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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

Newstead Abbey

Elegy on Newstead Abbey

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

NEWSTEAD! fast-falling, once resplendent dome!

Religion’s shrine! repentant Henry’s pride!

Of warriors, monks, and dames the cloistered tomb,

Whose pensive shades around thy ruins glide,

Hail to thy pile! more honored in thy fall,

Than modern mansions in their pillared 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 inspiring Fancy’s magic eye

Retrace their progress through the lapse of time,

Marking each ardent youth, ordained to die,

A votive pilgrim in Judæa’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 blaze of day.

Yes! in thy gloomy cells and shades profound,

The monk abjured a world he ne’er could view;

Or blood-stained 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 pall of life-extinguished 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 paid.

Years rolled 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 reared the Gothic walls,

And bade the pious inmates rest in peace;

Another Henry the kind gift recalls,

And bids devotion’s hallowed echoes 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 walls within.

Of changing sentinels the distant hum,

The mirth of feasts, the clang of burnished arms,

The braying trumpet and the hoarser drum,

Unite in concert with increased alarms.


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;

Cherished affection only bids them flow.

Pride, hope, and love forbid him to forget,

But warm his bosom with impassioned 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.