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


Whitby Abbey

By William Leighton (1841–1869)

THOU relic of a bygone generation,

Thou crumbling record of a vanished race,

Towering aloft in lonely desolation,

Like the great guardian spirit of the place:

Thy walls with age are mouldering, gray and hoary,

Where thy long transept lay the grass waves green;

And scarce a remnant of thy former glory

Remains to tell us what thou once hast been.

Yet here in days of yore a royal maiden

Has ministered upon the sacred shrine;

And knights and nobles with their symbols laden

Have joined the orisons and rites divine.

Here images of saints in dark-niched spaces

Have peered on black-cowled monks devoid of smiles;

And meek-eyed nuns, with fair and pensive faces,

Have flitted through the solemn-whispering aisles.

Here oft the sweet strains of an Ave Mary

Have stolen through the twilight, still and clear;

And the wild cadence of a Miserere

Has struck upon the midnight’s startled ear.

And in the frequent pauses of devotion,

When silence brooded o’er the prostrate band,

Was heard the deep-mouthed wailing of the ocean

Beating forever on the rocky strand.

But all is changed!—no more the night-wind, stealing

Through thy dim galleries and vacant nave,

Will catch the sound of music’s measured pealing

And bear it far across the moonlit wave:

No more when morning gilds the eastern heaven

Will early matins rise or organ swell;

And when the first stars gem the brow of even

No more will sound the sweet-toned vesper bell.

Thy glory has gone by! and thou art standing

In lonely pomp upon thy sea-washed hill,

Wearing in hoary age a mien commanding,

And in thy desolation stately still!