Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
By Lionel Johnson (1867–1902)
OVER, the four long years! And now there rings
One voice of freedom and regret: Farewell!
Now old remembrance sorrows, and now sings:
But song from sorrow, now, I cannot tell.
City of weather’d cloister and worn court;        5
Grey city of strong towers and clustering spires:
Where art’s fresh loveliness would first resort;
Where lingering art kindled her latest fires!
Where on all hands, wondrous with ancient grace,
Grace touch’d with age, rise works of goodliest men:        10
Next Wykeham’s art obtain their splendid place
The zeal of Inigo, the strength of Wren.
Where at each coign of every antique street,
A memory hath taken root in stone:
There, Raleigh shone; there, toil’d Franciscan feet;        15
There, Johnson flinch’d not, but endured alone.
There, Shelley dream’d his white Platonic dreams;
There, classic Landor throve on Roman thought;
There, Addison pursued his quiet themes;
There, smiled Erasmus, and there, Colet taught.        20
And there, O memory more sweet than all!
Lived he, whose eyes keep yet our passing light;
Whose crystal lips Athenian speech recall;
Who wears Rome’s purple with least pride, most right.
That is the Oxford strong to charm us yet:        25
Eternal in her beauty and her past.
What, though her soul be vex’d? She can forget
Cares of an hour: only the great things last.
Only the gracious air, only the charm,
And ancient might of true humanities,        30
These nor assault of man, nor time, can harm;
Not these, nor Oxford with her memories.
Together have we walk’d with willing feet
Gardens of plenteous trees, bowering soft lawn;
Hills whither Arnold wander’d; and all sweet        35
June meadows, from the troubling world withdrawn;
Chapels of cedarn fragrance, and rich gloom
Pour’d from empurpled panes on either hand;
Cool pavements, carved with legends of the tomb;
Grave haunts, where we might dream, and understand.        40
Over, the four long years! And unknown powers
Call to us, going forth upon our way:
Ah! Turn we, and look back upon the towers
That rose above our lives, and cheer’d the day.
Proud and serene, against the sky they gleam:        45
Proud and secure, upon the earth they stand.
Our city hath the air of a pure dream,
And hers indeed is a Hesperian land.
Think of her so! The wonderful, the fair,
The immemorial, and the ever young:        50
The city sweet with our forefathers’ care:
The city where the Muses all have sung.
Ill times may be; she hath no thought of time:
She reigns beside the waters yet in pride.
Rude voices cry: but in her ears the chime        55
Of full sad bells brings back her old springtide.
Like to a queen in pride of place, she wears
The splendour of a crown in Radcliffe’s dome.
Well fare she—well! As perfect beauty fares,
And those high places that are beauty’s home.        60

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