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


The Holy Island

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

(From Marmion)

AND now the vessel skirts the strand

Of mountainous Northumberland;

Towns, towers, and halls successive rise,

And catch the nuns’ delighted eyes.

Monk-Wearmouth soon behind them lay,

And Tynemouth’s priory and bay;

They marked, amid her trees, the hall

Of lofty Seaton-Delaval;

They saw the Blythe and Wansbeck floods

Rush to the sea through sounding woods;

They passed the tower of Widdrington,

Mother of many a valiant son;

At Coquet Isle their beads they tell

To the good saint who owned the cell;

Then did the Alne attention claim,

And Warkworth, proud of Percy’s name;

And next they crossed themselves to hear

The whitening breakers sound so near,

Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar

On Dunstanborough’s caverned shore;

Thy tower, proud Bamborough, marked they there,

King Ida’s castle, huge and square,

From its tall rock look grimly down,

And on the swelling ocean frown;

Then from the coast they bore away,

And reached the Holy Island’s bay.

The tide did now its flood-mark gain,

And girdled in the saint’s domain:

For, with the flow and ebb, its style

Varies from continent to isle;

Dry-shod, o’er sands, twice every day,

The pilgrims to the shrine find way;

Twice every day, the waves efface

Of staves and sandalled feet the trace.

As to the port the galley flew,

Higher and higher rose to view

The castle with its battled walls,

The ancient monastery’s halls,

A solemn, huge, and dark red pile,

Placed on the margin of the isle.

In Saxon strength that abbey frowned,

With massive arches broad and round,

That rose alternate, row and row,

On ponderous columns, short and low,

Built ere the art was known,

By pointed aisle and shafted stalk,

The arcades of an alleyed walk

To emulate in stone.

On the deep walls the heathen Dane

Had poured his impious rage in vain;

And needful was such strength to these,

Exposed to the tempestuous seas,

Scourged by the winds’ eternal sway,

Open to rovers fierce as they,

Which could twelve hundred years withstand

Winds, waves, and Northern pirates’ hand.

Not but that portions of the pile,

Rebuilded in a later style,

Showed where the spoiler’s hand had been;

Not but the wasting sea-breeze keen

Had worn the pillar’s carving quaint,

And mouldered in his niche the saint,

And rounded, with consuming power,

The pointed angles of each tower;

Yet still entire the abbey stood,

Like veteran, worn, but unsubdued.