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

Glen Nectan

The Sisters of Glen Nectan

By Robert Stephen Hawker (1803–1875)

  • In a rocky gorge, midway between the castles of Bottreau and Dundagel, there is a fall of waters into a hollow caldron of native stone, which has borne for ten centuries the name of St. Nectan’s Kieve.

  • IT is from Nectan’s mossy steep

    The foamy waters flash and leap;

    It is where shrinking wild-flowers grow

    They lave the nymph that dwells below.

    But wherefore in this far-off dell

    The reliques of a human cell,

    Where the sad stream and lonely wind

    Bring man no tidings of his kind?

    “Long years agone,” the old man said,—

    ’T was told him by his grandsire dead,—

    “One day two ancient sisters came;

    None there could tell their race or name.

    “Their speech was not in Cornish phrase,

    Their garb had signs of loftier days;

    Slight food they took from hands of men,

    They withered slowly in that glen.

    “One died,—the other’s sunken eye

    Gushed till the fount of tears was dry;

    A wild and withering thought had she,

    ‘I shall have none to weep for me.’

    “They found her silent at the last,

    Bent in the shape wherein she passed,

    Where her lone seat long used to stand,

    Her head upon her shrivelled hand.”

    Did fancy give this legend birth,—

    The grandame’s tale for winter hearth?

    Or some dead bard, by Nectan’s stream,

    People these banks with such a dream?

    We know not; but it suits the scene

    To think such wild things here have been:

    What spot more meet could grief or sin

    Choose, at the last, to wither in?