St. Saviour's, Aberdeen Park, Highbury, London, N

Highbury, London, N.

With oh such peculiar branching and overreaching of wire
Trolley-bus standards pick their threads from the London sky
Diminishing up the perspective, Highbury-bound retire
Threads and buses and standards with plane trees volleying by
And, more peculiar still, that ever-increasing spire
Bulges over the housetops, polychromatic and high.

Stop the trolley-bus, stop! And here, where the roads unite
Of weariest worn-out London — no cigarettes, no beer,
No repairs undertaken, nothing in stock — alight;
For over the waste of willow-herb, look at her, sailing clear,
A great Victorian church, tall, unbroken and bright
In a sun that's setting in Willesden and saturating us here.
These were the streets my parents knew when they loved and won —
The brougham that crunched the gravel, the laurel-girt paths that wind,
Geranium-beds for the lawn, Venetian blinds for the sun,
A separate tradesman's entrance, straw in the mews behind,
Just in the four-mile radius where hackney carriages run,
Solid Italianate houses for the solid commercial mind.

These were the streets they knew; and I, by descent, belong
To these tall neglected houses divided into flats.
Only the church remains, where carriages used to throng
And my mother stepped out in flounces and my father stepped out in spats
To shadowy stained-glass matins or gas-lit evensong
And back in a country quiet with doffing of chimney hats.

Great red church of my parents, cruciform crossing they knew —
Over these same encaustics they and their parents trod
Bound through a red-brick transept for a once familiar pew
Where the organ set them singing and the sermon let them nod
And up this coloured brickwork the same long shadows grew
As these in the stencilled chancel where I kneel in the presence of God.
Wonder beyond Time's wonders, that Bread so white and small
Veiled in golden curtains, too mighty for men to see,
Is the Power that sends the shadows up this polychrome wall,
Is God who created the present, the chain-smoking millions and me;
Beyond the throb of the engines is the throbbing heart of all —
Christ, at this Highbury altar, I offer myself to Thee.
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