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Poem by William Leighton

Whitby Abbey

THOU relic of a bygone generation,
Thou crumbling record of a vanished race,
Towering aloft in lonely desolation,
Like the great guardian spirit of the place:

Thy walls with age are mouldering, gray and hoary,
Where thy long transept lay the grass waves green;
And scarce a remnant of thy former glory
Remains to tell us what thou once hast been.

Yet here in days of yore a royal maiden
Has ministered upon the sacred shrine;
And knights and nobles with their symbols laden
Have joined the orisons and rites divine.

Here images of saints in dark-niched spaces
Have peered on black-cowled monks devoid of smiles;
And meek-eyed nuns, with fair and pensive faces,
Have flitted through the solemn-whispering aisles.

Here oft the sweet strains of an Ave Mary
Have stolen through the twilight, still and clear;
And the wild cadence of a Miserere
Has struck upon the midnights startled ear.

And in the frequent pauses of devotion,
When silence brooded oer the prostrate band,
Was heard the deep-mouthed wailing of the ocean
Beating forever on the rocky strand.

But all is changed!no more the night-wind, stealing
Through thy dim galleries and vacant nave,
Will catch the sound of musics measured pealing
And bear it far across the moonlit wave:

No more when morning gilds the eastern heaven
Will early matins rise or organ swell;
And when the first stars gem the brow of even
No more will sound the sweet-toned vesper bell.

Thy glory has gone by! and thou art standing
In lonely pomp upon thy sea-washed hill,
Wearing in hoary age a mien commanding,
And in thy desolation stately still!

William Leighton

Poem Theme: Abbeys

William Leighton's other poems:
  1. Glencoe
  2. The Fall of Foyers

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