Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
Waltham Abbey
Waltham Holy Cross
William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)
(From The Grave of the Last Saxon)

                TIME has reft the shrine
Where the last Saxon, canonizéd, lay,
And every trace has vanished, like the light
That from the high-arched eastern window fell,
With broken sunshine on his marble tomb—        5
So have they passed; and silent are the choirs
That to his spirit sang eternal rest;
And scattered are his bones who raised those walls
Where, from the field of blood slowly conveyed,
His mangled corse, with torch and orison,        10
Before the altar and in holy earth
Was laid! Yet oft I muse upon the theme;
And now, whilst solemn the slow curfew tolls,
Years and dim centuries seem to unfold
Their shroud, as at the summons; and I think        15
How sad that sound on every English heart
Smote, when along these darkening vales, where Lea
Beneath the woods of Waltham winds, it broke
First on the silence of the night, far heard
Through the deep forest! Phantoms of the past,        20
Ye gather round me! Voices of the dead,
Ye come by fits! And now I hear, far off,
Faint Eleesons swell, whilst to the fane
The long procession, and the pomp of death,
Moves visible: and now one voice is heard        25
From a vast multitude, “Harold, farewell!
Farewell, and rest in peace!” That sable car
Bears the last Saxon to his grave; the last
From Hengist, of the long illustrious line
That swayed the English sceptre. Hark! a cry!        30
’T is from his mother, who with frantic mien
Follows the bier: with manly look composed,
Godwin, his eldest-born, and Adela,
Her head declined, her hand upon her brow
Beneath the veil, supported by his arm,        35
Sorrowing succeed! Lo! pensive Edmund there
Leads Wolfe, the least and youngest, by the hand!
Brothers and sisters, silent and in tears,
Follow their father to the dust, beneath
Whose eye they grew. Last and alone, behold,        40
Magnus, subduing the deep sigh, with brow
Of sterner acquiescence. Slowly pace
The sad remains of England’s chivalry,
The few whom Hastings’ field of carnage spared,
To follow their slain monarch’s hearse this night,        45
Whose corse is borne beneath the escutcheoned pall,
To rest in Waltham Abbey. So the train,
Imagination thus embodies it,
Moves onward to the abbey’s western porch,
Whose windows and retiring aisles reflect        50
The long funereal lights. Twelve stoléd monks,
Each with a torch, and pacing, two and two,
Along the pillared nave, with crucifix
Aloft, begin the supplicating chant,
Intoning, “Miserere Domine.”
*        *        *        *        *
One parting sunbeam yet upon the floor
Rested,—it passed away, and darker gloom
Was gathering in the aisles. Each footstep’s sound
Was more distinctly heard, for all beside
Was silent. Slow along the glimmering fane        60
They passed, like shadows risen from the tombs.
The entrance door was closed, lest aught intrude
Upon the sanctity of this sad hour.
The inner choir they enter, part in shade
And part in light, for now the rising moon        65
Began to glance upon the shrines and tombs
And pillars. Trembling through the windows high,
One beam, a moment, on that cold gray stone
Is flung,—the word “Infelix” is scarce seen.

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