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



By T. S. Salmon

Oxford Prize Poem, 1823

WRAPT in the veil of time’s unbroken gloom,

Obscure as death and silent as the tomb,

Where cold oblivion holds her dusky reign,

Frowns the dark pile on Sarum’s lonely plain.

Yet think not here with classic eye to trace

Corinthian beauty or Ionian grace;

No pillared lines with sculptured foliage crowned,

No fluted remnants deck the hallowed ground;

Firm, as implanted by some Titan’s might,

Each rugged stone uprears its giant height,

Whence the poised fragment tottering seems to throw

A trembling shadow on the plain below,

Here oft, when evening sheds her twilight ray,

And gilds with fainter beam departing day,

With breathless gaze, and cheek with terror pale,

The lingering shepherd startles at the tale,

How at deep midnight by the moon’s chill glance,

Unearthly forms prolong the viewless dance;

While on each whispering breeze that murmurs by,

His busied fancy hears the hollow sigh.

Rise from thy haunt, dread genius of the clime,

Rise, magic spirit of forgotten time!

’T is thine to burst the mantling clouds of age,

And fling new radiance on tradition’s page:

See! at thy call from fable’s varied store,

In shadowy train the mingled visions pour;

Here the wild Briton, mid his wilder reign,

Spurns the proud yoke and scorns the oppressor’s chain;

Here wizard Merlin, where the mighty fell,

Waves the dark wand and chants the thrilling spell.

Hark! ’t is the bardic lyre whose harrowing strain

Wakes the rude echoes of the slumbering plain;

Lo! ’t is the Druid pomp, whose lengthening line

In lowliest homage bends before the shrine.

He comes—the priest—amid the sullen blaze

His snow-white robe in spectral lustre plays;

Dim gleam the torches through the circling night,

Dark curl the vapors round the altar’s light;

O’er the black scene of death each conscious star,

In lurid glory rolls its silent car.

’T is gone! e’en now the mystic horrors fade

From Sarum’s loneliness and Mona’s glade;

Hushed is each note of Taliesin’s lyre,

Sheathed the fell blade and quenched the fatal fire.

On wings of light hope’s angel form appears,

Smiles on the past and points to happier years;

Points with uplifted hand and raptured eye

To yon pure dawn that floods the opening sky,

And views at length the Sun of Judah pour

One cloudless noon o’er Albion’s rescued shore.