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

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

(From The Lay of the Last Minstrel)

IF thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,

Go visit it by the pale moonlight;

For the gay beams of lightsome day

Gild but to flout the ruins gray.

When the broken arches are black in night,

And each shafted oriel glimmers white;

When the cold light’s uncertain shower

Streams on the ruined central tower;

When buttress and buttress, alternately,

Seem framed of ebon and ivory;

When silver edges the imagery,

And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;

When distant Tweed is heard to rave,

And the owlet to hoot o’er the dead man’s grave,—

Then go—but go alone the while—

Then view St. David’s ruined pile;

And, home returning, soothly swear,

Was never scene so sad and fair!


By a steel-clenched postern door

They entered now the chancel tall;

The darkened roof rose high aloof

On pillars lofty and light and small;

The keystone, that locked each ribbed aisle,

Was a fleur-de-lis, or a quatre-feuille;

The corbells were carved grotesque and grim;

And the pillars, with clustered shafts so trim,

With base and with capital flourished around,

Seemed bundles of lances which garlands had bound.

Full many a scutcheon and banner riven,

Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,

Around the screened altar’s pale;

And there the dying lamps did burn,

Before thy low and lonely urn,

O gallant chief of Otterburne!

And thine, dark Knight of Liddesdale!

O fading honors of the dead!

O high ambition, lowly laid!

The moon on the east oriel shone

Through slender shafts of shapely stone,

By foliaged tracery combined;

Thou wouldst have thought some fairy’s hand

’Twixt poplars straight the osier wand

In many a freakish knot had twined,

Then framed a spell, when the work was done,

And changed the willow wreaths to stone.

The silver light, so pale and faint,

Showed many a prophet, and many a saint,

Whose image on the glass was dyed;

Full in the midst, his Cross of Red

Triumphant Michael brandished,

And trampled the Apostate’s pride.

The moonbeam kissed the holy pane,

And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.


With beating heart to the task he went;

His sinewy frame o’er the gravestone bent,

With bar of iron heaved amain,

Till the toil-drops fell from his brows like rain.

It was by dint of passing strength

That he moved the massy stone at length.

I would you had been there, to see

How the light broke forth so gloriously,

Streamed upward to the chancel roof,

And through the galleries far aloof!

No earthly flame blazed e’er so bright:

It shone like heaven’s own blessed light,

And, issuing from the tomb,

Showed the monk’s cowl and visage pale,

Danced on the dark-browed Warrior’s mail,

And kissed his waving plume.

Before their eyes the Wizard lay,

As if he had not been dead a day.

His hoary beard in silver rolled,

He seemed some seventy winters old;

A palmer’s amice wrapped him round,

With a wrought Spanish baldric bound,

Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea;

His left hand held his Book of Might;

A silver cross was in his right;

The lamp was placed beside his knee;

High and majestic was his look,

At which the fellest fiend had shook,

And all unruffled was his face:

They trusted his soul had gotten grace.