Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tude ; or perhaps the light laugh of pleasure. The contrast is striking with the deathlike repose around : and it has a strange effect upon the feelings, thus to hear the surges of active life hurrying along and beating against the very wall of the sepulchre.

I continued in this way to move from tomb to tomb, and from chapel to chapel. The day was gradually wearing away; the distant tread of loiterers about the Abbey grew less and less frequent; the sun had poured his last ray through the lofty windows; the sweet-tongued bell was summoning to evening prayers ; and I saw at a distance the choristers, in their white surplices, crossing the aisle and entering the choir. I stood before the entrance to Henry the Seventh's chapel. A flight of steps leads up to it, through a deep and gloomy but magnificent arch. Great gates of brass, richly and delicately wrought, turn heavily upon their hinges, as if proudly reluctant to admit the feet of common mortals into this most gorgeous of sepulchres.

On entering, the eye is astonished by the pomp of architecture, and the elaborate beauty of sculptured detail. The very walls are wrought into universal ornament, encrusted with tracery, and scooped into niches, crowded with the statues of saints and martyrs. Stone seems, by the cunning labour of the chisel, to have been robbed of its weight and density, suspended aloft, as if by magic, and the fretted roof achieved with the wonderful minuteness and airy security of a cobweb.

Along the sides of the chapel are the lofty stalls of the Knights of the Bath, richly carved of oak, though with the grotesque decorations of Gothic architecture. On the pinnacles of the stalls are affixed the helmets and crests of the knights, with their scarfs and swords; and above them are suspended their banners, emblazoned with armorial bearings, and contrasting the splendour of gold and purple and crimson with the cold, grey fretwork of the roof. In the midst of this grand mausoleum stands the sepulchre of its

a

founder-his effigy, with that of his queen, extended on a sumptuous tomb, and the whole surrounded by a lofty and superbly wrought brazen railing.

There is a sad dreariness in this magnificence; this strange mixture of tombs and trophies ; these emblems of living and aspiring ambition, close beside mementoes which show the dust and oblivion in which all must sooner or later terminate. Nothing impresses the mind with a deeper feeling of loneliness than to tread the silent and deserted scene of former throng and pageant. On looking round on the vacant stalls of the knights and their esquires, and on the rows of dusty but gorgeous banners that were once borne before them, my imagination conjured up the scene when this hall was bright with the valour and beauty of the land ; glittering with the splendour of jewelled rank and military array ; alive with the tread of many feet and the hum of an admiring multitude. All had passed away : the silence of death had settled again upon the place, interrupted only by the casual chirping of birds, which had found their way into the chapel, and built their nests among its friezes and pendants—sure signs of solitariness and desertion. When I read the names inscribed on the banners, they were those of men scattered far and wide about the world; some tossing upon distant seas; some under arms in distant lands; some mingling in the busy intrigues of courts and cabinets; all seeking to deserve one more distinction in this mansion of shadowy honours ; the melancholy reward of a monument.

The sounds of casual footsteps had ceased from the Abbey. I could only hear, now and then, the distant voice of the priest repeating the evening service, and the faint responses of the choir; these paused for a time, and all was hushed. The stillness, the desertion and obscurity that were gradually prevailing around, gave a deeper and more solemn interest to the place.

Suddenly the notes of the deep labouring organ burst upon the ear, falling with doubled and redoubled intensity, and

rolling, as it were, huge billows of sound. How well do their volume and grandeur accord with this mighty building ! With what pomp do they swell through its vast vaults, and breathe their awful harmony through these caves of death, and make the silent sepulchre vocal !—And now they rise in triumphant acclamation, heaving higher and higher their accordant notes, and piling sound on sound. And now they pause, and the soft voices of the choir break out into sweet gushes of melody ; they soar aloft, and warble along the roof, and seem to play about these lofty vaults like the pure airs of heaven. Again the pealing organ heaves its thrilling thunders, compressing air into music, and rolling it forth upon the soul.

