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


The Ruins of Seton Chapel

By David Macbeth Moir (1798–1851)

THE BEAUTIFUL, the powerful, and the proud,

The many, and the mighty, yield to Time,—

Time that, with noiseless pace and viewless wing,

Glides on and on,—the despot of the world.

With what a glory the refulgent sun,

Far from the crimson portals of the west,

Sends back his parting radiance: round and round

Stupendous walls encompass me, and throw

The ebon outlines of their traceries down

Upon the dusty floor: the eastern piles

Receive the checkered shadows of the west

In mimic lattice-work and sable hues.

Rich in its mellowness, the sunshine bathes

The sculptured epitaphs of barons dead

Long ere this breathing generation moved,

Or wantoned in the garish eye of noon.

The sad and sombre trophies of decay,—

The prone effigies, carved in marble mail;

The fair Ladye with crossed palms on her breast;

The tablet gray with mimic roses bound;

The angled bones, the sand-glass, and the scythe,—

These, and the stone-carved cherubs that impend

With hovering wings, and eyes of fixedness,

Gleam down the ranges of the solemn aisle,

Dull amid the crimson of the waning light.

This is a season and a scene to hold

Discourse and purifying monologue,

Before the silent spirit of the Past!

Power built this house to Prayer,—’t was earthly power,

And vanished,—see its sad mementos round!

The gillyflowers upon each fractured arch,

And from the time-worn crevices, look down,

Blooming where all is desolate. With tufts

Clustering and dark, and light green trails between,

The ivy hangs perennial; yellow-flowered,

The dandelion shoots its juicy stalks

Over the thin transparent blades of grass,

Which bend and flicker, even amid the calm;

And, O, sad emblems of entire neglect,

In rank luxuriance, the nettles spread

Behind the massy tablatures of death,

Hanging their pointed leaves and seedy stalks

Above the graves, so lonesome and so low,

Of famous men, now utterly unknown,

Yet whose heroic deeds were, in their day,

The theme of loud acclaim,—when Seton’s arm

In power with Stuart and with Douglas vied.

Clad in their robes of state, or graith of war,

A proud procession, o’er the stage of time,

As century on century wheeled away,

They passed; and, with the escutcheons mouldering o’er

The little spot, where voicelessly they sleep,

Their memories have decayed; nay, even their bones

Are crumbled down to undistinguished dust,

Mocking the Herald, who, with pompous tones,

Would set their proud array of quarterings forth,

Down to the days of Chrystal and De Bruce.