Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Escurial (Escorial), the

The Escorial

By Martha Perry Lowe (1829–1902)

I LOVE the solemn awe that broods around

This spot, so wondrous in its solitude:

’T is grave, e’en as the ancient faith that walked

In high austerity throughout the land;

’T is still, as if the many hundred monks

Who lie beneath my feet had e’en but now

To Mary said their prayer, and, one by one,

Crept down below unto their rest in death;

’T is cold and calm as was the iron front

Of him, its king, who built him here a house,

Where, with his bosom-friend Remorse, he came,

And, in her dread companionship, grew pale

With looking on the blackness of his soul,

And pondering how best to meet his God;

’T is awful, with its royal dead, who lie

In chill magnificence.
The mountains gray,

Wherein the Escorial sits, breathe o’er her like

Ascetics rude. The very hedgerows dare

Not seek in graceful longing the glad sky,

But their young shoots are disciplined unto

A goodly sanctity.
But, ah! behold

The pages of the ancient manuscripts,

With History’s morning twilight, gold and red!

We of the more advancing day have paled

The horizon of our books, as of our lives;

And in the broad, clear beams of Learning’s sun,

We know not the old age’s intensity.

The streaks of opening glory then burned in

A deeper coloring to all her thought.

Poor Philip! I can see thee now, within

The narrow room near by the chapel, where,

Midst all thy mortal pains, thy gaze was fixed

Upon the altar, while thy dying bed

Was quivering in the mighty organ’s roll.

Thy worship’s pageantry moved daily o’er

Thy glazing eye: like him who walks the night

In dreams, thou seeing wert, and seeing not.

Ah! better he, the pure in heart, who makes

His bed beneath the open dome of stars,

And seeth God, the great High Priest, perform

The ritual of the world, and, on the voice

Of answering Nature, passeth unto heaven!