What long-drawn cadences ! What solemn sweeping concords ! It grows more and more dense and powerful—it fills the vast pile, and seems to jar the very walls—the ear is stunned—the senses are overwhelmed. And now it is winding up in full jubilee—it is rising from the earth to heaven-the very soul seems rapt away and floated upwards on this swelling tide of harmony !

I sat for some time lost in that kind of reverie which a strain of music is apt sometimes to inspire : the shadows of evening were gradually thickening around me; the monuments began to cast deeper and deeper gloom ; and the distant clock again gave token of the slowly waning day.

I rose and prepared to leave the Abbey. As I descended the flight of steps which lead into the body of the building, my eye was caught by the shrine of Edward the Confessor, and I ascended the small staircase that conducts to it, to take from thence a general survey of this wilderness of tombs. The shrine is elevated upon a kind of platform, and close around it are the sepulchres of various kings and queens. From this eminence the eye looks down between pillars and funereal trophies to the chapels and chambers below, crowded with tombs, where warriors, prelates, courtiers, and statesmen lie mouldering in their 'beds of darkness.' Close by me stood the giant chair of coronation, rudely carved of oak, in the barbarous taste of a remote and Gothic age.

The scene seemed almost as if contrived, with theatrical artifice, to produce an effect upon the beholder. Here was a type of the beginning and the end of human pomp and power; here it was literally but a step from the throne to the sepulchre.

The last beams of day were now faintly streaming through the painted windows in the high vaults above me: the lower parts of the Abbey were already wrapped in the obscurity of twilight. The chapels and aisles grew darker and darker. The effigies of the kings faded into shadows; the marble figures of the monuments assumed strange shapes in the uncertain light; the evening breeze crept through the aisles like the cold breath of the grave ; and even the distant footfall of a verger, traversing the Poet's Corner, had something strange and dreary in its sound. I slowly retraced my morning's walk, and as I passed out at the portal of the cloisters, the door, closing with a jarring noise behind me, filled the whole building with echoes.

WASHINGTON IRVING.

MORNING HYMN IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN.

From under shady arborous roof
Soon as they forth were come to open sight
Of dayspring, and the sun- -who scarce uprisen,
With wheels yet hovering o'er the ocean brim,
Shot parallel to the earth his dewy ray,
Discovering in wide landscape all the east
Of Paradise and Eden's happy plains-
Lowly they bowed, adoring, and began
Their orisons, each morning duly paid
In various style ; for neither various style
For holy rapture wanted they to praise
Their Maker in fit strains, pronounced or sung
Unmeditated ; such prompt eloquence
Flowed from their lips, in prose or numerous verse,

ye

More tuneable than needed lute or harp
To add more sweetness ; and they thus began :
* These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty! thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair ; thyself how wondrous then !
Unspeakable, who sittest above these heavens,
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works; yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.--
Speak, ye who best can tell, ye sons of light,
Angels ; for

behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne rejoicing; ye in Heaven,
On earth join, all ye creatures, to extol
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.
Fairest of stars, last in the train of night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
Sure pledge of day, that crown'st the smiling Morn
With thy bright circlet, praise him in thy sphere,
While day arises, that sweet hour of prime,
Thou Sun, of this great World both eye and soul,
Acknowledge him thy greater ; sound his praise
In thy eternal course, both when thou climbest,
And when high noon hast gained, and when thou fallest.
Moon, that now meet'st the orient Sun, now fliest
With the fixed stars, fixed in their orb that flies ;
And

ye, five other wandering Fires, that move
In mystic dance not without song, resound
His praise, who out of darkness called up light.
Air, and ye Elements, the eldest birth
Of Nature's womb, that in quaternion run
Perpetual circle, multiform, and mix
And nourish all things, let your ceaseless change
Vary to our great Maker still new praise.
Ye Mists and Exhalations, that now rise
From hill or steaming lake, dusky or grey,

« ZurückWeiter »