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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.


Kilravock Tower

By Charles Mackay (1814–1889)

FORLORN old tower! that lookest sadly down

Upon the river glittering in the light,

Upon the green leaves of the clambering woods,

And o’er the wide expanse of mountain-land,

How many tales thine ancient walls might tell!

And yet, thou silent undivulging tower,

What couldst thou tell us that we do not know?

The matter of all history is the same.

Time in all changes can but iterate

The morn and eve, the noontime and the night,

The spring’s fresh promise and the autumnal fruit,

The leaves of summer and the winter’s snow;

And human story still repeats itself,—

The form may differ, but the soul remains.

Four hundred years ago, when thou wert built,

Men erred and suffered;—truth and falsehood waged

One with the other their perpetual war;

And justice and injustice, right and wrong,

Succumbed and triumphed as they do to-day.

The young heart loved with passionate earnestness,

The old heart scorned all follies but its own;

And joy and sorrow, jealousy, revenge,

Lusty ambition, skulking avarice,

Patience and zeal, and persecuting rage,

Pity and hope, and charity and love,—

All good and evil passions of the mind,

Brightened or darkened, O thou mouldering wall!

Through all the landscape of humanity.

Couldst thou divulge whatever thou hast seen,

Thou couldst but call these spirits from the past

To read us lessons. Ancient tower! thy voice

Need not instruct us; for we look around

On highways or on byways of our life,

And find no sorrow of the ancient days

Unparalleled in ours; no love sublime,

No patient and heroic tenderness,

No strong endurance in adversity,

No womanly or manly grace of mind,

That we could not, if every truth were known,

Match with its fellow in our later days.

So keep, old tower, thy secrets to thyself!

There ’s not a hovel in the crowded town,

That could not tell us tomes of histories

Of good and evil, wonderful as thine.