Matthew Arnold

(1822-1888 / Middlesex / England)

The Church Of Brou - Poem by Matthew Arnold

I
THE CASTLE

Down the Savoy valleys sounding,
Echoing round this castle old,
'Mid the distant mountain-chalets
Hark! what bell for church is toll'd?

In the bright October morning
Savoy's Duke had left his bride.
From the castle, past the drawbridge,
Flow'd the hunters' merry tide.

Steeds are neighing, gallants glittering;
Gay, her smiling lord to greet,
From her mullion'd chamber-casement
Smiles the Duchess Marguerite.

From Vienna, by the Danube,
Here she came, a bride, in spring.
Now the autumn crisps the forest;
Hunters gather, bugles ring.

Hounds are pulling, prickers swearing,
Horses fret, and boar-spears glance.
Off!—They sweep the marshy forests.
Westward, on the side of France.

Hark! the game's on foot; they scatter!—
Down the forest-ridings lone,
Furious, single horsemen gallop——
Hark! a shout—a crash—a groan!

Pale and breathless, came the hunters;
On the turf dead lies the boar—
God! the Duke lies stretch'd beside him,
Senseless, weltering in his gore.

In the dull October evening,
Down the leaf-strewn forest-road,
To the castle, past the drawbridge,
Came the hunters with their load.

In the hall, with sconces blazing,
Ladies waiting round her seat,
Clothed in smiles, beneath the dais
Sate the Duchess Marguerite.

Hark! below the gates unbarring!
Tramp of men and quick commands!
'—'Tis my lord come back from hunting—'
And the Duchess claps her hands.

Slow and tired, came the hunters—
Stopp'd in darkness in the court.
'—Ho, this way, ye laggard hunters!
To the hall! What sport? What sport?'—

Slow they enter'd with their master;
In the hall they laid him down.
On his coat were leaves and blood-stains,
On his brow an angry frown.

Dead her princely youthful husband
Lay before his youthful wife,
Bloody, 'neath the flaring sconces—
And the sight froze all her life.

In Vienna, by the Danube,
Kings hold revel, gallants meet.
Gay of old amid the gayest
Was the Duchess Marguerite.

In Vienna, by the Danube,
Feast and dance her youth beguiled.
Till that hour she never sorrow'd;
But from then she never smiled.

'Mid the Savoy mountain valleys
Far from town or haunt of man,
Stands a lonely church, unfinish'd,
Which the Duchess Maud began;

Old, that Duchess stern began it,
In grey age, with palsied hands;
But she died while it was building,
And the Church unfinish'd stands—

Stands as erst the builders left it,
When she sank into her grave;
Mountain greensward paves the chancel,
Harebells flower in the nave.

'—In my castle all is sorrow,'
Said the Duchess Marguerite then;
'Guide me, some one, to the mountain!
We will build the Church again.'—

Sandall'd palmers, faring homeward,
Austrian knights from Syria came.
'—Austrian wanderers bring, O warders!
Homage to your Austrian dame.'—

From the gate the warders answer'd:
'—Gone, O knights, is she you knew!
Dead our Duke, and gone his Duchess;
Seek her at the Church of Brou!'—

Austrian knights and march-worn palmers
Climb the winding mountain-way.—
Reach the valley, where the Fabric
Rises higher day by day.

Stones are sawing, hammers ringing;
On the work the bright sun shines,
In the Savoy mountain-meadows,
By the stream, below the pines.

On her palfry white the Duchess
Sate and watch'd her working train—
Flemish carvers, Lombard gilders,
German masons, smiths from Spain.

Clad in black, on her white palfrey,
Her old architect beside—
There they found her in the mountains,
Morn and noon and eventide.

There she sate, and watch'd the builders,
Till the Church was roof'd and done.
Last of all, the builders rear'd her
In the nave a tomb of stone.

On the tomb two forms they sculptured,
Lifelike in the marble pale—
One, the Duke in helm and armour;
One, the Duchess in her veil.

Round the tomb the carved stone fretwork
Was at Easter-tide put on.
Then the Duchess closed her labours;
And she died at the St. John.


II
THE CHURCH

Upon the glistening leaden roof
Of the new Pile, the sunlight shines;
The stream goes leaping by.
The hills are clothed with pines sun-proof;
'Mid bright green fields, below the pines,
Stands the Church on high.
What Church is this, from men aloof?—
'Tis the Church of Brou.

At sunrise, from their dewy lair
Crossing the stream, the kine are seen
Round the wall to stray—
The churchyard wall that clips the square
Of open hill-sward fresh and green
Where last year they lay.
But all things now are order'd fair
Round the Church of Brou.

On Sundays, at the matin-chime,
The Alpine peasants, two and three,
Climb up here to pray;
Burghers and dames, at summer's prime,
Ride out to church from Chambery,
Dight with mantles gay.
But else it is a lonely time
Round the Church of Brou.

On Sundays, too, a priest doth come
From the wall'd town beyond the pass,
Down the mountain-way;
And then you hear the organ's hum,
You hear the white-robed priest say mass,
And the people pray.
But else the woods and fields are dumb
Round the Church of Brou.

And after church, when mass is done,
The people to the nave repair
Round the tomb to stray;
And marvel at the Forms of stone,
And praise the chisell'd broideries rare—
Then they drop away.
The princely Pair are left alone
In the Church of Brou.


III
THE TOMB

So rest, for ever rest, O princely Pair!
In your high church, 'mid the still mountain-air,
Where horn, and hound, and vassals never come.
Only the blessed Saints are smiling dumb,
From the rich painted windows of the nave,
On aisle, and transept, and your marble grave;
Where thou, young Prince! shalt never more arise
From the fringed mattress where thy Duchess lies,
On autumn-mornings, when the bugle sounds,
And ride across the drawbridge with thy hounds
To hunt the boar in the crisp woods till eve;
And thou, O Princess! shalt no more receive,
Thou and thy ladies, in the hall of state,
The jaded hunters with their bloody freight,
Coming benighted to the castle-gate.

So sleep, for ever sleep, O marble Pair!
Or, if ye wake, let it be then, when fair
On the carved western front a flood of light
Streams from the setting sun, and colours bright
Prophets, transfigured Saints, and Martyrs brave,
In the vast western window of the nave,
And on the pavement round the Tomb there glints
A chequer-work of glowing sapphire-tints,
And amethyst, and ruby—then unclose
Your eyelids on the stone where ye repose,
And from your broider'd pillows lift your heads,
And rise upon your cold white marble beds;
And, looking down on the warm rosy tints,
Which chequer, at your feet, the illumined flints,
Say: What is this? we are in bliss—forgiven—
Behold the pavement of the courts of Heaven!
Or let it be on autumn nights, when rain
Doth rustlingly above your heads complain
On the smooth leaden roof, and on the walls
Shedding her pensive light at intervals
The moon through the clere-story windows shines,
And the wind washes through the mountain-pines.
Then, gazing up 'mid the dim pillars high,
The foliaged marble forest where ye lie,
Hush, ye will say, it is eternity!
This is the glimmering verge of Heaven, and these
The columns of the heavenly palaces!
And, in the sweeping of the wind, your ear
The passage of the Angels' wings will hear,
And on the lichen-crusted leads above
The rustle of the eternal rain of love.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010



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