Louis MacNeice

Street Scene

Between March and April when barrows of daffodils butter the 
The colossus of London stretches his gaunt legs, jerking 
The smoke of his hair back from his eyes and puffing 
Smoke-rings of heavenward pigeons over Saint Paul's, 
While in each little city of each individual person 
The black tree yearns for green confetti and the black kerb for 
   yellow stalls. 
Ave Maria! A sluice is suddenly opened 
Making Orphan Street a conduit for a fantastic voice; 
The Canadian sergeant turns to stone in his swagger, 
The painted girls, the lost demobbed, the pinstriped accountant 
As the swan-legged cripple straddled on flightless wings of 
Hitting her top note holds our own lame hours in equipoise, 

Then waddles a yard and switches Cruising down the river
Webbed feet hidden, the current smooth On a Sunday afternoon 
Sunshine fortissimo; some young man from the Desert 
Fumbles, new from battle-dress, for his pocket, 
Drops a coin in that cap she holds like a handbag, 
Then slowly walks out of range of A sentimental tune 

Which cruising down — repeat — cruises down a river 
That has no source nor sea but is each man's private dream 
Remote as his listening eyes; repeat for all will listen 
Cruising away from thought with An old accordion playing
Not that it is, her accompanist plucks a banjo 
On a Sunday afternoon. She ends. And the other stream 

Of Orphan Street flows back — instead of silence racket, 
Brakes gears and sparrows; the passers-by pass by, 
The swan goes home on foot, a girl takes out her compact - 
Silence instead of song; the Canadian dives for the pub 
And a naval officer on the traffic island 
Unsees the buses with a mid-ocean eye.