A Poem by Arthur Conan Doyle
The grime is on the window pane,
Pale the London sunbeams fall,
And show the smudge of mildew stain,
Which lies on the distempered wall.
I am a cripple, as you see,
And here I lie, a broken thing,
But God has given flight to me,
That mocks the swiftest eagle wing.
For if I will to see or hear,
Quick as the thought my spirit flies,
And lo! the picture flashes clear,
Through all the mist of centuries.
I can recall the Tigris’ strand,
Where once the Turk and Tartar met,
When the great Lord of Samarcand
Struck down the Sultan Bajazet.
Under a ten-league swirl of dust
The roaring battle swings and sways,
Now reeling down, now upward thrust,
The crescent sparkles through the haze.
I see the Janissaries fly,
I see the chain-mailed leader fall,
I hear the Tekbar clear and high,
The true believer’s battle-call.
And tossing o’er the press I mark
The horse-tail banner over all,
Shaped like the smudge of mildew dark
That lies on the distempered wall.
And thus the meanest thing I see
Will set a scene within my brain,
And every sound that comes to me,
Will bring strange echoes back again.
Hark now! In rhythmic monotone,
You hear the murmur of the mart,
The low, deep, unremitting moan,
That comes from weary London’s heart.
But I can change it to the hum
Of multitudinous acclaim,
When triple-walled Byzantium,
Re-echoes the Imperial name.
I hear the beat of armed feet,
The legions clanking on their way,
The long shout rims from street to street,
With rolling drum and trumpet bray.
So I hear it rising, falling,
Till it dies away once more,
And I hear the costers calling
Mid the weary London roar.
Who shall pity then the lameness,
Which still holds me from the ground?
Who commiserate the sameness
Of the scene that girds me round?
Though I lie a broken wreck,
Though I seem to want for all,
Still the world is at my beck
And the ages at my call.