Abbey Asaroe

William Allingham

   Gray, gray is Abbey Asaroe,
      by Belashanny town,
    It has neither door nor window,
      the walls are broken down;
    The carven-stones lie scatter'd
      in briar and nettle-bed;
    The only feet are those that come
      at burial of the dead.
    A little rocky rivulet
      runs murmuring to the tide,
    Singing a song of ancient days,
      in sorrow, not in pride;
    The boortree and the lightsome ash
      across the portal grow,
    And heaven itself is now the roof
      of Abbey Asaroe.

    It looks beyond the harbour-stream
      to Gulban mountain blue;
    It hears the voice of Erna's fall,--
      Atlantic breakers too;
    High ships go sailing past it;
      the sturdy clank of oars
    Brings in the salmon-boat to haul
      a net upon the shores;
    And this way to his home-creek,
      when the summer day is done,
    Slow sculls the weary fisherman
      across the setting sun;
    While green with corn is Sheegus Hill,
      his cottage white below;
    But gray at every season
      is Abbey Asaroe.

    There stood one day a poor old man
      above its broken bridge;
    He heard no running rivulet,
      he saw no mountain-ridge;
    He turn'd his back on Sheegus Hill,
      and view'd with misty sight
    The Abbey walls, the burial-ground
      with crosses ghostly white;
    Under a weary weight of years
      he bow'd upon his staff,
    Perusing in the present time
      the former's epitaph;
    For, gray and wasted like the walls,
      a figure full of woe,
    This man was of the blood of them
      who founded Asaroe.

    From Derry to Bundrowas Tower,
      Tirconnell broad was theirs;
    Spearmen and plunder, bards and wine,
      and holy abbot's prayers;
    With chanting always in the house
      which they had builded high
    To God and to Saint Bernard,--
      where at last they came to die.
    At worst, no workhouse grave for him!
      the ruins of his race
    Shall rest among the ruin'd stones
      of this their saintly place.
    The fond old man was weeping;
      and tremulous and slow
    Along the rough and crooked lane
      he crept from Asaroe.


Assaroe Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks in 1178. It fell into disuse in the 17th century and only bits of wall now remain.