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

Waltham Abbey

Waltham Holy Cross

By William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)

(From The Grave of the Last Saxon)

TIME has reft the shrine

Where the last Saxon, canonizéd, lay,

And every trace has vanished, like the light

That from the high-arched eastern window fell,

With broken sunshine on his marble tomb—

So have they passed; and silent are the choirs

That to his spirit sang eternal rest;

And scattered are his bones who raised those walls

Where, from the field of blood slowly conveyed,

His mangled corse, with torch and orison,

Before the altar and in holy earth

Was laid! Yet oft I muse upon the theme;

And now, whilst solemn the slow curfew tolls,

Years and dim centuries seem to unfold

Their shroud, as at the summons; and I think

How sad that sound on every English heart

Smote, when along these darkening vales, where Lea

Beneath the woods of Waltham winds, it broke

First on the silence of the night, far heard

Through the deep forest! Phantoms of the past,

Ye gather round me! Voices of the dead,

Ye come by fits! And now I hear, far off,

Faint Eleesons swell, whilst to the fane

The long procession, and the pomp of death,

Moves visible: and now one voice is heard

From a vast multitude, “Harold, farewell!

Farewell, and rest in peace!” That sable car

Bears the last Saxon to his grave; the last

From Hengist, of the long illustrious line

That swayed the English sceptre. Hark! a cry!

’T is from his mother, who with frantic mien

Follows the bier: with manly look composed,

Godwin, his eldest-born, and Adela,

Her head declined, her hand upon her brow

Beneath the veil, supported by his arm,

Sorrowing succeed! Lo! pensive Edmund there

Leads Wolfe, the least and youngest, by the hand!

Brothers and sisters, silent and in tears,

Follow their father to the dust, beneath

Whose eye they grew. Last and alone, behold,

Magnus, subduing the deep sigh, with brow

Of sterner acquiescence. Slowly pace

The sad remains of England’s chivalry,

The few whom Hastings’ field of carnage spared,

To follow their slain monarch’s hearse this night,

Whose corse is borne beneath the escutcheoned pall,

To rest in Waltham Abbey. So the train,

Imagination thus embodies it,

Moves onward to the abbey’s western porch,

Whose windows and retiring aisles reflect

The long funereal lights. Twelve stoléd monks,

Each with a torch, and pacing, two and two,

Along the pillared nave, with crucifix

Aloft, begin the supplicating chant,

Intoning, “Miserere Domine.”


One parting sunbeam yet upon the floor

Rested,—it passed away, and darker gloom

Was gathering in the aisles. Each footstep’s sound

Was more distinctly heard, for all beside

Was silent. Slow along the glimmering fane

They passed, like shadows risen from the tombs.

The entrance door was closed, lest aught intrude

Upon the sanctity of this sad hour.

The inner choir they enter, part in shade

And part in light, for now the rising moon

Began to glance upon the shrines and tombs

And pillars. Trembling through the windows high,

One beam, a moment, on that cold gray stone

Is flung,—the word “Infelix” is scarce seen.