Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHAPEL BELL, by ROBERT SOUTHEY



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THE CHAPEL BELL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Lo I, the man who erst the muse did ask
Last Line: And roman rites retained, though roman faith be flown.
Subject(s): Bells; Churches; Monks; Rome, Italy; Cathedrals


Lo I, the man who erst the muse did ask
Her deepest notes to swell the patriot's meeds,
And now enforced, a far unfitter task,
For cap and gown to leave my minstrel weeds;
For yon dull tone that tinkles on the air
Bids me lay by the lyre, and go to morning prayer.

Oh, how I hate the sound! it is the knell
That still a requiem tolls to comfort's hour;
And loth am I, at superstition's bell,
To quit or Morpheus or the muse's bower:
Better to lie and doze than gape amain,
Hearing still mumbled o'er the same eternal strain.

Thou tedious herald of more tedious prayers,
Say, hast thou ever summoned from his rest
One being wakening to religious cares?
Or roused one pious transport in the breast?
Or rather, do not all reluctant creep
To linger out the hour in listlessness or sleep?

I love the bell that calls the poor to pray,
Chiming from village church its cheerful sound,
When the sun smiles on labour's holy-day,
And all the rustic train are gathered round,
Each deftly dizened in his Sunday's best,
And pleased to hail the day of piety and rest.

And when, dim shadowing o'er the face of day,
The mantling mists of eventide rise slow,
As through the forest gloom I wend my way,
The minster curfew's sullen voice I know,
And pause, and love its solemn toll to hear,
As, made by distance soft, it dies upon the ear.

Nor with an idle nor unwilling ear
Do I receive the early passing-bell;
For sick at heart with many a secret care,
When I lie listening to the dead man's knell,
I think that in the grave all sorrows cease,
And would full fain recline my head, and be at peace.

But thou, memorial of monastic gall!
What fancy sad or lightsome thou hast given!
Thy vision-scaring sounds alone recal
The prayer that trembles on a yawn to heaven!
And this dean's gape, and that dean's nasal tone,
And Roman rites retained, though Roman faith be flown.





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