These Hallowed Halls
by Michael R. Burch
a young Romantic Poet mourns the passing of an age . . .
A final stereo fades into silence
and now there is seldom a murmur
to trouble the slumber
of these ancient halls.
I stand by a window where others have watched
the passage of time—alone,
And I am as they were
for the days
stretch out ahead,
a bewildering maze.
Ah, faithless lover—
that I had never touched your breast,
nor felt the stirrings of my heart,
which until that moment had peacefully slept.
For now I have known the exhilaration
of a heart that has vaulted the Pinnacle of Love,
and the result of each such infatuation—
the long freefall to earth, as the moon glides above.
A solitary clock chimes the hour
from far above the campus,
but my peers,
returning from their dances,
heed it not.
And so it is
that we seldom gauge Time’s speed
because He moves so unobtrusively
about His task.
Still, when at last
we reckon His mark upon our lives,
we may well be surprised
at His thoroughness.
when Time has etched His little lines
so carelessly across your brow,
perhaps I will love you less than now.
And when cruel Time has stolen
your youth, as He certainly shall in course,
perhaps you will wish you had taken me
along with my broken heart,
even as He will take you with yours.
A measureless rhythm rules the night—
few have heard it,
but I have shared it,
and its secret is mine.
To put it into words
is as to extract the sweetness from honey
and must be done as gently
as a butterfly cleans its wings.
But when it is captured, it is gone again;
its usefulness is only
that it lulls to sleep.
So sleep, my love, to the cadence of night,
to the moans of the moonlit hills’
bass chorus of frogs, while the deep valleys fill
with the nightjar’s shrill, cryptic trills.
But I will not sleep this night, nor any;
how can I—when my dreams
are always of your perfect face
ringed by soft whorls of fretted lace,
framed by your perfect pillowcase?
If I had been born when knights roamed the earth
and mad kings ruled savage lands,
I might have turned to the ministry,
to the solitude of a monastery.
But there are no monks or hermits today—
theirs is a lost occupation
carried on, if at all,
merely for sake of tradition.
For today man abhors solitude—
he craves companions, song and drink,
seldom seeking a quiet moment,
to sit alone, by himself, to think.
And so I cannot shut myself
off from the rest of the world,
to spend my days in philosophy
and my nights in tears of self-sympathy.
No, I must continue as best I can,
and learn to keep my thoughts away
from those glorious, uproarious moments of youth,
centuries past though lost but a day.
Yes, I must discipline myself
and adjust to these lackluster days
when men display no chivalry
and romance is the "old-fashioned" way.
A single stereo flares into song
and the first faint light of morning
has pierced the sky's black awning
This is a sacred place,
for those who leave,
leave better than they came.
But those who stay, while they are here,
add, with their sleepless nights and tears,
quaint sprigs of ivy to the walls
of these Hallowed Halls.
NOTE: I wrote this poem from the window of my freshman dorm at age 18, while watching students returning from rush week parties in the wee hours of the morning. There is also a sonnet version of the poem. In this longer version there are clues that the poet, like Prufrock, is aware of the quaintness of his Romanticism in the modern age. I consider “These Hallowed Halls” to be my Ars Poetica, along with “Poetry.” Keywords/Tags: College, dorm, fraternity, rush, Romantic, unrequited, love, ivy, halls, learning, education, ivory, towers, stereo, music, romance, chivalry, maidens, damsels, knights, kings, monks, hermits, clock, time