Who can snare the soul of a city
in a butterfly net of words?
Who can melt steel and concrete
into the flowing matrix of song?
Yet there is a word-symbol,
if it can be found.
There is a sign and a password
in the plastic stuff of mind,
an image behind the veil,
that can reveal the meaning of a city.
Nineveh, Babylon, Rome…
the sound of them is an echo in an empty room,
stirring the dust of dead men’s bones.
the sound of it is a wave,
breaking on the shore of the future.
(Alexander Maitland Stephen, 1934)