Westminster Abbey

Down the aisles of the Abbey, in gathering night,1
I saw the majestical marbles loom ;2
And the gorgeous panes in the pale twilight 3
Shed a filtering fire on the pavement’s gloom.4
Like the stream of the light my memory streamed,5
And the shadows grew deeper the longer I dreamed !6
From statue to statue I wandered oft,7
And gaunter and ghostlier still they frowned ;8
When a mighty peal from the organ loft 9
Thundered, and deluged the air with sound,10
Then a light, like a star, gleamed out above,11
And a silvery note like the call of the dove.12
Will you play ?’ they asked. And my fingers leapt 13
With joy to the five-fold, serried keys !14
And I called from the place where their music slept 15
The voice of the trumpets, the sound of the seas !16
In billow on billow the melody rolled,17
While the twilight gathered the strains to her fold !18
The towering arches shivered and swung,19
As the storm of the music doubled and spread :20
The vaults of the ages open sprung ;21
The cavernous graves gave up their dead !22
And the blood of the martyrs for centuries slain 23
Came back to the withered veins again.24
I saw the Christ on the bitter rood,25
Now crowned in glory, apparelled in light:26
The saints misjudged, misunderstood :27
God’s army, re-ordered to claim its right :28
Weeping they rose from their prison of stone,29
Weeping they passed, to seek their own.30
Grey-browed Resentment, the Hatred of years,31
The brood of Sorrow, the spawn of Hell !32
All that is bartered for blood and tears,33
All that the angels strive to quell,—34
They passed, as the dew on a desert land,35
While the Abbey shook like a palsied hand !36
Then the music changed to a pitiful cry,37
To the beating pulse of a twilit sea:38
The aisles grew greyer ; but still the sigh 39
And sob of the grief of Eternity !40
For the glorious army of martyrs came,41
And their murderers quailed ’neath the finger of shame.42
They clung to the pillars whereby they were scourged,43
They pointed the tree and the ladder of death!44
The organ crashed, and a shriek emerged 45
From its bursting heart, like a dying breath.46
And there, in the twilight’s afterglow,47
I was one with the chorus of deathless woe.48
Then the music died, and the wailing lone,49
And, like shadows sweeping the marble floor,50
The mighty army sank back into stone,51
And slept on the bosom of earth once more ;52
And all they had suffered, and hoped, and prayed,53
Found silence at last in the Abbey’s shade!54
My heart, my heart is the Abbey grey!55
My heart has its altars and graves of white ;56
Where the voice of music, in Memory’s lay,57
Recalls my gods to the lower light!58
O hearts I have cherished, awake, awake !59
Live again in my song for your own sweet sake!60
See, the figures of light arise and throng,61
Throng back with a smile, my smile to greet ;62
I can hear the strains of their gentle song !63
I break thro’ the darkness we meet ! we meet !64
I can feel their breath with my tresses play ;65
But their eyes and their heart are far away !66
My heart, my heart is the Abbey high,67
The Abbey wide, with its hidden nooks!68
Where nothing can perish, where nothing can die,69
Where Fame is inscribed in God’s Doomsday Books !70
Where the marble’s warning is cold and grey,71
For the souls that sleep are awake for aye !72
I cling to the pillars where once I bled,73
For these are the pillars that bear my life:74
They shiver for thought of the grief that is dead,75
For they know where my heart broke down in the strife.76
But the graves of the past open still to the strong,77
And my dead shall live—in my burning song!78