Theodore Tilton



Maltby Chapel

by Theodore Tilton

To M. A. B


Maltby Chapel, as you know,
Fell two hundred years ago.
Hardly now is left a stone,
Save upon the graves alone.
If your feet should chance to pass,
Weary, through the churchyard grass,
Rest them by a marble tomb
Crumbling over bride and groom,
Who, when they were hardly wed,
Found the grave their bridal bed.


Flowering in the wall on high,
Like a garden in the sky,
Stood a window of the fane,
Whence, through many a rosy pane,
Lights of purple, blue, and red
Down through nave and aisle were shed.
Central in the fair design
Hung the Sorrowing Man divine;
Near him, gazing, knelt or stood
Mary's weeping sisterhood;
Next, with colors interchanged,
Holy emblems round were ranged,
First a light, and then a dark; --
Here the lion of St. Mark;
There the eagle of St. John;
Cherub heads with pinions on;

Virgin lilies, white as frost;
Palm and olive branches, crossed;
Picture of the Paschal Lamb;
Letters of the great I AM;
Last and topmost, Cross and Crown,
And a White Dove flying down.
Such a window, in the light,
Was itself a wondrous sight;
But the eyes that on it gazed
Saw devoutly, as it blazed,
Not the purple panes alone,
Not the sun that through them shone,
But, beyond the lucent wall,
Heaven itself outshining all!


Up through Maltby's dusty road
Cromwell and his pikemen strode, --
Six and twenty hundred strong, --
Roaring forth a battle song;
Who, in marching to the fray,
Passed the chapel on their way;
Never dreaming how, inside,
Knelt a bridegroom and his bride, --
She the daughter of a peer,
He a knight and Cavalier.
Quoth the leader, Rub the stains
Out of yonder painted panes!

Glancing at a mark to strike,
Then a pikeman raised his pike,
Drew it backward half its length,
Hurled it forward with his strength,
Sent it whizzing through the air,
Sped it with a pious prayer,
Winged it with a holy curse,
Barbed it with a Scripture verse,
Heard it dash through pane and sash,
Till, above the tinkling crash,
Loud his shouting mates exclaimed,
Bravo, Ironsides! well aimed!
So may every church of sin
Have the light of God let in.


Like the spear that pierced the side
Of the Saviour crucified,
So the weapon that was hurled
Smote the Saviour of the world;
Tearing out the sacred tree
Where he hung for you and me;
Curving downward, flying fast
Where the streaming rays were cast;
Flashing from the shaft each hue
Which it caught in quivering through;
Plunging toward the bridal pair
While they yet were bent in prayer;
Then, like very Death's own dart,
Pierced the maiden to the heart!
Back she fell, against the floor,
Lying crimson in her gore,
Till her bloodless face grew pale,
Like the whiteness of her veil!


Years may come, and years may go,
Ere a mortal man shall know
Such a more than mortal pain
As the knight felt in his brain!
Long he knelt beside the dead,
Long he kissed her face and head,
Long he clasped her pulseless palm,
He in tempest, she in calm!
Stricken by his anguish dumb,
Neither words nor tears would come;
Till at last, with groan and shriek,
Brokenly he thus did speak:
O sweet body! turned to clay --
Since thy soul hath fled away,
Let this lingering soul of mine
Lift its wings and fly to thine? --
Wed us in Thy Heavens, O Lord!

Rose he then, and drew his sword,
Braced its hilt against the wood
Of the altar where he stood,
Leaned his breast against its point,
Stiffened every limb and joint,
Clenched his hands about the blade,
Muttered words as if he prayed, --
Then, with one ecstatic breath,
Cast himself upon his death!


Hence the tomb was made so wide
Both could slumber side by side.
But, though lovers fall to dust,
As their mortal bodies must,
Still, to souls that interblend,
Love itself can never end.


Rupert, flying in defeat,
Checked at Maltby his retreat,
Thought the chapel bullet-proof,
Camped his men beneath its roof,
Stood defiant for a day,
Fiery as a stag at bay,
Made a grim defence, but vain, --
Then, in darkness and in rain,
Fearfill of the morrow's fight,
Stole away at dead of night.
When the Roundheads saw with rage
How the birds had quit the cage,
They, in spite, with blow on blow,
Fought the chapel for a foe!
So it came that tower and bell,
Roof and spire, together fell, --
Battered down, in name of Heaven,
April, sixteen fifty-seven!


The Sexton's Tale, And Other Poems.
Copyright 1867
Sheldon And Company, New York.