Reflections in a Ruined Abbey.

The beautiful, the powerful, and the proud,1
The many and the mighty, yield to Time ;2
Time that, with measured pace and noiseless wing,3
Glides on and on—the ruler of the world.4
With what a glory the refulgent sun,5
Far from the crimson portals of the west,6
Sends back his parting radiance ; round and round7
Stupendous walls encompass me, and throw8
The ebon outlines of their shadows down9
Upon the grassy floor : the eastern pile 10
Receives the chequered darkness of the west, 11
In mimic lattice-work and sable hues. 12
Rich in its mellowness, the sunshine bathes 13
The marble epitaphs of them who died 14
Before this breathing generation moved,15
Or wantoned in the bright eye of the sun.16
The sad and sombre trophies of the tomb ;17
The tablet grey, with mimic roses bound ;18
The angled bones, the sand-glass, and the scythe ;19
These, and the stone-carved cherubs, that impend20
With hovering wing, and eyes of fixedness,21
Gleam down the ranges of the backward aisle,22
Dull, ’mid the crimson of prophetic light.23
This is a men and a scene to hold24
Discourse, and purifying monologue,25
Before the silent spirit of old times !26
The gilly-flowers, upon the broken arch,27
And from the time-worn crevices, look down,28
Blooming, where all is desolate. With leaf29
Clustering and dark, and light green trails between,30
The ivy hangs perennial. Yellow-flowered31
The fresh dandelion shoots her juicy stalks,32
Amid the thin transparent blades of grass.33
In rank luxuriancy the nettles spread34
Behind the massy tablatures of death,35
Hanging their pendent heads and seedy grains36
Above the graves of famous men unknown,37
Whose memories have decayed—whose very bones38
Have mouldered down to ashes and to earth.39
The grey and time-worn pillars, toppling o’er,40
Throw from their lichened pedestals a line41
Of sombre darkness far, and chequer o’er42
The floor with shade and sunshine. Hoary walls,43
Since first ye rose in splendour and in pride—44
Since first ye frowned in majesty of strength—45
Since first ye caught the crimson of the morn46
On western slope, and glittering lattices47
Of many-coloured brightness, Time hath wrought48
An awful revolution. Night and morn,49
The hymn of gratulation and of praise50
Rung through yon caverned arches ; sandalled monks,51
White with the snows of eld, or warm with life,52
With cross and crosier, mass and solemn rite,53
Frail, yet forgiving frailties, sojourned here,54
When Rome was in her splendour, and obtained—55
Though Cæsars and though Ciceros were not56
The rulers of her camps and cabinets—57
A second empire o’er the minds of men.58
What art thou now, oh! pile of olden time ?59
The sparrow chatters on thy buttresses60
Throughout the livelong day, and, sportively,61
The swallow twitters through thy broken roofs,62
Fluttering the whiteness of its inner plumes63
Through shade, and now emerging to the sun.64
The night owls are thy choristers, and mope65
Amid the darkling dreariness of night.66
The twilight-loving bat, with leathern wing,67
Finds out a crevice for her callow young,68
Amid dilapidated halls, on high,69
Beyond the unassisted reach of man ;70
And on the utmost pinnacles, the rook71
Finds airy dwelling-place and quiet home ;72
Oft, with her voice of dissonance, she calls73
On Echo, slumbering in the nether vaults—74
Vaults where the relics of ancestral dust75
Crumble. When Winter throws his tempests down,76
The whirling snow-flakes, through the open roof77
Descending, gather on the tombs beneath ;78
When sweeps the night-gale past, on rapid wing,79
And sighs amid thy portals desolate,80
The alders creak, with melancholy sound,81
The ivy rustles, and the hemlock bends,82
With locks of darkness, to its very root,83
Springing above the grassy mounds of those84
Whose tombs are long since tenantless. But now,85
With calm and quiet eye, the setting sun86
Beams mellowness upon the wrecks of Time,87
Tinges the broken arch with crimson rust,88
Flames down the gothic aisle, and mantles o’er89
The tablatures of marble. Beautiful,90
The ruined altar, and baptismal font—91
The wall-flower crested pillars, foliage-bound—92
The shafted oriels, and the ribbed roofs—93
Labour of circling years and cunning hands.94
Thy governors have vanished—silence reigns,95
Save that, beneath, amid the danky vaults,96
Impervious to the lustre of the day,97
Is heard, with fitful melancholy sound,98
The dew-drops frequent plashing—silence reigns,99
Save that, amid the embowering forest green,100
With clear melodious throat, the blackbird trills101
His song—his soft and melancholy song—102
Dirgelike, and sinking on the moody mind103
In tones prophetic. Through the trellis green104
The purpling eve looks dusky ; and the clouds,105
Shorn of their edgework of refulgent gold,106
Spread whitening o’er the bosom of the sky.107
Monastic pile ! farewell !— not more on thee,108
Than on the busy highways of the earth,109
Dwells Solitude. On many a lonely eve110
My thoughts have brooded on the vacant world,111
Gazed at it through the microscope of truth,112
And found it, as the King of Israel found,113
All Vanity. With ken reverting far,114
Amid the Eden of departed years,115
Here Contemplation, from the tones of life116
Estranged, might treasure many a homily,117
And view, with unsophisticated eye,118
The lowly state, and lofty destiny,119
The pride and insignificance of man.120