Edmund Clarence Stedman

1833-1908

 

Ye Tombe Of Ye Poet Chaucer

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

Abbot and monks of Westminster
Here placed his tomb, in all men's view.
Our Chaucer dead? -- King Harry said, --
A mass for him, and burial due!
This very aisle his footsteps knew;
Here Gower's benediction fell, --
Brother thou were and minstral trewe;
Now slepe thou wel.

There died with that old century's death,
I wot, five hundred years ago,
One whose blithe heart, whose morning art,
Made England's Castaly to flow.
He in whose song that fount we know,
With every tale the skylarks tell,
Had right, Saint Bennet's wall below
To slumber well.

Eftsoons his master piously
In Surrey hied him to his rest;
The Thames, between their closes green,
Parted these warblers breast from breast, --
The gravest from the joyfulest
Whose notes the matin chorus swell:
A league divided, east and west,
They slumber well.

Is there no care in holy ground
The world's deep undertone to hear?
Can this strong sleep our Chaucer keep
When May-time buds and blossoms peer?
Less strange that many a sceptred year,
While the twin houses towered and fell,
Alike through England's pride and fear,
He slumbered well.

The envious Roses woefully
By turns a bleeding kingdom sway;
Thrones topple down, -- to robe and crown
Who comes at last must hew his way.
No sound of all that piteous fray,
Nor of its ceasing, breaks the spell;
Still on, to great Eliza's day,
He slumbers well.

Methinks, had Shakespeare lightly walked
Anear him in the minster old,
He would have heard, -- his sleep had stirred
With dreams of wonders manifold;
Even though no sad vibration told
His ear when sounded Mary's knell, --
Though, when the mask on Charles laid hold,
He slumbered well.

In climes beyond his calendar
The latest century's splendors grow;
London is great, -- the Abbey's state
A young world's eager wanderers know;
New songs, new minstrels, come and go;
Naught as of old outside his cell, --
Just as of old, within it low,
He slumbers well.

And now, when hawthorn is in flower,
And throstles sing as once sang he,
In this last age, on pilgrimage
Like mine from lands that distant be,
Come youths and maidens, summer-free,
Where shades of bards and warriors dwell,
And say, The sire of minstrelsy
Here slumbers well;

And say, While London's Abbey stands
No less shall England's strength endure!

Ay, though its old wall crumbling fall,
Shall last her song's sweet overture;
Some purling stream shall flow, be sure,
From out the ivied heap, to tell
That here the fount of English pure
Long slumbered well.

1879

Source:

Poems now first collected:
Copyright 1897
Houghton, Mifflin And Company
Boston And New York
 
Link To This Page