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in solid stone. A celebrated French architect afterward told me that one man could not complete the work upon that ceiling in a less time than a thousand years.
But they are not all of royal or noble blood that rest here. Greater Englishmen than English kings have a name and a grave within these solemn chambers. Bucklers, helmets, and broadswords are spread over the tomb of the bold baron; the cross and the crosier mark the sepulchre of some pious bishop; and over this tomb are banners, streamers, and all the insignia of naval triumph, doing honor to some captain of the sea, who is here alike forgetful of the roar of the battle and the terrors the wreck.
As you pass along those aisles whose silence is unbroken save by your own footfall, and read the quaint epitaph of heroes of olden time, insensibly will the impression steal over the imagination that it was but yesterday that all these dead were alive, and you, a stranger from the far future, have been carried back to the days of ancient chivalry to converse with walking shadows; to think of the present as though it were a prophecy, a dream, or a hope, and of the past as though it were a reality.
And yet speak to that suit of armor which seems now to threaten as it once did in battle-it returns no answer; the voice is still that once spoke through those iron jaws, and the cold moisture which gathers on its rusted face seems like tears shed over the hero who once wore it.
When the mind is full of thoughts suggested by these relics of antiquity, and the heart full of emotions;
when the images of great men who have long flitted around the fancy appear, and we see before us the very sword they once used in battle, and the very banner that once floated over them, there is no room left for other thought; we cannot contemplate modern times or our own existence. While we are lingering in a place where England has preserved all that she could of the great and the virtuous-a place of which we have read and thought from childhood, and around which so many bright recollections cluster—what marvel if hours on hours steal away ere we wake from the strong illusion.
The day had passed away as a night of rich dreams goes by, and we were unconsious how long we had been strolling around the walls, until the evening light began to stream in more and more feebly through the lofty stained windows, and a deeper gloom settled upon every part of the Abbey. And when increasing darkness had spread through all the cloisters, chapels, and passages, a more solemn and mysterious gloom, I could not but ask, what is night, deep, dark night — without moon, star, or taper-around these silent poets, barons, priests, sages, heroes, and kings!
Is never a sigh heard to come forth from these damp tombs ? a shout from some sleeping warrior ? Might we not hear from some part of the Abbey a faint voice as if it came from "spirit land ?”
No! these dead do never waken or walk: the battleaxe has fallen from the strong hand of the Saxon and the Norman, and they rest in stillness together. Genius, which lived in sorrow and died in want, here
sleeps as proudly as royalty. All is silence; but here “silence is greater than speech."
This is the great treasure-house of England. If every record on earth besides were blotted out, and the memory of the living should fade away, the stranger could still in Westminster Abbey write the history of the past; for England's records are here: from the rude and bloody escutcheons of the ancient Briton to the ensigns of Norman chivalry, and from these to admiralty stars and civic honors. The changes which civilization has made in its progress through the world, have left their impressions upon these stones and marbles.
On the monument where each great man rests, his age has uttered its language; and among such numbers of the dead there is the language of many ages. England speaks from its barbarity, its revolutions, and its newest civilization. Each generation has laid some of its illustrious ones here, and it is no wonder that there is not a spot to which an Englishman turns his eye with so much pride as to Westminster; nor a spot which the traveler so well loves to visit.
One cannot but feel both gratitude and indignation here: gratitude for every noble effort in behalf of humanity, civilization, liberty, and truth, made by these sleepers ; indignation at every base deed, every effort to quench the light of science or destroy freedom of thought; every outrage inflicted upon man; and every blow aimed against liberty by the oppressors of the
There is not a great author here who did not write for us; not a man of science who did not investigate truth for us; we have received advantage from every
hour of toil that ever made these good and great men weary.
A wanderer from the most distant and barbarous nation on earth cannot come here without finding the graves of his benefactors. Those who love science and truth, and long for the day when perfect freedom of thought and action shall be the common heritage of man, will feel grateful, as they stand under these arches, for all the struggles, and all the trials to enlighten and emancipate the world, which the great who here rest from their labors have so nobly endured.
And, above all, the scholar, who has passed his best years in study, will here find the graves of his teachers. He has long worshiped their genius; he has gathered inspiration and truth from their writings; they have made his solitary hours, which to other men are a dreary waste, like the magical gardens of Armida, “whose enchantments arose amid solitude, and whose solitude was every
those enchantments." The scholar may wish to shed his tears alone, but he cannot stand by the graves of his masters in Westminster Abbey without weeping: they are tears of love and gratitude.
Old structure! Round thy solid form
And centuries roll’d their tide;
Erect, immovable, sublime,
On the bold Saxon's sight;
6 The royal anchorite.”
And felt the mighty beat Of Time's deep flood, as thrones, and kings, And crowns, and all earth's proudest things, ,
It scatter'd at thy feet.
"Tis vanished ! “like a morning cloud”-
And here I stand alone;
A low, perpetual moan,
As generations vast
That covers all the past.
Two stern and haughty foes :
Is hush'd in long repose.