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There, with Saint Cuthbert's Abbot old,
And Tynemouth's Prioress, to hold
A chapter of Saint Benedict,
For inquisition stern and strict,
On two apostates from the faith,
And, if need were, to doom to death.
Nought say I here of Sister Clare,
Save this, that she was young and fair;
As yet a novice unprofessed,
Lovely, and gentle, but distressed.
She was betrothed to one now dead,
Or worse, who had dishonoured fled.
Her kinsmen bade her give her hand
To one, who loved her for her land:
Herself, almost heart-broken now,
Was bent to take the vestal vow,
And shroud, within Saint Hilda's gloom,
Her blasted hopes and withered bloom.
She sate upon the galley's prow,
And seemed to mark the waves below;
Nay seemed, so fixed her look and eye,
To count them as they glided by.
She saw them not—'twas seeming all —
Far other scene her thoughts recal,
A sun-scorched desart, waste and bare,
Nor wave, nor breezes, murmured there;
There saw she, where some careless hand
O’er a dead corpse had heaped the sand,
To hide it till the jackalls come,
To tear it from the scanty tomb.
See what a woeful look was given,
As she raised up her eyes to heaven!
Lovely, and gentle, and distressed -
These charms might tame the fiercest breast :
Harpers have sung, and poets told,
That he, in fury uncontrouled,
The shaggy monarch of the wood,
Before a virgin, fair and good,
Hath pacified his savage mood.
But passions in the human frame
Oft put the lion's rage to shame : .
And jealousy, by dark intrigue,
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
Prisoned in Cuthbert's islet gray.
And 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 marked, amid her trees, the hall
Of lofty Seaton-Delaval ;
They saw the Blythe and Wansbeck floods
Rush to the sea through sounding woods ;
They past the tower of Widderington,
Mother of many a valiant son ;
At Coquet-isle their beads they tell,
To the good Saint who owned the cell;
Then did the Alne attention claim,
And Warkworth, proud of Percy's name;
And next, they crossed themselves, to hear
The whitening breakers sound so near,
Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar
On Dunstanborough’s caverned shore ;
Thy tower, proud Bamborough, marked they here,
King Ida's castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look grimly down,
And on the swelling ocean frown;
Then from the coast they bore away, And reached the Holy Island’s bay.
IX. The tide did now its flood-mark gain, And girdled in the Saint's domain : For, with the flow and ebb, its stile 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 sandaled 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.