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


The Squire’s Pew

By Jane Taylor (1783–1824)

A SLANTING ray of evening light

Shoots through the yellow pane;

It makes the faded crimson bright,

And gilds the fringe again:

The window’s Gothic frame-work falls

In oblique shadow on the walls.

And since those trappings first were new

How many a cloudless day,

To rob the velvet of its hue,

Has come and passed away!

How many a setting sun hath made

That curious lattice-work of shade!

Crumbled beneath the hillock green

The cunning hand must be,

That carved this fretted door, I ween,

Acorn, and fleur-de-lis;

And now the worm hath done her part

In mimicking the chisel’s art.

In days of yore (as now we call),

When the first James was king,

The courtly knight from yonder hall

Hither his train did bring;

All seated round in order due,

With broidered suit and buckled shoe.

On damask cushions, set in fringe,

All reverently they knelt;

Prayer-books, with brazen hasp and hinge,

In ancient English spelt,

Each holding in a lily hand,

Responsive at the priest’s command,

Now, streaming down the vaulted aisle,

The sunbeam, long and lone,

Illumes the characters awhile

Of their inscription stone;

And there, in marble hard and cold,

The knight and all his train behold.

Outstretched together, are expressed

He and my lady fair;

With hands uplifted on the breast,

In attitude of prayer;

Long visaged, clad in armor, he,—

With ruffled arm and bodice, she.

Set forth in order ere they died,

The numerous offspring bend;

Devoutly kneeling side by side,

As though they did intend

For past omissions to atone,

By saying endless prayers in stone.

Those mellow days are past and dim,

But generations new,

In regular descent from him,

Have filled the stately pew,

And in the same succession go,

To occupy the vault below.

And now the polished, modern squire,

And his gay train appear,

Who duly to the hall retire,

A season, every year,

And fill the seats with belle and beau,

As ’t was so many years ago.

Perchance, all thoughtless as they tread

The hollow sounding floor

Of that dark house of kindred dead,

Which shall, as heretofore,

In turn, receive, to silent rest,

Another and another guest,—

The feathered hearse and sable train,

In all its wonted state,

Shall wind along the village lane,

And stand before the gate;

Brought many a distant county through,

To join the final rendezvous.

And when the race is swept away,

All to their dusty beds,

Still shall the mellow evening ray

Shine gayly o’er their heads;

While other faces, fresh and new,

Shall occupy the squire’s pew.