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


Two Queens in Westminster

By Henry Morford (1823–1881)

IN the Chapel of Henry the Seventh,

Where the sculptured ceilings rare

Show the conquered stone-work, hanging

Like cobweb films in air,

There are held two shrines in keeping,

Whose memories closely press:

The tomb of the Rose of Scotland,

And that of stout Queen Bess.

Each side of the sleeping Tudor

They rest; and over their dust

The canopies mould and darken

And the gilding gathers rust;

While low on the marble tablet,

Each effigied in stone,

They lie,—as they went to judgment,—

Uncrowned, and cold, and alone.

Beside them pass the thousands

Each day; and hundreds strive

To read the whole of the lesson

That knoweth no man alive,—

Of which was more to be pitied,

And which was more to be feared,—

The strong queen, with the nerve of manhood,

Or the woman too close endeared.

One weakened her land with faction,

One strengthened with bands of steel;

One died on the black-draped scaffold,

One broke on old age’s wheel:

And both—O sweet heaven, the pity!—

Felt the thorns in the rim of the crown

Far more than the sweep of the ermine

Or the ease of the regal down.

Was the Stuart of Scotland plotting

For her royal sister’s all?

Was it hatred in crown or in person

Drove the Tudor to work her fall?

Was there guilty marriage with Bothwell

And black crime at the Kirk of Field?

And what meed had the smothered passion

That for Essex stood half revealed?

Dark questions!—and who shall solve them?

Not one, till the great assize,

When royal secrets and motives

Shall be opened to commonest eyes;—

Not even by bookworm students,

Who shall dig and cavil and grope,

And keep to the ear learned promise,

While they break it to the hope!

Ah, well,—there is one sad lesson

Made clear to us all, at the worst:

Of two forces made quite incarnate,

And that equally blessed and cursed.

With the English woman, all-conquering

Was Power, and its handmaid, Pride;

With the Scottish walked fierce-eyed Passion,

Calling lovers to her side;

And the paths were the paths of ruin,

Of disease and of woe, to both,

With their guerdon the sleepless pillow,

And their weapon the broken troth;

And each, when she died, might have shuddered

To know she had failed to find

A content, even poorly perfect,

As that blessing some landless hind!

Ah, well, again,—they are sleeping

Divided, yet side by side;

And the lesson were far less perfect

If their sepulchres severed wide.

And well for Bess and for Marie

That the eyes, to judge them at last,

Will be free from the gloss and glamour

Blinding ours through present and past!