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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"Going Up to London"

[The first verse of this poem was quoted in a short story I was reading in college. I loved it and wanted to read more, but in those pre-Internet days, there was no way to find it without poet or title mentioned. And then one day, there it was--in some anthology I found in the University library. I must have wanted to continue the tradition of mystery surrounding it, since I didn't note which one! Now I have fished it out of my files to celebrate my daughter's "going up to London" as I used to wish to do.]

"As I went up to London,"
I heard a stranger say—
Going up to London
In such a casual way!
He turned the magic phrase
That has haunted all my days
As though it were a common thing
For careless lips to say.
As he went up to London—
I'll wager many a crown
He never saw the road that I
Shall take to London town!

When I go up to London,
'Twill be in April weather,
I'll have a riband on my rein
And flaunt a scarlet feather;
The broom will toss its brush for me.
Two blackbirds and a thrush will be
Assembled in a bush for me;
And sing a song together.
And all the blossomy hedgerows
Will shake their hawthorn down
As I go riding, riding,
Up to London town.

Halting on a tall hill
Pied with purple flowers,
Twenty turrets I shall count,
And twice as many towers;
Count them on my finger-tips
As I used to do,
And half a hundred spires
Pricking toward the blue.

There will be a glass dome
And a roof of gold,
And a latticed window high
Tilting toward the western sky,
As I knew of old.
London, London,
They counted me a fool—
I could draw your skyline plain
Before I went to school!

Riding, riding downward
By many a silver ridge
And many a slope of amethyst,
I'll come to London Bridge—
London Bridge flung wide for me,
Horses drawn aside for me,
Thames my amber looking-glass
As I proudly pass;
Lords and flunkies, dukes and dames,
Country folk with comely names
Wondering at my steadfast face,
Beggars curtsying,
Footmen falling back a space—
I would scarecely stay my pace
If I met the King!

If I met the King himself
He'd smile beneath his frown:
"Who is this comes traveling up
So light to London town?"

Riding, riding, eagerly,
Thrusting through the throng
(Traveling light, Your Majesty,
Because the way was long),
I'll hurry fast to London gate
(The way was long, and I am late),
I'll come at last to London gate.
Singing me a song—
Some old rime of ancient time
When wondrous things befell.
And there the boys and girls at play,
Understanding well,
Quick will hail me, clear and sweet,
Crowding, crowding after;
Every little crooked street
Will echo to their laughter;
Lilting, as they mark my look
Chanting, two and two,
Dreamed it, dreamed it in a dream
And waked and found it true!

Sing, you rimes, and ring, you chimes,
And swing you bells of Bow!
When I go up to London
All the world shall know!

—Nancy Byrd Turner

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