[from Island Minstrelsy, 1839]


Telling a tale of old,—a cold, true tale
Of time.—Sad fugitive

A STRANGER came unto the roofless walls
And mouldering aisles of that deserted shrine,
What time the sun was sinking to its couch
In the deep crimson'd west; when the calm eve,
The summer Sabbath eve, was pouring forth
Its floods of parting incense to the soul
Of Nature's worshipper ; and balmiest hymn
Of fervent adoration rose to heaven,
And earth was bright with mellow'd radiance,
The gorgeous splendour of that sunset hour.
The holy hush of Sabbathean calm.
That, intense breathlessness, pervaded all
With a most breathless feeling, so profound,
That earth's cold thoughts were blasphemies too dual
To mingle with its worship. And the soul
Flew beyond earthly things,—aye, far beyond
The realm of planets, to the Almighty's throne,
And conjured up the buried forms of old
To meet its mad pulsations in the shies.
O, there is gladness in a summer's eve,
A silent homage, redolent of heaven,
Which stirreth up within the earth—bound heart
Its principles of never—dying thought,—
Aye, waketh up its heavenly origin,
Its fervent aspirations for a honic
Where Sabbaths are eternal. Lovely home !
Beautiful, shadowy in thy far—off bliss.

* * * *

There came a stranger, on this Sabbath eve,
To gaze upon that shatter'd monument
Of the old days gone by; but it was lone,
Deserted, fallen,—utter solitude !
There wvere no worshippers where once glad hearts
Were pealing Hallelujahs. Silence now
Dwelt with the solitude ! The old gray man *
Was gather'd to his fathers,—aye, he slept
Calmly amid his household. One by one,
He laid them in the churchyard. The gay band
Of young rejoicing beings they did pass
Briefly and uncomplainingly away,
Unto an early grave amid the plains.
Consumption smil'd with her death lightnings
From the blue sparkling eye, and the pale cheek
Vermeil'd beneath them as the ocean shell.—
Yea, those young spirits in their purity
Flash'd forth such coruscations ere their close,
As made hearts dream of years of blessedness.
But the Invisible had even then raised
Death's cold extinguisher, and they went out
In their bright spring of glory. Human hopes
And flowers have a brief lifetime:—and the power
That withers violets had breath'd on them,
And they were laid in their unshadow'd youth
Beside their own dear moss—clad sanctuary.
So slept their sainted mother far away
Amid the uplands of another home,
Resting in hope to rise at God's right hand.
The pious man—that old bereaved gray man,
Liv'd on in thankfulness amid his flock.
Time—worn and shatter'd as that temple was
In its decaying glory, 'twas to him
A clear companion in life's wilderness,
A link which bound him to the present hour
With memories of the part, and there came hope
That lie would fall and pass with it away.
The old church moulder'd, and the wintry winds
In warring o'er it shook its feeble strength;
That hoary record of primeval times
Totter'd for very age,—yea, the bright day
Stream'd thro' its naked roof; yet the old man
Pray'd in the ruin'd temple of his heart.
A new fane rose. Proudly it tower'd on high
For a new generation; proudly smil'd
Above the fallen. The old man died then,—
Died, full of years and grace; for 'twas not meet
That he should linger on, and that gray shrine
Deserted, desolated, and forgot!
The stranger gaz'd, and ponder'd musingly
O'er those old memories of buried things,
Till fancy's car could conjure up past tones,
And fancy's eye could conjure up past forms —
Where venomous weeds were rampant, and where shone
Sunset o'er desolation !
There did come
A solitary mavis from its nest
Amid the hazels of the darkening glen,
' And perch'd upon that ruin'd pinnacle.—
It did attune its little mellow throat
To such a flood of liquid minstrelsy,
A hymn of adoration so intense,
That human hearts could not but blend with it
In fervent worship and humility.
Beautiful emblem of the Christian's hope,—
Beautiful emblem of the Christian's soul
Soaring to heaven on the strong wings of Faith,
From out the valley of deep shadowing;
The set of earthly suns, the very graves
Of earthly happiness, the very stake,
The prize of martyrs ;—aye, there Faith could hymn
Amid the ashes of the blazing pyre !
The stranger turned, and went his wanderings,
That scene engraven steeply on his heart.
He pass'd away, far o'er the channel wave;
Yet, when he wakes to watch with memory
In the deep silent caverns of the brain,
They hold a high and holy festival
O'er the departed glories of the earth;
And in the magic mirror of the past
Rises that simple, old Manks Rectory,+
With its deserted shrine !

* The late Rev. Hugh Stowell, the revered and lamented biographer of Bishop Wilson. [1768-1835]
+ Ballaugh.


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