Samuel Longfellow

To Furness Abbey

“Considering every day the uncertainty of life, and that the roses and flowers of kings, emperors, and dukes, and the crowns and palms of all the great, wither and decay; and that all things with an uninterrupted course tend to dissolution and death.” - Charter of the Abbey.

ON Norman cloister and on Gothic aisle
The fading sunset lingers for a while;
The rooks chant noisy vespers in the elms;—
Then night’s slow-rising tide the scene o’erwhelms.

So fade the roses and the flowers of kings,
And crowns and palms decay with humbler things;
All works built up by toil of mortal breath
Tend in unbroken course to dust and death.

Pillar and roof and pavement all are gone;
The lamp extinguished and the prayers long done;
But faith and awe, as stars, eternal shine;—
The human heart is their enduring shrine.

O Earth, in thine incessant funerals,
Take to thyself these crumbling, outgrown walls!
In the broad world our God we seek and find,
And serve our Maker when we serve our kind.

Yet spare for tender thought, for beauty spare,
Some sculptured capital, some carving fair;
Yon ivied archway, fit for poet’s dream,
For painter’s pencil, or for preacher’s theme!

Save, for our modern hurry, rush, and strife,
The needed lesson that thought, too, is life!
Work is not prayer, nor duty’s self divine,
Unless within them Reverence hath her shrine.

English Poetry - E-mail