WESTMINSTER ABBEY: AN ELEGIAC POEM

Thomas Maurice

Majestic monument of pious toil,
Whose tow'rs sublime in Gothic grandeur soar,
Where Death sits brooding o'er his noblest spoil,
And strews with royal dust the sacred floor,

Unfold thy gloomy portals to my song
Ye dusky isles, ye lonely cloysters hail!
Come, Inspiration, lead my steps along,
And all the secrets of the grave unveil.

Nor, Cynthia, thou thy glimmering fires deny
To gild the horrors of this dreadful gloom;
Where the night-phantom, swiftly gliding by,
Shoots o'er my path, and beckons to its tomb.

Now Darkness, shadowing wide the silent earth,
Bids vice unmask and stalk her nightly round;
Now frantic Bacchanals renew their mirth,
While Commerce rests in golden slumbers bound.

Now Dissipation drives her whirling car
In courts to shine, or flaunt in masquerade;
Her blazing torches glitter from afar,
And pour meridian day on midnight's shade.

Hence Greatness with thy toys — thy stars, thy strings,
The jewell'd scepter and imperial crown;
My soul superior views the pride of kings,
And on the bright parade of courts looks down.

The glittering spoils that round ambition blaze,
The trophied arch, the golden canopy,
The plume refulgent with the diamond's rays,
The shout of millions echoing to the sky,

For the deep silence of the Grave I spurn—
And quit the living pageant for the dead:
Mine be the plume that shades yon sable urn,
While death's dark canopy inshrouds my head.

Hark! how the hollow blast with savage wail,
Roars 'midst the turrets of the rocking pile;
While in deep notes, responsive to the gale,
The slow bell labours thro' the length'ning isle.

Awe-struck I kneel — and kiss the hallow'd ground,
Where Britain's laurel'd progeny repose;
Whose hearts no more with martial transports bound,
Nor their hot blood with patriot ardour glows.

Ye monarchs of the earth, attend your doom;
And throw awhile the rich tiara by:
Come, mourn with me at mighty HENRY's tomb,
And heed a monitor that cannot lie!

Approach, nor tremble whilst your steps descend
To charnel'd caverns — grandeur's last abode!
From mould'ring majesty its trappings rend,
And view the worm its regal spoil corrode.

Come, haughty Bourbon, to the Gods allied,
Renounce the vaunt, and know thyself a man:
Mark yonder bier, sad bound of human pride,
And view an empire quitted for a span.

Come, hoary Frederic, that drear bourn survey
To which thy footsteps rapidly incline:
Mark Henry's laurels — thus shall thine decay;
Tho' thy bright brow a double wreath intwine.

Ye mighty Shadows rise; confirm my strains;
Rise thou whom Agincourt triumphant view'd:
What but a shroud of all your pomp remains,
Of plunder'd nations, and a world subdued?

Sapp'd by the ravage of devouring Time,
O'er sainted EDWARD's shrine, Devotion, mourn;
Once deck'd with treasures brought from ev'ry clime,
And crowns from brows of vanquish'd monarchs torn.

Here York and Lancaster are foes no more,
But on the same cold marble bed repose:
Their idle contest for dominion's o'er,
While Death's strong grasp cements each rival rose.

The Baron, haughty, jealous, fierce of soul,
Reserved in council, dauntless in the field,
Who scarcely brook'd a monarch's high controul,
To the GREAT CONQU'ROR is compell'd to yield,

The ponderous helmet and the massy spear,
Hung o'er his tomb, their master's prowess show,
Who frowns above in breathing brass severe,
And bears defiance on his lofty brow.

Wealth, power, ambition, where are fled those charms,
Whose sway resistless binds our hapless race?
Ye that so often rouze the world to arms,
And shake contending kingdoms to their base.

Where is the breathing glow of Beauty fled,
That once the soul of rival warriors fired;
The sparkling eye, the cheek with crimson spread,
The air — the shape — by crouded courts admired!

For here full many a beauteous maid reclines,
For matchless worth and constancy approv'd;
And many a noble dame yon vault inshrines,
From kings descended and by kings beloved.

Eternal peace to Mary's injur'd shade—
In life defam'd, in death with glory crown'd;
Securely slumber, near thy rival laid:
Beyond the grave her vengeance cannot wound.

Too stern Eliza, why that sanguine deed
Which a deep shade o'er all thy glory throws;
And cou'd thy soften'd heart for Essex bleed,
Nor melt with anguish at a sister's woes?

