Written on Leicester Abbey.
1 HAIL venerable walls! whose lonely round,
2 Still shows the stranger what you once have been,
3 Though now with tufts of flowering elder crown'd,
4 And vivid ivy's never-fading green.
5 Thy pristine glories are for ever fled,
6 Fled the unbounded power that once was thine;
7 Nor ever more shall rapt Devotion tread
8 With votive offerings round thy hallow'd shrine.
9 But where the cloister'd train with Anthems clear,
10 In long procession swept the vaulted aisle,
11 Where pale repentance dropp'd the pious tear,
12 And Faith midst dying agonies could smile;
13 Nought now but bleating flocks are seen to stray,
14 Or browsing oxen from the ploughshare led;
15 Or the rude peasant who at close of day,
16 Regardless passes o'er the silent dead.
17 The nightly Bat amid the ruins flits,
18 The clamorous Daw here builds her airy nest;
19 While with discordant notes the screech Owl sits,
20 Foreboding woes to Superstition's breast.
21 Can the reflective mind unmov'd remain,
22 Where every view invites the moral lay;
23 And kindly warns the arrogant and vain
24 Their boasted honours must alike decay.
25 Methinks, as o'er these grass-grown tombs I tread,
26 New shadowy forms in solemn order rise,
27 The Warrior here erects his crested head,
28 And here the Statesman meets my wondering eyes.
29 For not alone the undistinguish'd crowd
30 Of Monks in this forsaken scene are laid;
31 Here too the Children of Ambition bow'd,
32 And Death's inevitable tribute paid.
33 Tir'd with Contention and the din of Arms,
34 Here Leicester's Earl*
* The Earl of Leicester, the founder of this abbey, who became the first abbot, and died here., once turbulent and bold,
35 Sought in monastic gloom those purer charms
36 Which Camps or Palaces could ne'er unfold.
37 Oft on the banks of Soar†
† The name of a river at Leicester. he pensive trod,
38 And swept the rapid current with his tears,
39 While he besought a long neglected God
40 To blot the errors of his former years.
41 Rais'd by his care the sculptur'd arches bend,
42 The massive columns form the lengthen'd aisle;
43 In Gothic state the lofty towers ascend,
44 And proudly crown the consecrated pile.
45 Though in those ruder ages bigot zeal
46 Too oft misled the visionary mind;
47 And round Religion threw a gloomy veil,
48 Condemning joys which Providence design'd;
49 Yet far more happy for the human race,
50 Those rigid laws that deem'd all pleasures crimes,
51 Than the licentious precepts which debase
52 The false philosophy of modern times.
53 Within these hospitable walls conceal'd,
54 Unhappy Seagrave*
* Seagrave, the Minister of Henry III, and who died here. shunn'd the Barons' hate;
55 And in some cell obscure his eyes He seal'd,
56 Who, uncontroul'd, had rul'd the King and State.
57 A more illustrious Mourner yet behold!
58 Lo, haughty Wolsey,†
† Wolsey also died at this abbey. humbled to the dust!
59 Hear him his fortune's sad reverse unfold!
60 And rue the hour he plac'd in Kings his trust.
61 How chang'd from him, who, insolent and proud,
62 The dazzling pomp of Majesty outshone!
63 Amid whose suit attendant Nobles bow'd,
64 Rais'd by his smiles, or by his frowns undone.
65 From him who foremost in the glitt'ring train,
66 At Guisnes and Bruges boundless pow'r display'd:
67 Where rival Kings his favour sought to gain,
68 And more than princely honours to him paid,
69 No more by vain prosperity misled,
70 To brighter objects here he turn'd his mind;
71 With resignation bow'd his hoary head,
72 And dying own'd his cup of sorrow kind.
73 Who, then, since such the end of human pow'r,
74 Would waste in Courts the vigour of their prime?
75 Or lose one short, inestimable hour,
76 That fills the lessening measure of their time?
77 Since Wealth and Grandeur in possession cloy,
78 And oft with unsuspected swiftness part,
79 With wiser aim, O Man, thy thoughts employ,
80 To cultivate the mind, to mend the heart.
81 With awful wonder mark yon vaulted sky,
82 Observe those ponderous planets how they roll:
83 The vast expanse of endless space descry,
84 And trembling to it's Maker lift thy soul:
85 Turn, then, to sublunary scenes thine eyes,
86 Behold what trifles mortals toil to gain;
87 And ask thy mind if those they greatest prize,
88 Can merit aught but pity and disdain.