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With sordid avarice in league,
Had practised, with their bowl and knife
Against the mourner's harmless life.
This crime was charged 'gainst those who lay
Prison'd in Cuthbert's islet grey.
ND now the vessel skirts the strand
Of mountainous Northumberland. Towns, towers, and halls, successive rise, And catch the nuns' delighted eyes. Monk-Wearmouth soon behind them lay, And Tynemouth's priory and bay; They mark’d, amid her trees, the hall Of lofty Seaton-Delaval ; They saw the Blythe and Wansbeck floods Rush to the sea through sounding woods ; They pass'd the tower of Widderington, Mother of many a valiant son ; At Coquet-isle their beads they tell To the good Saint who own'd the cell ; Then did the Alne attention claim, And Warkworth, proud of Percy's name ; And next, they cross'd themselves, to hear
The whitening breakers sound so near,
Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar
On Dunstanborough's cavern'd shore ;
Thy tower, proud Bamborough, mark'd they
King Ida's castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look'd grimly down,
And on the swelling ocean frown ;
Then from the coast they bore away,
And reach'd the Holy Island's bay.
HE tide did now its flood-mark gain,
And girdled in the Saint's domain :
For, with the flow and ebb, its style
Varies from continent to isle ;
Dry-shod, o'er sands, twice every day,
The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
Twice every day, the waves efface
Of staves and sandali'd feet the trace.
As to the port the galley flew,
Higher and higher rose to view
The Castle with its battled walls,
The ancient Monastery's halls,
A solemn, huge, and dark-red pile,
Placed on the margin of the isle.
N Saxon strength that Abbey frown'd,
With massive arches broad and round,
That rose alternate, row and row,
On ponderous columns, short and low,
Built ere the art was known,
By pointed aisle, and shafted stalk,
The arcades of an alley'd walk
To emulate in stone.
On the deep walls, the heathen Dane
Had pour'd his impious rage in vain ;
And needful was such strength to these,
Exposed to the tempestuous seas,
Scourged by the winds' eternal sway,
Open to rovers fierce as they,
Which could twelve hundred years withstand
Winds, waves, and northern pirates' hand.
Not but that portions of the pile,
Rebuilded in a later style,
Show'd where the spoiler's hand had been ;
Not but the wasting sea-breeze keen
Had worn the pillar's carving quaint,
And moulder'd in his niche the saint,
And rounded, with consuming power,
The pointed angles of each tower ;
Yet still entire the Abbey stood,
Like veteran, worn, but unsubdued.
OON as they near'd his turrets strong,
The maidens raised Saint Hilda's song,
And with the sea-wave and the wind,
Their voices, sweetly shrill, combined,
And made harmonious close ;
Then, answering from the sandy shore,
Half-drown'd amid the breakers’ roar,
According chorus rose :
Down to the haven of the Isle,
The monks and nuns in order file,
From Cuthbert's cloisters grim ;
Banner, and cross, and relics there,
To meet Saint Hilda's maids, they bare ;
And, as they caught the sounds on air,
They echoed back the hymn.
The islanders, in joyous mood,
Rush'd emulously through the flood,
To hale the bark to land ; Conspicuous by her veil and hood, Signing the cross, the Abbess stood,
And bless'd them with her hand.
UPPOSE we now the welcome said,
Suppose the Convent banquet made: All through the holy dome, Through cloister, aisle, and gallery, Wherever vestal maid might pry, Nor risk to meet unhallow'd eye,
The stranger sisters roam : Till fell the evening damp with dew, And the sharp sea-breeze coldly blew, For there, even summer night is chill. Then, having stray'd and gazed their fill,
They closed around the fire;
And all, in turn, essay'd to paint
The rival merits of their saint,
A theme that ne'er can tire
A holy maid ; for, be it known,
That their saint's honour is their own.