John Wilson

Melrose Abbey

IT was not when the sun through the glittering sky,
In summer’s joyful majesty,
Looked from his cloudless height;—
It was not when the sun was sinking down,
And tingeing the ruin’s mossy brown
With gleams of ruddy light;—
Nor yet when the moon, like a pilgrim fair,
Mid star and planet journeyed slow,
And, mellowing the stillness of the air,
Smiled on the world below;
That, Melrose! mid thy mouldering pride,
All breathless and alone,
I grasped the dreams to day denied,
High dreams of ages gone!—
Had unshrieved guilt for one moment been there,	
His heart had turned to stone!
For oft, though felt no moving gale,
Like restless ghost in glimmering shroud,
Through the lofty oriel opening pale,
Was seen the hurrying cloud;
And, at doubtful distance, each broken wall
Frowned black as bier’s mysterious pall
From mountain-cave beheld by ghastly seer;
It seemed as if sound had ceased to be;
Nor dust from arch nor leaf from tree
Relieved the noiseless ear.
The owl had sailed from her silent tower,
Tweed hushed his weary wave,
The time was midnight’s moonless hour,
My seat a dreaded Douglas’ grave!
  My being was sublimed by joy,
My heart was big, yet I could not weep;
I felt that God would ne’er destroy
The mighty in their tranced sleep.
Within the pile no common dead
Lay blended with their kindred mould;
Theirs were the hearts that prayed, or bled,
In cloister dim, on death-plain red,
The pious and the bold.
There slept the saint whose holy strains
Brought seraphs round the dying bed;
And there the warrior, who to chains
Ne’er stooped his crested head.
I felt my spirit sink or swell
With patriot rage or lowly fear,
As battle-trump, or convent-bell,
Rung in my tranced ear.
But dreams prevailed of loftier mood,
When stern beneath the chancel high
My country’s spectre-monarch stood,
All sheathed in glittering panoply;
Then I thought with pride what noble blood
Had flowed for the hills of liberty.
  High the resolves that fill the brain
With transports trembling upon pain,
When the veil of time is rent in twain,
That hides the glory past!
The scene may fade that gave them birth,
But they perish not with the perishing earth,
Forever shall they last.
And higher, I ween, is that mystic might
That comes to the soul from the silent night,
When she walks, like a disembodied spirit,
Through realms her sister shades inherit,
And soft as the breath of those blessed flowers
That smile in Heaven’s unfading bowers,
With love and awe, a voice she hears
Murmuring assurance of immortal years.
In hours of loneliness and woe,
Which even the best and wisest know,
How leaps the lightened heart to seize
On the bliss that comes with dreams like these!

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