But for this blot — yon center'd sun ne'er view'd
A throne with more triumphant splendor fill'd,
Each foreign rival by thy pow'r subdu'd,
Domestic faction by thy wisdom still'd!

What potent song shall utter half thy praise?
Let Europe's annals tell the wond'rous tale—
Let freed Batavia songs of triumph raise,
Let Spain her wreck'd Invincible bewail.

Here, Percy, as I cast my eyes around,
Lost in the blaze of titles, and of birth;
Who more than thee for high descent renown'd?
Who more ennobled by intrinsic worth?

What marbles can — yon sculptur'd shrine displays,
The lofty trophy of a husband's love;
Yet monuments but meanly speak her praise
Whom envy must applaud, and vice approve.

While, Britain, o'er thy shrouded sons I tread,
What awful terror does the thought excite,
While all thy virtuous, fam'd, and Noble dead
Start from the shades, and sweep before my sight.

Thy bearded senators of high renown,
Who firm in virtue's, hold in freedom's cause,
Taught distant states to tremble at their frown,
And gave the sovereigns of the world new laws;

All whom the proud, historic page proclaims,
For wisdom, fortitude, and worth rever'd,
Thy Howard's, Russel's, Sidney's — mighty names!
Thro' ages still to patriot breasts endear'd.

Cold, speechless, pale, beneath these roofs recline,
Trampled by slaves, by loathsome reptiles spurn'd;
Silent the tongue so fondly deem'd divine,
The head that counsel'd, and the heart that burn'd.

Where are the fires that flash'd from Chatham's eye,
The strains that from those lips impetuous broke;
When, warm'd by truth, and rouz'd by liberty,
His thundering voice th' astonish'd senate shook?

By Bacon's genius with new life inform'd,
Again the bold, expressive features glow;
The patriot kindles, by the sculpture warm'd,
While fancy hears his manly periods flow.

Here too thy warriors, who, from age to age,
Have spread thy fame thro' all th' astonish'd world,
Pointed beneath the line thy awful rage,
Or at the distant pole thy vengeance hurl'd,

Have nerveless dropt that spear, whose light'ning ray
Wither'd the Tyrant's lifted arm in fight;
Pour'd on the dungeon slave resistless day,
And bade him rise in freedom's sacred light.

Where hath not glory wafted VERNON's name?
Where WAGER, WARREN — are your deeds unsung?
Where CHURCHILL, TOWNSHEND — eldest sons of fame,
And WOLFE, the theme of ev'ry Briton's tongue?

Immortal spirit of the dauntless HOWE,
Whose triumphs made the western world our own;
Well may'st thou tear the laurels from thy brow,
To see thy dear earn'd victories o'erthrown,

Curst civil rage — to glut thy thirsty spear,
Insatiate fiend, lamented ANDRE bled:
In life's gay morn, in glory's full career,
Low to the Grave descends his youthful head.

His fate, with anguish, smote the royal breast,
Where worth and valour ever finds a friend;
The starting tear the monarch's grief confess'd,
Who bade yon marble to his name ascend.

Where is the master of the various string,
That all the soul's suspended pow'rs controul'd;
Or bade it mount upon the seraph's wing,
Rapt fancy maddening as the measures roll'd?

ODE, SACRED TO THE GENIUS OF HANDEL.
O! blest with' more than mortal fire,
Thou who the chords with sacred fury smote,
Ant drew a louder and diviner note
Than e'er resounded from the lyre,
Tho' thy bold Genius, ranging unconfined,
Enjoys at length that nobler harmony
For which on earth thy soul impatient pined,
Look down, great HANDEL, from thy native sky,
Where, kindling at thy song, Archangels glow;
Nor, while thou lead'st a brighter band on high,
Disdain to mingle with the choirs below.

II.
With ardent zeal to celebrate thy Name,
And glowing with thy own immortal flame,
To this famed Fabric an enraptur'd train
From many a distant clime their footsteps bend:
Blest spirit from the realms of day descend,
And, while the swelling paeans round thee rise,
And loud and deep ascends the choral strain;
Forget the loftier airs of Paradise,
And deign to smite an earthly lyre again:
O'er mortal breasts resume thy wonted sway,
And all the wondr'ous pow'rs of song display.

III.
Oh! for that energy sublime,
Which thro' thy music's bold, inspiring page,
Roll'd with the torrents over over-whelming rage,
To animate this meaner rhyme—
Then, in a strain exalted as thine own,
Should the transported muse thy praise recite;
With thy freed spirit take her rapid flight,
And urge her way to heav'n's eternal throne,
To hear that high, unutterable song,
Which thou, and the triumphant sons of light,
Thro' all Eternity's bright day prolong!

