Street Companions

Whene'er through Gray's Inn porch I stray,
I meet a spirit by the way;
He wanders with me all alone,
And talks with me in under-tone.

The crowd is busy seeking gold,
It cannot see what I behold;
I and the spirit pass along
Unknown, unnoticed, in the throng.

While on the grass the children run,
And maids go loitering in the sun,
I roam beneath the ancient trees,
And talk with him of mysteries.

The dull brick houses of the square,
The bustle of the thoroughfare,
The sounds, the sights, the tramp of men,
Are present, but forgotten then.

I see them, but I heed them not,
I hear, but silence clothes the spot;
All voices die upon my brain,
Except that spirit's in the lane.

He breathes to me his burning thought.
He utters words with wisdom fraught,
He tells me truly what I am —
I walk with mighty Verulam.

He goes with me through crowded ways,
A friend and mentor in the maze,
Through Chancery Lane to Lincoln's Inn,
To Fleet Street, through the moil and din.

I meet another spirit there,
A blind old man with forehead fair,
Who ever walks the right-hand side,
Toward the fountain of St. Bride.

Amid the peal of jangling bells,
Or peoples' roar that falls and swells,
The whirl of wheels and tramp of steeds,
He talks to me of noble deeds.

I hear his voice above the crush,
As to and fro the people rush;
Benign and calm, upon his face
Sits Melancholy, robed in grace.

He hath no need of common eyes,
He sees the fields of Paradise;
He sees and pictures unto mine
A gorgeous vision, most divine.

He tells the story of the Fall,
He names the fiends in battle-call,
And shows my soul, in wonder dumb,
Heaven, Earth, and Pandemonium.

He tells of Lycidas the good,
And the sweet lady in the wood,
And teaches wisdom, high and holy,
In mirth and heavenly melancholy.

And oftentimes, with courage high,
He raises freedom's rallying cry;
And, ancient leader of the van,
Asserts the dignity of man —

Asserts the rights with trumpet tongue,
That Justice from Oppression wrung,
And poet, patriot, statesman, sage,
Guides by his own a future age.

With such companions at my side,
I float on London's human tide;
An atom on its billows thrown,
But lonely never, nor alone.
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