Thomas Love Peacock

(1785 - 1866 / England)

The Legend of St. Laura


Saint Laura, in her sleep of death,
Preserves beneath the tomb
---'Tis willed where what is willed must be---
In incorruptibility
Her beauty and her bloom.

So pure her maiden life had been,
So free from earthly stain,
'Twas fixed in fate by Heaven's own Queen,
That till the earth's last closing scene
She should unchanged remain.

Within a deep sarcophagus
Of alabaster sheen,
With sculptured lid of roses white,
She slumbered in unbroken night
By mortal eyes unseen.

Above her marble couch was reared
A monumental shrine,
Where cloistered sisters, gathering round,
Made night and morn the aisle resound
With choristry divine.

The abbess died: and in her pride
Her parting mandate said,
They should her final rest provide,
The alabaster couch beside,
Where slept the sainted dead.

The abbess came of princely race:
The nuns might not gainsay:
And sadly passed the timid band,
To execute the high command
They dared not disobey.

The monument was opened then:
It gave to general sight
The alabaster couch alone:
But all its lucid substance shone
With præ.ternatural light.

They laid the corpse within the shrine:
They closed its doors again:
But nameless terror seemed to fall,
Throughout the live-long night, on all
Who formed the funeral train.

Lo! on the morrow morn, still closed
The monument was found:
But in its robes funereal drest,
The corpse they had consigned to rest
Lay on the stony ground.

So pure her maiden life had been,
So free from earthly stain,
'Twas fixed in fate by Heaven's own Queen,
That till the earth's last closing scene
She should unchanged remain.

Fear and amazement seized on all:
They salled on Mary's aid:
And in the tomb, unclosed again,
With choral hymn and funeral train,
The corpse again was laid.

So was it found when morning beamed:
In solemn suppliant strain,
The nuns implored all saints in heaven,
That rest might to the corpse be given,
Which they entombed again.

On the third night a watch was kept
By many a friar and nun:
Trembling, all knelt in fervebt parayer,
Till on the dreary midnight air
Rolled the deep bell-toll, "One!"

The saint within the opening tomb
Like marble statue stood:
All fell to earth in deep dismay:
And through their ranks she passed away,
In calm unchanging mood.

No answering sound her footsteps raised
Along the stony floor:
Silent as death, severe as fate,
She glided through the chapel gate,
And none beheld her more.

The alabaster couch was gone:
The tomb was void and bare:
For the last time, with hasty rite,
Even 'mid the terror of the night,
They laid the abbess there.

'Tis said, the abbess rests not well
In that sepulchral pile:
But yearly, when the night comes round,
And dies of "One" the bell's deep sound
She flits along the aisle.

But whither passed the virgin saint,
To slumber far away,
Destined by Mary to endure,
Unfettered in her semblance pure,
Until the judgement day?

None knew, and none may ever know:
Angels the secret keep:
Impenetrable ramparts bound,
Eternal silence dwells around,
The chamber of her sleep.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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