IV.
From thee new rage the British Genius caught,
New rapture wing'd the Poet's soaring thought:
Charm'd with the noble wildness of thy lyre,
From his bright sphere astonish'd DRYDEN bends,
Owns thy bold song his loftiest flight transcends,
And learns to glow with more exalted fire.
With all thy warm, energic fancy fraught,
The mighty soul of MILTON smiles to see
Its vast conceptions realiz'd in thee:
The nine-fold harmony he sung was thine;
While all thy spirit marks his nervous line.

V.
But when, beyond this mortal bound
That spirit soar'd, with how divine a swell
From the deep hollow of thy mighty shell,
Rush'd the full tide of manly sound—
Rapt, fir'd, transported with th' unbounded lay,
The hearers thrill'd with holy extasy,
And in immortal pleasures died away.
Once more, oh! HANDEL, to our aid descend,
That while the loud Hosannas we prolong,
Th' eternal Sire a gracious ear may lend,
Approve our raptures, and accept the song.

Here slumber those whose active spirits soar'd
Far as the utmost stretch of human thought;
Who knew all arts, all sciences explor'd,
Now rang'd the stars and now the center sought.

The holy men who taught the aspiring soul
On strong devotions eagle plume to rise;
Who knew the frantic passions to controul,
And rais'd our grov'ling wishes to the skies.

What shade majestic glides yon isle along,
Around whose head the rain-bow's glories stream;
His precepts strike with awe th' attendant throng,
Who hang admiring on the lofty theme?

'Tis NEWTON's self unfolds, in daring strain,
The flaming tract which devious comets run;
Th' eternal laws that bind the ebbing main,
And to the center fix the stedfast sun.

Shall CAMDEN deep forgotten in the dust,
Whose learned toil could from oblivion save?
No! grateful Isis decks his honour'd bust,
And pays that immortality he gave,

Oh! could mine eye remotest ages pierce;
Like thee, antiquity's dark page explore,
Full many a god-like chief should grace my verse,
Whose bones unhonour'd spread th' ennobled floor.

Hence, Superstition, with thy frantic din,
While SPRAT, while BARROW, faith's calm joys display,
With artful SOUTH — who knew the soul to win
From earth to heav'n, and shew'd the radiant way.

In PEARSE, humility and genius join'd,
The friend, the scholar, and the critic shone;
Let ev'ry muse his bust with garlands bind,
And Learning her best patron's loss bemoan,

Illustrious KNELLER! were thy pencil mine,
Mine the luxuriance of thy nobler vein;
With boldest rage should rush the kindling line,
And in my song thy labours breathe again.

While Rubillac inspires the glowing stone,
And calls forth all the wonders of his art,
In mute astonishment his pow'rs we own;
Nor check the sigh that heaves the bursting heart.

Hold, Death, thy hand — that threaten'd stroke forbear—
The stroke yon grief-struck husband would repell;
Whose eye distraction marks, whose front despair,
Whose veins in agonizing horrors swell!

Mark, as the tide of ebbing life retires,
Thro' yon fair form what well-feign'd languors creep:
While her fond, speechless lord in death admires,
And clasps her sinking in eternal sleep.

But oh! what muse, amidst the bold display
Of art and genius which these glooms afford,
Shall paint their efforts in as bold a lay,
And all the grandeur of the scene record!

Forgive ye masters of each great design,
If wond'ring awe her lips in silence close;
The arduous task her feeble powers decline:
Unequal to the daring theme she chose.

My startled ear what sound of honor greet?
'Tis the dire night-bird, with her hideous cry—
Against yon arch her boding pinion beats;
And to their graves the startled phantoms fly.

Stay, honour'd Shadows of the wise and good!
No midnight plunderer I your haunts molest;
No murderer's sacrilegious steps intrude
To violate the grave's eternal rest.

Oh! point the way to that sequester'd spot
Where Britain's Bards my tearful homage claim:
A deeper horror shades each rising thought,
And wilder terrors shake my trembling frame.

Was that pale mass inform'd with heav'nly fire,
Genius and wit is this your destin'd end?
Favour'd of Phoebus, break thy useless lyre,
Thy steps already to the grave descend.

Ah! vain the poet's, like the painter's art:
Fiction to truth resigns her flow'ry reign,
Nor ought avail'd to ward the unerring dart,
The loftiest fancy, or the sweetest strain.

