The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 1/Elegy on Newstead Abbey
ELEGY ON NEWSTEAD ABBEY.
"It is the voice of years, that are gone! they roll before me, with all their deeds."—Ossian.
Newstead! fast-falling, once-resplendent dome!
Hail to thy pile! more honour'd in thy fall,
Else might inspiring Fancy's magic eye
But not from thee, dark pile! departs the Chief;
Yes! in thy gloomy cells and shades profound,
A Monarch bade thee from that wild arise,
Where, now, the grass exhales a murky dew,
Years roll on years; to ages, ages yield;
One holy Henry rear'd the Gothic walls,
Vain is each threat, or supplicating prayer;
Hark! how the hall, resounding to the strain,
Of changing sentinels the distant hum,
An abbey once, a regal fortress now,
Ah! vain defence! the hostile traitor's siege,
Not unaveng'd the raging Baron yields;
Still, in that hour, the warrior wish'd to strew
From thee, poor pile! to lawless plunder given,
There many a pale and ruthless Robber's corse,
Graves, long with rank and sighing weeds o'erspread,
Hush'd is the harp, unstrung the warlike lyre,
At length the sated murderers, gorged with prey,
Here, Desolation holds her dreary court:
Soon a new Morn's restoring beams dispel
With storms she welcomes his expiring groans;
The legal Ruler now resumes the helm,
The gloomy tenants, Newstead! of thy cells,
Vassals, within thy hospitable pale,
A thousand songs, on tuneful echo, float,
Beneath their coursers' hoofs the valleys shake;
Ah happy days! too happy to endure!
From these descending, Sons to Sires succeed;
Newstead! what saddening change of scene is thine!
Deserted now, he scans thy gray worn towers;
Yet are his tears no emblem of regret:
Yet he prefers thee, to the gilded domes,
Haply thy sun, emerging, yet, may shine,
- As one poem on this subject is already printed, the author had, originally, no intention of inserting the following. It is now added at the particular request of some friends.
- Hours of Idleness.
- Henry II. founded Newstead soon after the murder of Thomas à Becket.
- This word is used by Walter Scott, in his poem, The Wild Huntsman as synonymous with "vassal."
- The red cross was the badge of the Crusaders.
- As "gloaming," the Scottish word for twilight, is far more poetical, and has been recommended by many eminent literary men, particularly by Dr. Moore in his Letters to Burns, I have ventured to use it on account of its harmony.
- Soon as the twilight winds a waning shade.—[P. on V. Occasions.]
- The priory was dedicated to the Virgin.—[Hours of Idleness.]
- At the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII. bestowed Newstead Abbey on Sir John Byron.
- [During the lifetime of Lord Byron's predecessor in the title there was found in the lake a large brass eagle, in the body of which were concealed a number of ancient deeds and documents. This eagle is supposed to have been thrown into the lake by the retreating monks.—Life, p. 2, note. It is now a lectern in Southwell Minster.]
- Newstead sustained a considerable siege in the war between Charles I. and his parliament.
- Lord Byron and his brother Sir William held high commands in the royal army. The former was general-in-chief in Ireland, lieutenant of the Tower, and governor to James, Duke of York, afterwards the unhappy James II.; the latter had a principal share in many actions. [Vide ante, p. 3, note 1.]
- Lucius Cary, Lord Viscount Falkland, the most accomplished man of his age, was killed at the Battle of Newbury, charging in the ranks of Lord Byron's regiment of cavalry.
- —— of the laurell'd wreath.—[P. on V. Occasions.]
- This is an historical fact. A violent tempest occurred immediately subsequent to the death or interment of Cromwell, which occasioned many disputes between his partisans and the cavaliers: both interpreted the circumstance into divine interposition; but whether as approbation or condemnation, we leave to the casuists of that age to decide. I have made such use of the occurrence as suited the subject of my poem.
- Charles II.
- Howling, forsake ——.—[P. on V. Occasions.]
- [An indication of Byron's feelings towards Newstead in his younger days will be found in his letter to his mother of March 6, 1809.]
- Fortune may smile upon a future line,
And heaven restore an ever-cloudless day.—[P. on V. Occasions. Hours of Idleness.]