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Poem by Robert Southey

To the Chapel Bell

"Lo I, the man who erst the Muse did ask
Her deepest notes to swell the Patriot's meeds,
Am now enforst a far unfitter task
For cap and gown to leave my minstrel weeds,"
For yon dull noise that tinkles on the air
Bids me lay by the lyre and go to morning prayer.

Oh how I hate the sound! it is the Knell,
That still a requiem tolls to Comfort's hour;
And loth am I, at Superstition's bell,
To quit or Morpheus or the Muses bower.
Better to lie and dose, than gape amain,
Hearing still mumbled o'er, the same eternal strain.

Thou tedious herald of more tedious prayers
Say hast thou ever summoned from his rest,
One being awakening to religious awe?
Or rous'd one pious transport in the breast?
Or rather, do not all reluctant creep
To linger out the hour, in listlessness or sleep?

I love the bell, that calls the poor to pray
Chiming from village church its chearful sound,
When the sun smiles on Labour's holy day,
And all the rustic train are gathered round,
Each deftly dizen'd in his Sunday's best
And pleas'd to hail the day of piety and rest.

Or when, dim-shadowing o'er the face of day,
The mantling mists of even-tide rise slow,
As thro' the forest gloom I wend my way,
The minster curfew's sullen roar I know;
I pause and love its solemn toll to hear,
As made by distance soft, it dies upon the ear.

Nor not to me the unfrequent midnight knell
Tolls sternly harmonizing; on mine ear
As the deep death-fraught sounds long lingering dwell
Sick to the heart of Love and Hope and Fear
Soul-jaundiced, I do loathe Life's upland steep
And with strange envy muse the dead man's dreamless sleep.

But thou, memorial of monastic gall!
What Fancy sad or lightsome hast thou given?
Thy vision-scaring sounds alone recall
The prayer that trembles on a yawn to heaven;
And this Dean's gape, and that Dean's nosal tone,
And Roman rites retain'd, tho' Roman faith be flown. 

Robert Southey

Robert Southey's other poems:
  1. For the Cenotaph at Ermenonville
  2. St. Bartholomews Day
  3. For a Tablet at Penshurst
  4. For a Tablet at Silbury Hill
  5. For a Monument in the Vale of Ewias

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