Perhaps no common wilderness1
Forsaken garden’s lonely place,2
Forgotten but for loneliness,3
Or ruined hamlet’s lingering trace4
In orchards leafless all the year5
Would please me by its cheerless cheer.6


But thou, Novantia, set within7
Thy lake, incomparable isle,8
Remote from fever, and from din9
Of modern life and strife and guile,10
Thou should’st not be a garden trim11
A tradesman’s manufactured whim.12


Here is a garden ; here the years13
Refuse submission to a plan ;14
Disowned are human hopes and fears15
In man’s inheritance from man,16
And nature’s bounty overrules17
Precepts of prim artistic schools.18


With ivy clad, with ivy crowned,19
Old walls are reddened by the dawn,20
Whose stones surrender to the ground21
Dead boughs from rusty nails withdrawn,22
While o’er their height—time’s sere regrets23
Waves stalwart grass its bannerets.24


The beaten road from beaten ways25
That led wayfaring men to God,26
The peace of God of mortal days27
Ended in peace beneath the sod,28
O’er which, with breath of eve and morn,29
The breath of orisons is borne,—30


That beaten road no longer leads31
From common ways to sacred earth ;32
Sunk deep beneath the roots of weeds,33
Whereof redundant death was birth,34
It heeds not, nor, forgotten, knows35
If dead or living comes or goes.36


Memorial of a common life37
Lived sordidly an age ago,38
In care of sheep and oxen rife,39
With scorn of popery aglow,40
That old grey stone sinks out of sight,41
Garnished with Scripture, into night.42


It had its day, that old grey stone ;43
Done is the work device could do44
To rescue from oblivion45
A churl’s desire to live anew,46
And daily cursed the Man of Sin,47
A golden crown and harp to win.48


Henceforth no difference of fate49
By difference of creed is made50
Between the monk of ancient date51
Here near his oratory laid,52
And him who placed in God his hope53
As mighty to confound the Pope.54


Their hatred and their love forgot,55
The churl above, the monk below,56
Submissive to the common lot57
To be and to oblivion go58
Forgiven, forgiving heretics,59
Ashes with alien ashes mix.60


Men and their works together lose61
Remembrance of themselves—to-day62
Brightest the foxglove’s beauty glows,63
Rankest the nettle’s rank array,64
Where holy fane of vanished men65
Has crumbled into dust again.66


It is not meet that any art,67
Skilful alone to pare and square,68
Should enter here and do its part69
To show how well by human care70
Nature’s variety may be71
Reduced to blank monotony.72


Fit is it that where ages meet73
Which each to each were flower and weed.74
And men collect whose sour and sweet75
Were opposites of deed and creed,76
Nature should still have man’s consent77
To be his varied monument.78


Consider how the lilies grow,79
And thistles with the lilies spring ;80
While garden roses bud and blow81
Wild roses too are blossoming :82
For flower and weed there is a place83
In nature’s comprehensive grace.84


Various as these the race of man,85
Garden and desert it may be,86
With weeds and flowers confused the plan87
And absent uniformity.88
It may be that, for good and ill,89
Good is the all-prevailing will.90


Even as shadows on the grass,91
That hides the dust restored to dust,92
Novantia, thy owners pass,93
And pass thy lovers also must :94
Comes soon, alas ! the rueful hour95
Which ends another shadow’s power.96


His shall not be the evil fame97
That he was but a learned fool,98
Who fresh from school to Nature came.99
And ordered Nature back to school,100
Impaired by rule thy loveliness101
To show a petty skilfulness.102


Still may thy lake thy beauty woo,103
And silence lend to solitude !104
Still may thy girdling beeches, too,105
Shade peace with leafy amplitude !106
That Eden, yet uncursed, may be107
By purer ages seen in thee !108