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Poem by William Lisle Bowles


Restoration of Malmesbury Abbey


MONASTIC and time-consecrated fane!
Thou hast put on thy shapely state again,
Almost august as in thy early day,
Ere ruthless Henry rent thy pomp away.
No more the mass on holidays is sung,
The Host high raised or fuming censer swung;
No more, in amice white, the Fathers slow
With lighted tapers in long order go;
Yet the tall window lifts its archéd height,	
As to admit heavens pale but purer light;
Those massy clustered columns, whose long rows,
Even at noonday, in shadowy pomp repose
Amid the silent sanctity of death,
Like giants seem to guard the dust beneath.
Those roofs re-echo (though no altars blaze)
The prayer of penitence, the hymn of praise;
Whilst meek religions self, as with a smile,
Reprints the tracery of the holy pile,
Worthy its guest, the temple. What remains?
O mightiest Master! thy immortal strains
These roofs demand; listen! with prelude slow,
Solemnly sweet, yet full, the organs blow.
And hark! again, heard ye the choral chant
Peal through the echoing arches, jubilant?
More softly now, imploring litanies,
Wafted to heaven, and mingling with the sighs
Of penitence, from yonder altar rise;
Again the vaulted roof Hosannahs rings,
Hosannah! Lord of lords, and King of kings!
Rent, but not prostrate; stricken, yet sublime;
Reckless alike of injuries or time;
Thou, unsubdued in silent majesty,
The tempest hast defied, and shalt defy!
The temple of our Sion so shall mock
The muttering storm, the very earthquakes shock,
Founded, O Christ, on thy eternal rock!



William Lisle Bowles

Poem Theme: Abbeys

William Lisle Bowles's other poems:
  1. Sonnet 7. At a Village in Scotland
  2. Netley Abbey
  3. Sonnet 11. Written at Ostend
  4. Glastonbury Abbey and Wells Cathedral
  5. Sonnet 5. To the River Tweed


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