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What wondrous art will suffer with eclipse !
What unwon glories are in store for thee !
What fame, outreaching time and temporalshocks,
Would shine upon the letters of thy name
Graven in marble, or the brazen height
Of columns wise with memories of thee !"
“Take me! If I outlived the Patriarchs,
I could but paint those features o'er and o'er :
Lo ! that is done." A smile of pity lit
The seraph's features, as he looked to heaven,
With deep inquiry in his tender eyes.
The mandate came. He touched with downy wing
The sufferer lightly on his aching heart;
And gently, as the skylark settles down
Upon the clustered treasures of her nest,
So Carlo softly slid along the prop
Of his tall easel, nestling at the foot
As though he slumbered ; and the morning broke
In silver whiteness over Padua.
Though, vain of her religious sway,
She loved to see her maids obey ;
Yet nothing stern was she in cell,
And the nuns loved their Abbess well.
Sad was this voyage to the dame;
Summoned to Lindisfarne, she came,
There, with Saint Cuthbert's Abbot old,
And Tynemouth's Prioress, to hold
A chapter of Saint Benedict,
For inquisition stern and strict,
On two apostates from the faith,
And, if need were, to doom to death.
Saint Hilda's nuns would learn,
If, on a rock, by Lindisfarne,
Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The sea-born beads that bear his name ;
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
And said they might his shape behold,
And hear his anvil sound ;
A deadened clang,
- a huge dim form, Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm
And night were closing round.
But this, as tale of idle fame,
The nuns of Lindisfarne disclaim.
THE Abbess was of noble blood, But early took the veil and hood, Ere upon life she cast a look, Or knew the world that she forsook. Fair too she was, and kind had been As she was fair, but ne'er had seen For her a timid lover sigh, Nor knew the influence of her eye. Love, to her ear, was but a name, Combined with vanity and shame; Her hopes, her fears, her joys, were all Bounded within the cloister wall : The deadliest sin her mind could reach Was of monastic rule the breach ; And her ambition's highest aim To emulate Saint Hilda's fame. For this she gave her ample dower To raise the convent's eastern tower ; For this, with carving rare and quaint, She decked the chapel of the saint, And gave the relic-shrine of cost, With ivory and gems embost. The poor her convent's bounty blest, The pilgrim in its halls found rest.
While round the fire such legends go,
Far different was the scene of woe,
Where, in a secret aisle beneath,
Council was held of life and death.
It was more dark and lone, that vault,
Than the worst dungeon cell ;
Old Colwulf built it, for his fault
In penitence to dwell,
When he, for cowl and beads, laid down
The Saxon battle-axe and crown.
This den which, chilling every sense
Of feeling, hearing, sight,
Was called the Vault of Penitence,
Excluding air and light,
Was, by the prelate Sexhelm, made
A place of burial for such dead
As, having died in mortal sin,
Might not be laid the church within.
’T was now a place of punishment;
Whence if so loud a shriek were sent
As reached the upper air,
The hearers blessed themselves, and said,
The spirits of the sinful dead
Bemoaned their torments there.
Black was her garb, her rigid rule
Reformed on Benedictine school ;
Her cheek was pale, her form was spare ;
Vigils, and penitence austere,
Had early quenched the light of youth,
But gentle was the dame, in sooth;
But though, in the monastic pile,
Did of this penitential aisle
Some vague tradition go,
Few only, save the Abbot, knew
Where the place lay ; and still more few
Were those who had from him the clew
To that dread vault to go.