Middle Temple Gardens

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

The fountain's low singing is heard on the wind,
Like a melody bringing sweet fancies to mind;
Some to grieve, some to gladden: around them they cast
The hopes of the morrow, the dreams of foe past.
Away in the distance is heard the vast sound,
From the streets of the city that compass it round,
Like the echo of mountains, or ocean's deep call;
Yet that fountain's low singing is hoard over all.
The turf and the terrace slope down to the tide
Of the Thames, that sweeps onwards—a world at its side:
And dark the horizon, with mast and with sail
Of the thousand tall ships that have weather'd the gale:
While beyond the arch'd bridge the old abbey appears,
Where England has garner'd the glories of years.
There the royal, the lovely, the gifted, the brave,
Haunt the heart with a poetry born of the grave.
Still and lone 'mid the tumult these gardens extend,
The elm and the lime over flower-beds bend;
And the sunshine rains in as the light leaves are stirr'd,
When away from the nest he has built springs the bird.
The boat, and the barge, and the wave, have grown red;
And the sunset has crimson'd the boughs over- head;
But the lamps are now shining, the colours are gone,
And the garden lies shadowy, silent, and lone.
There are lights in the casements: how weary the ray
That asks from the night-time the toils of the day!
I fancy I see the brow bent o'er the page,
Whose youth wears the paleness and wrinkles of age.
The hour may be coming when fortune and fame
May crown the endeavour, and honour the name:
But the toil has been long that too early began;
And the judge and the peer is a world-weary man.

The robe and the ermine, by few they are won:
How many sink down ere the race be half run!
What struggles, what hopes, what despair may have been,
Where sweep those dark branches of shadowy green!
What crowds are around us, what misery is there,
Could the heart, like the face which conceals it, lay bare!
But we know not each other—we seek not to know
What the social world hides in the darkness below.
I lean in the window, and hear the low tune
Of the fountain, now bright with the new risen moon.
In the chamber within are the gay and the young;
The light laugh is laugh'd, and the sweet song is sung.
I turn to their mirth, but it is in a mask—
The jest is an omen, the smile is a task.
A slave in a pageant, I walk through life's part,
With smiles on the lip, and despair at the heart.

Author's Note: * I know not that I have ever been more struck than with the beauty of the Middle Temple Gardens, as seen on a still summer evening. There is about it such a singular mixture of action and repose. The trees cast an undisturbed shadow on the turf; the barges rest tranquilly on the dark river; only now and then the dim outline of a
scarcely seen sail flits by; the very lamps in the distance seem as if shining in their sleep. But the presence of life is around. Lights appear in most of the windows; and
there comes upon the air the unceasing murmur of the city around. Nothing is distinct, all varieties of noise blending into one deep sound. But the little fountain is heard
amid it all; the ear does not lose a note of its low sweet music: it is the poetry of the place, or, rather, the voice of the poetry with which it is filled.

The Middle Temple is one of the ancient Inns of Court in London.