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George Gordon Byron

(22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824 / London, England)

Elegy On Newstead Abbey


'It is the voice of years that are gone!
they roll before me with all their deeds.'~OSSIAN


Newstead! fast-falling, once-resplendent dome!
Religion's shrine! repentant HENRY's pride!
Of warriors, monks, and dames the cloister'd tomb,
Whose pensive shades around thy ruins glide,
Hail to thy pile! more honour'd in thy fall
Than modern mansions in their pillar'd state;
Proudly majestic frowns thy vaulted hall,
Scowling defiance on the blasts of fate.

No mail-clad serfs, obedient to their lord,
In grim array the crimson cross demand;
Or gay assemble round the festive board
Their chief's retainers, an immortal band:

Else might inspiting Fancy's magic eye
Retrace their progress through the lapse of time,
Marking each ardent youth, ordaln'd to die,
A votive pilgrim in Judea's clime.

But not from thee, dark pile! departs the chief;
His feudal realm in other regions lay:
In thee the wounded conscience courts relief,
Retiring from the garish blare of day.

Yes! in thy gloomy cells and shades profound
The monk abjured a world he ne'er could view;
Or blood-stain'd guilt repenting solace found,
Or innocence from stern oppression flew.

A monarch bade thee from that wild arise,
Where Sherwood's outlaws once were wont to prowl;
And Superstition's crimes, of various dyes,
Sought shelter in the priest's protecting cowl.

Where now the grass exhales a murky dew,
The humid pail of life-extinguish'd clay,
In sainted fame the sacred fathers grew,
Nor raised their pious voices but to pray.

Where now the bats their wavering wings extend
Soon as the gloaming spreads her waning shade,
The choir did oft their mingling vespers blend,
Or matin orisons to Mary pald.

Years roll on years; to ages, ages yield;
Abbots to abbots, in a line, succeed;
Religion's charter their protecting shield,
Till royal sacrilege their doom decreed,
One holy HENRY rear'd the Gothic walls,
And bade the pious inmates rest in peace
Another HENRY the kind gift recalls,
And bids devotion's hallow'd echos cease.

Vain is each threat or supplicating prayer;
He drives them exiles from their blest abode,
To roam a dreary world in deep despair —
No friend, no home, no refuge, but their God.

Hark how the hall, resounding to the strain
Shakes with the martial music's novel din!
The heralds of a warrior's haughty reign,
High crested banners wave thy wails within.

Of changing sentinels the distant hum,
The mirth of feasts, the clang of burnish'd arms,
The braying trumpet and the hoarser drum,
Unite in concert with increased alarms.

An abbey once, a regal fortress now,
Encircled by insulting rebel powers,
War's dread machines o'erhang thy threat'ning brow,
And dart destruction in sulphureous showers.

Ah vain defence! the hostile traitor's siege,
Though oft repulsed, by guile o'er-comes the brave;
His thronging foes oppress the faithful liege,
Rebellion's reeking standards o'er him wave.

Not unavenged the raging baron yields;
The blood of traitors smears the purple plain
Unconqu'r'd still, his falchion there he wields,
And days of glory yet for him remain.

Still in that hour the warrior wish'd to strew
Self-gather'd laurel on a self-sought grave;
But Charles' protecting genius hither flew,
The monarch's friend, the monarch's hope, to save.

Trembling, she snatch'd him ftom th' unequal strife,
In other fields the torrent to repel;
For nobler combats, here reservedhis life,
To lead the hand where godlike FALKLAND fell
From thee, poor pile! to lawless plunder given,
While dying groans their painful requiem sound,
Far different incense now ascends to heaven,
Such victims wallow on the gory ground.

There many a pale and ruthless robber's corse,
Noisome and ghast, defiles thy sacred sod;
O'er mingling man, and horse commix'd with horse,
Corruption's heap, the savage spoilers trod.

Graves, long with rank and sighing weeds o'erspread,
Ransack'd, resign perforce their mortal mould:
From ruffian fangs escape not e'en the dead,
Raked from repose in search of buried gold.

Hush'd is the harp, unstrung the warlike lyre'
The minstrel's palsied hand reclines in death;
No more he strikes the quivering chords with fire,
Or sings the glories of the martial wreath.

At length the sated murderers, gorged with prey,
Retire: the clamour of the fight is o'er;
Silence again resumes her awful sway,
And sable Horror guards the massy door.

Here Desolation holds her dreary court:
What satellites declare her dismal reign!
Shrieking their dirge, ill-omen'd birds resort,
To flit their vigils in the hoary fane.

Soon a new morn's restoring beams dispel
The clouds of anarchy from Britain's skies;
The fierce usurper seeks his native hell,
And Nature triumphs as the tyrant dies.

With storms she welcomes his expiring groans
Whirlwinds, responsive, greet his labouring breath;
Earth shudders as her caves receive his bones,
Loathing the offering of so dark a death.

The legal ruler now resumes the helm,
He guides through gentle seas the prow of state
Hope cheers, with wonted smiles, the peaceful realm,
And heals the bleeding wounds of wearied hate.

The gloomy tenants, Newstead! of thy cells,
Howling, resign their violated nest;
Again the master on his tenure dwells,
Enjoy'd, from absence, with enraptured zest.

Vassals, within thy hospitable pale,
Loudly carousing, bless their lord's return.
Culture again adorns the gladdening vale,
And matrons, once lamenting, cease to mourn.

A thousand songs on tuneful echo float,
Unwonted foliage mantles o'er the trees;
And hark! the horns proclalm a mellow note,
The hunters' cry hangs lengthening on the breeze.

Beneath their coursers' hoofs the valleys shake:
What fears, what anxious hopes attend the chase!
The dying stag seeks refuge in the lake;
Exulting shouts announce the finish'd race.

Ah happy days! too happy to endure!
Such simple sports our plain forefathers knew
No splendid vices glitter'd to allure;
Their joys were many, as their cares were few.

From these descending, sons to sires succeed
Time steals along, and Death uprears the dart;
Another chief impels the foaming steed,
Another crowd pursue the panting hart.

Newstead! what saddening change of scene is thine!
Thy yawning arch betokens slow decay;
The last and youngest of a noble line
Now holds thy mouldering turrets in his sway.

Deserted now, he scans thy gray worn towers;
Thy vaults, where dead of feudal ages sleep;
Thy cloisters, pervious to the wintry showers
These, these he views, and views them but to weep.

Yet are his tears no emblem of regret:
Cherish'd affection only bids them flow.
Pride, hope, and love forbid him to forget
But warm his bosom with irnpassion'd glow.

Yet he prefers thee to the gilded domes
Or gewgaw grottos of the vainly great,
Yet lingers 'mid thy damp and mossy tombs,
Nor breathes a murmur 'gainst the will of fate.

Haply thy sun, emerging, yet may shine,
Thee to irradiate with meridian ray;
Hours splendid as the past may still be thine,
And bless thy future as thy former day.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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