Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NETLEY ABBEY, MIDNIGHT, by WILLIAM S. SOTHEBY



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NETLEY ABBEY, MIDNIGHT, by            
First Line: Soft on the wave the oars at distance sound
Last Line: Shall pour the lenient balm that soothes the soul to peace.
Subject(s): Funerals; Melancholy; Night; Burials; Dejection; Bedtime


SOFT on the wave the oars at distance sound,
The night-breeze sighing through the leafy spray
With gentle whisper murmurs all around,
Breathes on the placid sea, and dies away.
As sleeps the moon upon her cloudless height,
And the swol'n spring-tide heaves beneath the light,
Slow lingering on the solitary shore
Along the dewy path my steps I bend,
Lonely to yon forsaken fane descend,
To muse on youth's wild dreams amid the ruins hoar.

Within the sheltered centre of the aisle,
Beneath the ash whose growth romantic spreads
Its foliage trembling o'er the funeral pile,
And all around a deeper darkness sheds;
While through yon arch, where the thick ivy twines,
Bright on the silvered tower the moonbeam shines,
And the grey cloister's roofless length illumes,
Upon the mossy stone I lie reclined,
And to a visionary world resigned
Call the pale spectres forth from the forgotten tombs.

Spirits! the desolated wreck that haunt,
Who frequent by the village maiden seen
When sudden shouts at eve the wanderer daunt,
And shapeless shadows sweep along the green;
And ye, in midnight horrors heard to yell
Round the destroyer of the holy cell, With interdictions dread of boding sound;
Who, when he prowled the rifled walls among,
Prone on his brow the massy fragment flung;—
Come from your viewless caves, and tread this hallowed ground!

How oft, when homeward forced at day's dim close,
In youth, as bending back I mournful stood,
Fixed on the favourite spot where first arose
The pointed ruin peeping o'er the wood;
Methought I heard upon the passing wind
Melodious sounds in solemn chorus joined
Echoing the chaunted vesper's peaceful note:
Oft through the veil of night's descending cloud,
Saw gleaming far the visionary crowd
Down the deep vaulted aisle in long procession float.

But now no more the gleaming forms appear,
Within their graves at rest the fathers sleep;
And not a sound comes to the wistful ear,
Save the low murmur of the tranquil deep,
Or from the grass that in luxuriant pride
Waves o'er yon eastern window's sculptured side,
The dewdrops bursting on the fretted stone:
While faintly from the distant coppice heard
The music of the melancholy bird
Trills to the silent heaven a sweetly-plaintive moan.

Farewell, delightful dreams, that charmed my youth!
Farewell, the aerial note, the shadowy train!
Now while this shrine inspires sublimer truth,
While cloistered echo breathes a solemn strain,
In the deep stillness of the midnight hour
Wisdom shall curb wild fancy's magic power,
And as with life's gay dawn the illusions cease,
Though from the heart steal forth a sigh profound,
Here resignation o'er its secret wound
Shall pour the lenient balm that soothes the soul to peace.





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