The Hornbeams

I walked alone in Golden Square
    One bitter, solitary night,
The littered streets were cold and bare
    With scarce another soul in sight,
The coward lamps flung out their glow,
Chrome yellow on the Soho snow.

St. Stephen’s bells began their dance,
    I turned to pace my jaundiced way
To Kingly Street, and then, by chance,
    I felt a snowdrift ricochet
From off my shoulder — raised my eyes
And froze mid-step in mute surprise.

High up above those streets of woe
    Four massive hornbeams clawed the sky,
Each bough a silhouette of snow,
    A sight to paralyse the eye,
To stun the mind and warm the heart
That nature might produce such art.

How long I stood and gazed aloft
    I do not know — then heard a voice
Say ‘You alright?’  The words were soft
    But coppers leave you little choice:
‘Yes thanks,’ I said, and met his stare.
He watched me as I crossed the square;

Yet I was musing while I stole
On beauty’s power to heal the soul,
And turning back, I chanced to see
A man entranced beneath a tree,
His head bent back, yet strangely bare,
His helmet doffed — as if in prayer.