Yet, stern Destroyer, vaunt not o'er their bier,
Nor boast o'er art thy gloomy victory;
Tho' snatch'd by thee from all on earth held dear,
How many millions have they snatch't from thee!

Fain wou'd the muse recount each honour'd name,
And with reflected lustre deck her page,
Sing the bright sources whence she caught her fame,
And, while she sings, aspire to kindred rage.

But ah! they want no fame her Skill can give,
Their monuments sublimer trophies grace:
They in their own immortal works survive,
Nor can oblivion's rage those works deface.

Yet duteous will she pause at CHAUCER's shrine,
And hail the hoary Sire of British verse:
To paint each scene of motley life was thine,
And many a jocund tale thy lays rehearse.

What tho' four centuries have obscur'd thy rhyme?
Still lives each character thy pen pourtray'd:
Thy numbers only feel the force of time,
The features flourish, tho' the colours fade.

Soft o'er the dust of SPENSER let me tread,
Whose gentle pipe beguil'd the shepherds hours,
Or thro' the mazes of enchantment led,
Thro' floods, and coral grots; and fairy bowers.

Sweet Bard! whom Mulla's widow'd tide deplores,
Oh! skill'd to "lance" the heart with tender woe!
How do the strains thy muse of sorrow pours,
In kindred anguish melt us as they flow.

To see thee, by rebellion's lawless hand,
From all the joys of love and friendship torn;
Thy fields, the plunder of a barb'rous band,
And oh! thyself the haughty Burleigh's scorn.

Thee too she hails, alike misfortune's sport,
Whose artful satire scourg'd a bigot race;
Lov'd, yet neglected, by a venal court,
Its giddy monarch's favourite and disgrace.

Great father of the British drama rise,
Nor more with jealous fires disdainful burn;
Tho' Avon's loftier swan hath snatch'd the prize,
Still no mean laurel shades thy honour'd urn.

Rise, and resume thy antient comic vein,
As thro' thy muse's favourite haunts we stray:
The sprightly COWLEY too our train shall join,
And give to wit and love the festive day.

Master of Nature! who, with heav'n-taught skill,
Knew ev'ry passion's secret spring to move;
With horror now the throbbing vein to chill,
Now rouze to vengeance, and now warm to love

Whether we hear thy artful Hamlet rave,
Or frantic Lear his Tale of horror tell,
With Ariel mount, or tempt the yawning cave
Where hags of darkness chaunt the mutter'd spell.

Oh! SHAKESPEAR, great in thy collective might,
Beyond each antient's loftiest name renown'd;
Who shall pursue thee in thy daring flight?
Who trace those steps that spurn creation's bound?

Cimmerian darkness shield me from the blaze
Of glory, strong, ineffable — that flows
From those bright wheels that dart "pernicious rays,"
And bear MESSIAH on his blasted foes!

What black dismay, what horrors shade each brow,
But chief the Apostate's rebel soul appall?
As headlong down the yawning gulphs below
They rush — while Chaos bellows in their fall.

With plume, like MILTON's, vigorous and sublime,
By want forbid like MILTON to aspire.
Lo! DRYDEN, sweetest of the sons of rhyme.
"Whose song was music and whose breast a lyre,"

Like great DARIUS fall'n — while daring GRAY,
Tho' last, not humblest of the lyric train,
Soars in his mantle thro' the aetherial way,
Nor checks the fiery steed, but gives the loosen'd rein.

And ye, of meaner flame, and humbler wing,
Whose ashes strew this consecrated isle;
Tho' dumb each voice, tho' tuneless each string,
Yet has the grave its charms, and death a smile.

The soul, that spurn'd on earth its kindred clay,
May now substantiate all its airy dreams,
Transported thro' its own Elyzium stray,
Taste nectar'd fruits, and quaff Nepenthean streams.

Sweet be your slumbers, as the lays ye sung,
Oh! may no ruffian hands your shrines deface;
'Till the great chords of nature be unstrung,
And one wide ruin whelm the sacred place.

'Till the archangel's awful trump shall sound,
And pour thro' nature the last loud alarms;
Level yon lofty columns with the ground,
And from those breathing sculptures rend their charms,

I see the spectres of a thousand years,
Bards, sages, chiefs, in long procession rise—
In triumph mount above the burning spheres,
Impatient, Virtue, for thy dazz'ling prize.

The Immortals, bending from their thrones of light,
Smite their loud harps and hail th' ascending throng,
While to the heav'n of heav'ns they urge their flight,
Join the bright host and swell th' eternal song.