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

Bolton Abbey

The Force of Prayer; Or, the Founding of Bolton Priory

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

A Tradition

“WHAT is good for a bootless bene?”

With these dark words begins my tale;

And their meaning is, whence can comfort spring

When prayer is of no avail?

“What is good for a bootless bene?”

The falconer to the lady said;

And she made answer, “Endless sorrow!”

For she knew that her son was dead.

She knew it by the falconer’s words,

And from the look of the falconer’s eye;

And from the love which was in her soul

For her youthful Romilly.

—Young Romilly through Barden woods

Is ranging high and low;

And holds a greyhound in a leash,

To let slip upon buck or doe.

The pair have reached that fearful chasm,

How tempting to bestride!

For lordly Wharf is there pent in

With rocks on either side.

The striding-place is called the Strid,

A name which it took of yore:

A thousand years hath it borne that name,

And shall a thousand more.

And hither is young Romilly come,

And what may now forbid

That he, perhaps for the hundredth time,

Shall bound across the Strid?

He sprang in glee; for what cared he

That the river was strong and the rocks were steep?

But the greyhound in the leash hung back,

And checked him in his leap.

The boy is in the arms of Wharf,

And strangled by a merciless force;

For never more was young Romilly seen

Till he rose a lifeless corse.

Now there is stillness in the vale,

And long, unspeaking sorrow:

Wharf shall be to pitying hearts

A name more sad than Yarrow.

If for a lover the lady wept,

A solace she might borrow

From death, and from the passion of death:

Old Wharf might heal her sorrow.

She weeps not for the wedding-day

Which was to be to-morrow:

Her hope was a further-looking hope,

And hers is a mother’s sorrow.

He was a tree that stood alone,

And proudly did its branches wave;

And the root of this delightful tree

Was in her husband’s grave!

Long, long in darkness did she sit,

And her first words were, “Let there be

In Bolton, on the field of Wharf,

A stately priory!”

The stately priory was reared;

And Wharf, as he moved along,

To matins joined a mournful voice,

Nor failed at even-song.

And the lady prayed in heaviness

That looked not for relief!

But slowly did her succor come,

And a patience to her grief.

O, there is never sorrow of heart

That shall lack a timely end,

If but to God we turn, and ask

Of him to be our friend!