Bernard Barton

Leiston Abbey

BEAUTIFUL fabric! even in decay
    And desolation beauty still is thine:
  As the rich sunset of an autumn day,
    When gorgeous clouds in glorious hues combine
  To render homage to its slow decline,
    Is more majestic in its parting hour,
  Even so thy mouldering, venerable shrine
    Possesses now a more subduing power
Than in thine earlier sway with pomp and pride thy dower.

  To voice of praise or prayer, or solemn sound	
    Of sacred music, once familiar here,
  Thy walls are echoless; within their bound,
    Once holy deemed, and to religion dear,
  No sound salutes the most attentive ear
    That tells thy former destiny; unless
  It be when fitful breezes wandering near
    Wake such faint sighs as feebly might express
Some unseen spirit’s woe for thy lost loveliness.

  Or when on stormy nights the winds are high,
    And through thy roofless walls and arches sweep,
  In tones more full of thrilling harmony
    Than art could reach, while from the neighboring deep
  The roar of bursting billows seems to keep
    Accordant measure with the tempest’s chime;
  O, then, at times have I, aroused from sleep,
    Fancied that thou, even in thy proudest prime,
Couldst ne’er have given birth to music more sublime.

  But to the eye revolving years still add
    Fresh charms, which make thee lovelier to the view;
  For Nature has luxuriantly clad
    Thy ruins, as if wishing to renew
  Their claim to homage from those hearts that woo
    Her gentle influence: with indulgent hand
  She has atoned for all that Time could do,
    Though she might not his ravages withstand;	 
And now thou art her own: her skill thy beauties planned.

  The mantling ivy’s ever-verdant wreath
    She gave thee as her livery to wear:
  Thy wall-flowers, waving at the gentlest breath,
    And scattering perfume on the summer air,
  Wooing the bee to come and labor there;
    The clinging moss, whose hue of sober gray
  Makes beautiful what else were bleak and bare,—
    These she has given thee as a fit array
For thy declining pomp and her delightful sway.

English Poetry - E-mail