The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1801.
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THOUGHTS WRITTEN IN THE DISSOLVED ABBEY OF ST. AUGUSTINE, NEAR CANTERBURY, A. D. 1800.
Dedicated, with much respect, to the GOVERNORS of the KENT AND CANTERBURY HOSPITAL, standing within its precinct.
WITHIN these walls, where ruin bears the sway, (fn. 1)
And scatters relics with a wasteful hand:
Where monks, in early times, were wont to pray,
And kings, in later days, have rul'd the land:
Where, first, AUGUSTINE to the Pagan spake,
Bade him be convert to the Christian cause,
Reform his temples and his Gods forsake,
And brought the wayward heathen to a pause:
By soft incitements won his listless ear,
Religion's comforts open'd to his view;
Gain'd on his thoughts, and bent his mind to fear
Its holy precepts, then reveal'd to few. (fn. 2)
Beneath the shadow of this losty tow'r,
TO ETHELBERT inscrib'd, where many a dove, (fn. 3)
On seat o'erhung with ivy as a bow'r,
Alost, sits cooing to the calls of love:
Here will I bring my mind to solemn test:
Seek Wisdom's source and draw from thence the truth;
Pure fountain, rising from this feat of rest,
That holds, alike, the aged and the youth;
Indulge in fancy's walk, my wonted stray,
Now as the rays of light are on the wane;
Lure back the sounds that cheer'd the pilgrim's way,
Ere to this abbey, or the saint he came,
Of peal that rang on festive days so well,
With rapt' rous thrills that shook the hallow'd dome,
Or chime that to the service warn'd, or knell,
That call'd the weary trav'ller to his home;
Of chant that echo'd in the vaulted choir,
The voice of melody in sacred song;
Of organs, serpents, or the boasted lyre,
Sweet soother of the mind, if tuneful strung!
Invoke the founder of this great domain,
Or lordly abbot who a mitre rear'd,
Both high vicegerents in the papal train,
The BECKETS of their day and equal fear'd;
Or monk, who here at vespers oft was seen,
And kept the sacred vestments of the church, (fn. 4)
Its alms dispos'd, and trod the neighb'ring green,
Alas!—they all are fled—beyond my search.
Nor shall those walls that totter on the swing,
Sad emblems now of what before were one,
The once proud palace of a prouder king, (fn. 5)
Hold up each other, but like him be gone!
So large the havoc, the decay so wide,
Scarce vestiges are found to shew its fame,
All is a ruin there! what was of pride,
Is now laid low, and takes a fitter name.
Nor long shall wanton spoil her empire hold,
O'er what remains of grandeur to destroy;
Few are her objects now, and easy told,
So few, there's little left her to annoy.
Saving yon portal by the northern way,
Whose beauty keeps aloof the daring hand,
Protects her fabric and secures her stay,
Proud monument of art, in all that's grand!
Oft have I seen an artist peering there
To catch the semblance of her favour'd mien,
Or view her graces, while as yet she's here,
A fight so comely, and so rarely seen.
Save too the western gate of plainer hue,
With lofty tow'rs that o'er the city shine,
Procession's way; and whence, with gawdy shew,
Princes went prostrate to the martyr's shrine.
Wou'd, that these fam'd remains of gothic taste,
Structures that charm us, yet excite our dread,
Might stand immoveable; secure from waste,
As sacred land-marks, set to guard the dead!
To free from idle sport, and long to ward
Their moulder'd ashes, whereso'er they light;
To stay the rugged spade that turns the sward,
The hold of all that's mortal from the sight!
This holy task fulfil'd, one yet remains,
On which my heart is eager to indite,
The living, in this precinct, have their claims;
The calls of woe that ever will invite!
Lo! yonder phoenix, from a ruin sprung,
A blest INFIRMARY for helpless man:
Diseas'd, afflicted, or with sickness wrung,
He there finds comfort, if in life he can.
But for this house a stranger late had past
The vale he sought, as then his only boon;
A victim to despair, that held him fast,
Had pin'd, nor linger'd long, but dropt at noon.
There for his ills he met, as oft is heard,
With pity and relief, his wonted ode;
Recov'ring now, he braves the woes he fear'd,
And lives the tenant of this blest abode.
Since there the wretched are from ruin sav'd,
And owe this blessing to a friend of mine,
'Twere just, if said to whom—but that is wav'd,
His same is permanent, and stands with time. (fn. 6)
The muse would now retire—but much is due,
Of grateful tribute to the public cares!
In homely dress, and not in metre true,
She fears to speak, and speaks too long she fears.
Yet might she breathe again, as sorrow's friend,
Express her feelings, as she so has aim'd,
Fain wou'd the bless the labours that attend,
Those who protect, and those who cure the maim'd.
Theirs is the part our SAVIOUR meekly took,
The sick, the halt, the blind, to snatch from death,
Nor seek they recompence, but forward look
TO HIM, the Christian's monitor on earth.
Long may the fost'ring hand of public zeal,
Inclin'd to mercy, ward the lifted rod;
Pour forth its bounties there, the wounded heal,
And raise a grateful offering to GOD!
Almonry of St. Augustine's,