“Brussels” [poem]
The racking clouds were fleeting fast
Upon the bosom of the blast 1
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 oceans 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, Brussels 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 hotel de ville 3
The noble spires 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 sawst on Julys 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 phalanx waving crest
Forth from thy gates was forward prest
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And breaking with the morning mild
The disant roar of battle wild.
And later still the rabble shout
And revolutions riot rout
Leaving such marks as long shall tell
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Of dark destruction fierce and fell.