"Brussels" [poem]
THE racking clouds were fleeting fast 1
Upon the bosom of the blast;
In wild confusion fiercely driven
Fled they across the face of heaven.
The fitful gust came shrieking high;
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The rattling rain flew driving by;
But where the horizon stretched away
Towards the couch of parting day,
A streak of paly light was seen,
The heaped and darkling clouds between.
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Against that light, for time full brief,
Brussels arose in dark relief.
Colossal on the western fire
Seemed massive towʼr and slender spire.
Nearer, and nearer as we drew,
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More strongly marked the outlines grew,
Till of the buildings you might see
Distinct, the Gothic tracerie.
The drawbridge rung,—we passed the gate, 2
And regal Brussels entered straight.
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It stirs, to see the human tide
That marks a city in its pride!
That fitful oceanʼs eddying sweep
Is still more changeful than the deep:
For those dark billows as they roll
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Mark movements of the human soul.
Yet in that city there was none
Of that confused and busy hum,
That tells of traffic and of trade;
No, Brusselsʼ time of powʼr was sped:
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Yet in her streets was something seen
Spoke what the city once had been.
Our rapid course as now we wheel
Where rose the huge Hôtel de ville, 3
The noble spireʼs proportions high
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Stood forth upon the cloudy sky
In all its fretted majesty:
And his last light the sun had sent
On buttress and on battlement;
That, while the houses were arrayed
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In all the depth of twilight shade,
Yet shot there, faint, a yellow glow
Where the tall arches shafted show;—
Glimmered a moment there the ray,
Then fainter grew, and past away.
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Brussels, thy battlements have been
Of many an action strange the scene!
Thou sawʼst, on Julyʼs dreadful night, 4
The veterans rushing to the fight:—
Thou heardest when the word was spoken;
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At midnight thy repose was broken
By tramp of men and neigh of steed,—
Battalions bursting forth to bleed;
Till the dark phalanxʼ waving crest
Forth from thy gates was forward prest,
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And breaking with the morning mild
The distant roar of battle wild.
And, later still, the rabble shout,
And revolutionʼs riot rout;
Leaving such marks as long shall tell
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Of dark destruction fierce and fell.