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In Saxon strength that Abbey frowned,
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 poured his impious rage in vain ;
And needful was such strength to these,
Exposed to the tempestuous seas,
Scourged by the wind's 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 stile,
Shewed where the spoiler's hand had been;
Not but the wasting sea-breeze keen
Had worn the pillar's carving quaint,
And mouldered 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.
Soon as they neared 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-drowned 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 reliques 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, Rushed emulously through the flood,
To hale the bark to land; Conspicuous by her veil and hood, Signing the cross, the Abbess stood,
And blessed them with her hand.
XII. Suppose 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 unhallowed 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 strayed and gazed their fill,
They closed around the fire;
And all, in turn, essayed 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.
Then Whitby's nuns exulting told,
How to their house three barons bold
Must menial service do;
While horns blow out a note of shame,
And monks cry “ Fye upon your name !
In wrath, for loss of sylvan game,
Saint Hilda's priest ye slew.”
“ This, on Ascension-day, each year,
While labouring on our harbour-pier,
Must Herbert, Bruce, and Percy hear.”
They told, how in their convent cell
A Saxon princess once did dwell,
The lovely Edelfled; .
And how, of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When holy Hilda prayed ;
| Themselves, within their holy bound,
Their stony folds had often found.
They told, how sea-fowls' pinions fail,
As over Whitby's towers they sail,
And, sinking down, with flutterings faint,
They do their homage to the saint.
Nor did Saint Cuthbert's daughters fail,
To vie with these in holy tale;