hear them! is it fancy,
Or the eddies of the wind?
Furrowing out a mud where every
Tide of human feeling ran;
All the good and all the evil
Breaking from the heart of man.
See that desolated chamber.
There a first-born took its rest,
On the soft, maternal tremble
Of a happy mother’s breast.
From that door, half glad, half mournful,
Stepped tho newly-married wife;
Up that staircase toiled a woman,
Sick and weary of her life.
There two souls for years of loving
Shared each other's joy and pain;
Just below two hearts were sundered,
And they never met again.
In that chamber there was feasting,
Flowery speeches deftly said;
Down the street a famished brother.
Waited for a bit of bread.
Kneeling in that far-off corner,
Little children said their prayers;
And ’twas there: a thankless miser
Fell and died upon tho stairs.
Up from out the heaps of ruin
Groups of shadowy forms arise;
E’en the very air seems laden
With the swell of ghostly sighs,
Some few walk with happy faces,
Shining through their veils of light;
Others wring their hands — a legion
Robed in vestments of the night.
One dark figure, all a-tremble,
Lest a secret should be told,
Strives with vain and spectral wrestling,
As the crowbar strikes the mould.
To and fro the mildewed paper
Waves within the shattered room,
Like a shroud from broken coffin.
And it whispers through the gloom.
Thus old memories are buried,
In our present restless day;
Thus old London changeth feature,
Thus old London scales way.