The Village Church.

It stands, gray-towered and ivy-clad,1
The guardian of a peaceful spot ;2
Heedless of ritualistic fad,3
As in old days of popish plot.4
And mark its years, for still below5
The mouldings of the porch are seen6
The smooth-worn grooves where long ago7
Stout bowmen made their arrows keen.8
Here, through pre-Reformation glass,9
The slanting sunbeams from the west10
Show an esquire, on blackened brass,11
In richly blazoned tabard dressed ;12
And there in stately solitude13
Half-hidden in the chancel gloom,14
Whose tracery casts a light subdued15
The Founder slumbers on his tomb.16
Yonder in stone a Judge, whose life17
Was prosperous under good Queen Bess,18
Reposes by his lady-wife,19
Stiff in a flounced and broidered dress ;20
While on the wall above their heads,21
Whither our eyes reluctant turn,22
A marble angel, stooping, sheds23
Her tears above a marble urn.24
There lies, beyond the pulpit stair,25
A knight defaced by axe and blade,26
Whose simply-charged escutcheons bear27
The Cross of some remote Crusade.28
Haply where he has knelt we kneel,29
And tread where he trod as a boy30
In days before misguided zeal31
Taught Cromwell’s Roundheads to destroy.32
How changed, and yet how changeless too !33
We hearken to the self-same Word ;34
And still that voice, unaltered through35
The lapse of centuries, is heard ;36
And still the same unending fight37
Is waged by hosts sublime and strong,38
In faith unshaken, that the right39
Through all the world may crush the wrong.40
And here, as in the days of old,41
Sad hearts find something to inspire ;42
Hearts that have borne like purest gold43
The fierce refining of the fire ;44
And souls, that in the world have known45
The magic of temptation’s power,46
Here, struggling silent and alone,47
Seek courage in their darkest hour.48
And in the earth beneath its shade,49
Where sleeping generations lie,50
Still good and bad alike are laid,51
For good and bad alike must die ;52
To rest unmoved by all around,53
Deaf to the ringing of the chimes,54
Unconscious of the drowsy sound55
Of bees at work among the limes.56
So shall it stand while Time rolls on,57
Holding unnumbered secrets fast ;58
Shall stand when we are dead and gone,59
Mere specks in the forgotten past ;60
An heritage to young and old,61
To rich and poor a sacred trust,62
The Church, immortal, shall behold63
Our children’s children turned to dust.64