The Old Churchyard of Bonchurch

Philip Bourke Marston

THE CHURCHYARD leans to the sea with its dead,— 
It leans to the sea with its dead so long. 
Do they hear, I wonder, the first bird’s song, 
When the winter’s anger is all but fled; 
The high, sweet voice of the west wind,
The fall of the warm, soft rain, 
When the second month of the year 
Puts heart in the earth again? 
 
Do they hear, through the glad April weather, 
The green grasses waving above them?  
Do they think there are none left to love them, 
They have lain for so long there together? 
Do they hear the note of the cuckoo, 
The cry of gulls on the wing, 
The laughter of winds and waters, 
The feet of the dancing Spring? 
 
Do they feel the old land slipping seaward,— 
The old land, with its hills and its graves,— 
As they gradually slide to the waves, 
With the wind blowing on them from leaward? 
Do they know of the change that awaits them,— 
The sepulchre vast and strange? 
Do they long for the days to go over, 
And bring that miraculous change? 
 
Or love they their night with no moonlight,
With no starlight, no dawn to its gloom? 
Do they sigh: “’Neath the snow, or the bloom 
Of the wild things that wave from our night, 
We are warm, through winter and summer; 
We hear the winds rave, and we say:
‘The storm-wind blows over our heads, 
But we here are out of its way’”? 
 
Do they mumble low, one to another, 
With a sense that the waters that thunder 
Shall ingather them all, draw them under:
“Ah, how long to our moving, my brother? 
How long shall we quietly rest here, 
In graves of darkness and ease? 
The waves, even now, may be on us, 
To draw us down under the seas!”
 
Do they think ’t will be cold when the waters 
That they love not, that neither can love them, 
Shall eternally thunder above them? 
Have they dread of the sea’s shining daughters, 
That people the bright sea-regions 
And play with the young sea-kings? 
Have they dread of their cold embraces, 
And dread of all strange sea-things? 
 
But their dread or their joy,—it is bootless: 
They shall pass from the breast of their mother;
They shall lie low, dead brother by brother, 
In a place that is radiant and fruitless; 
And the folk that sail over their heads 
In violent weather 
Shall come down to them, haply, and all
They shall lie there together.

Thomas Hardy also wrote about the graveyard at St Boniface Old Church, Bonchurch. The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne is buried there.