Witten After Visiting Melrose Abbey...

Arthur Henry Hallam

…in the company of Sir Walter Scott

I
I lived an hour in fair Melrose;
It was not when 'the pale moonlight'
Its magnifying charm bestows;
Yet deem I that I 'viewed it right.'
The wind-swept shadows fast careered,
Like living things that joyed or feared,
Adown the sunny Eildon Hill,
And the sweet winding Tweed the distance
crowned well.

II
I inly laughed to see that scene
Wear such a countenance of youth,
Though many an age those hills were green,
And yonder river glided smooth,
Ere in these now disjointed walls,
The Mother Church held festivals.
And full-voiced anthemings the while
Swelled from the choir, and lingered down the
echoing aisle.

III
I coveted that Abbey's doom;
For if I thought the early flowers
Of our affection may not bloom.
Like those green hills, through countless hours,
Grant me at least a tardy waning,
Some pleasure still in age's paining;
Though lines and forms must fade away,
Still may old Beauty share the empire of Decay!

IV
But looking toward the grassy mound
Where calm the Douglas chieftains lie.
Who, living, quiet never found,
I straightway learnt a lesson high:
For there an old man sat serene.
And well I knew that thoughtful mien
Of him whose early lyre had thrown
Over these mouldering walls the magic of its tone.

V
Then ceased I from my envying state.
And knew that aweless intellect
Hath power upon the ways of fate,
And works through time and space uncheckt.
That minstrel of old chivalry
In the cold grave must come to be,
But his transmitted thoughts have part
In the collective mind, and never shall depart.

VI
It was a comfort, too, to see
Those dogs that from him ne'er would rove,
And always eyed him rev'rently,
With glances of depending love.
They know not of that eminence
Which marks him to my reasoning sense;
They know but that he is a man,
And still to them is kind, and glads them all he can.

VII
And hence their quiet looks confiding,
Hence grateful instincts seated deep.
By whose strong bond, were ill betiding.
They 'd risk their own his life to keep.
What joy to watch in lower creature
Such dawning of a moral nature,
And how (the rule all things obey)
They look to a higher mind to be their law and stay!

August 1829

Melrose Abbey is a picturesque ruined abbey in Melrose, Scotland.


Main Location:

Melrose Abbey, Melrose, Scottish Borders, Scotland

Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders