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


Widdecombe Church

By Noel Thomas Carrington (1777–1830)

(From Dartmoor)

FAR o’er hill and dale

Their summons glad the Sabbath-bells had flung;—

From hill and dale obedient they had sped

Who heard the holy welcoming; and now

They stood above the venerable dead

Of centuries, and bowed where they had bowed

Who slept below. The simple touching tones

Of England’s psalmody upswelled, and all,

With lip and heart united, loudly sang

The praises of the Highest. But anon,

Harsh mingling with that minstrelsy, was heard

The fitful blast;—the pictured windows shook,—

Around the aged tower the rising gale

Shrill whistled; and the ancient massive doors

Swung on their jarring hinges. Then—at once—

Fell an unnatural calm, and with it came

A fearful gloom, deepening and deepening, fill

’T was dark as night’s meridian; for the cloud,

Descending, had within its bosom wrapt

The fated dome. At first a herald flash

Just chased the darkness, and the thunder spoke,

Breaking the strange tranquillity. But soon

Pale horror reigned,—the mighty tempest burst

In wrath appalling;—forth the lightning sprang,

And death came with it, and the living writhed

In that dread flame-sheet.
Clasped by liquid fire,

Bereft of hope, they madly said the hour

Of final doom was nigh, and soul and sense

Wild reeled; and, shrieking, on the sculptured floor

Some helpless sank; and others watched each flash

With haggard look and frenzied eye, and cowered

At every thunder-stroke. Again a power

Unseen dealt death around! In speechless awe

The boldest stood; and when the sunny ray,

Glancing again on river, field, and wood,

Had chased the tempest, and they drank once more

The balmy air, and saw the bow of God,

His token to the nations, throwing wide

Its arch of mercy o’er the freshened earth,

How welcome was that light, that breeze, that bow!

And O, how deep the feeling that awoke

To Heaven the hymn of thankfulness and joy!