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

Leiston Abbey

Leiston Abbey

By Bernard Barton (1784–1849)

BEAUTIFUL fabric! even in decay

And desolation beauty still is thine:

As the rich sunset of an autumn day,

When gorgeous clouds in glorious hues combine

To render homage to its slow decline,

Is more majestic in its parting hour,

Even so thy mouldering, venerable shrine

Possesses now a more subduing power

Than in thine earlier sway with pomp and pride thy dower.

To voice of praise or prayer, or solemn sound

Of sacred music, once familiar here,

Thy walls are echoless; within their bound,

Once holy deemed, and to religion dear,

No sound salutes the most attentive ear

That tells thy former destiny; unless

It be when fitful breezes wandering near

Wake such faint sighs as feebly might express

Some unseen spirit’s woe for thy lost loveliness.

Or when on stormy nights the winds are high,

And through thy roofless walls and arches sweep,

In tones more full of thrilling harmony

Than art could reach, while from the neighboring deep

The roar of bursting billows seems to keep

Accordant measure with the tempest’s chime;

O, then, at times have I, aroused from sleep,

Fancied that thou, even in thy proudest prime,

Couldst ne’er have given birth to music more sublime.

But to the eye revolving years still add

Fresh charms, which make thee lovelier to the view;

For Nature has luxuriantly clad

Thy ruins, as if wishing to renew

Their claim to homage from those hearts that woo

Her gentle influence: with indulgent hand

She has atoned for all that Time could do,

Though she might not his ravages withstand;

And now thou art her own: her skill thy beauties planned.

The mantling ivy’s ever-verdant wreath

She gave thee as her livery to wear:

Thy wall-flowers, waving at the gentlest breath,

And scattering perfume on the summer air,

Wooing the bee to come and labor there;

The clinging moss, whose hue of sober gray

Makes beautiful what else were bleak and bare,—

These she has given thee as a fit array

For thy declining pomp and her delightful sway.