Glendalloch - A poem by William Drennan

William Drennan | Courtesy of Wikipedia
William Drennan
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Glendalloch

Th’ enchantment of the place has bound
All Nature in a sleep profound;
And silence of the ev’ning hour
Hangs o’er Glendalloch’s hallow’d tow’r;
A mighty grave-stone, set by Time,
That, ’midst these ruins, stands sublime,
To point the else-forgotten heap,
Where princes and where prelates sleep;
Where Tuathal rests th’ unnoted head,
And Keivin finds a softer bed:
“ Sods of the soil” that verdant springs
Within the sepulchre of kings.
Here—in the circling mountain’s shade,
In this vast vault, by Nature made,
Whose tow’ring roof excludes the skies
With savage Kyle’s stupendous size;
While Lugduff heaves his moory height,
And giant Broccagh bars the light;

Here—when the British spirit, broke,
Had fled from Nero’s iron yoke,
And sought this dreary dark abode,
To save their altars and their God,
From cavern black, with mystic gloom,
(Cradle of Science, and its tomb,)
Where Magic had its early birth,
Which drew the Sun and Moon to earth,
From hollow’d rock, and devious cell,
Where Mystery was fond to dwell,
And, in the dark and deep profound,
To keep th’ eternal secret bound,
(Recorded by no written art,
The deep memorial of the heart,)
In flowing robe, of spotless white,
Th’ Arch-Druid issued forth to light;
Brow-bound with leaf of holy oak,
That never felt the woodman’s stroke.
Behind his head a crescent shone,
Like to the new-discover’d moon;
While, flaming, from his snowy vest,
The plate of judgment clasp’d his breast.
Around him press’d the illumin’d throng,
Above him rose the light of song;
And from the rocks and woods around
Return’d the fleet-wing’d sons of sound.

“ Maker of Time ! we mortals wait
To hail thee at thy Eastern gate;
Where, these huge mountains thrown aside,
Expands for thee a portal wide.
Descend upon this altar, plac’d
Amidst Glendalloch’s awful waste:
So shall the ocean of thy praise
Arise, to meet thy rising rays,                                                                                                                From Elephanta’s sculptur’d cave,
To Eire, of the Western wave;
And the rejoicing earth prolong,
The orbit of successive song:
For we by thy reflection shine—
Who knows our God, becomes divine.

” But ah! what dim and dismal shade
Casts this strange horror o’er the glade,
Causes e’en hearts of brutes to quake,
And shudders o’er the stagnant lake ?
What demon, enemy of good,
Bolls back on earth this night of blood ?
What dragon, of enormous size,
Devours thee in thy native skies ?
O, save thy children from his breath,
From chaos, and eternal death! ”

The Druid mark’d the destin’d hour—
He mounted slow yon sacred tow’r;
Then stood upon its cap sublime,
A hoary chronicler of time;
His head, amidst the deathful gloom,
Seem’d Hope, new-risen from the tomb;
And, while he rais’d to Heav’n his hand,
That minister of high command
The terrors of the crowd repress’d,
And smooth’d their troubl’d wave to rest—
Then spoke—and round the pillar’d stone
Deep silence drank his silver tone.

“ He, who, from elemental strife,
Spoke all these worlds to light and life,
Who guides them thro’ th’ abyss above
In circles of celestial love,                                                                                                                        Has this vast panorame design’d
A mirror of th’ eternal mind.
To view of superficial eyes,
In broken points this mirror lies:
And knowledge, to these points apply’d,
Are lucid specks of human pride.
From beams of truth distorted, cross’d,
The image of our God is lost.
Those, only those become divine,
Who can the fractur’d parts combine:
Nature to them, and them alone,
Reflects from ev’ry part but one;
Their eagle eye, around them cast,
Descries the future from the past.
Justice will not annihilate
What Goodness did at first create.
The mirror, sully’d with the breath,
Suffers slight change—it is not death
That shadows yon bright orb of day:
See! while I speak, the orient ray
Breaks, sudden, thro’ the darksome scene,
And Heav’n regains its blue serene.
And soon the mild propitious pow’r
Which consecrates the ev’ning hour,
Shall bend again her silver bow,
Again her softer day shall throw,
Smooth the dark brow of savage Kyle,
And grim Glendalloch teach to smile.
Now, Druids, hail the joyous light;
Fear God—-be bold—and do the right.”

He ceas’d—their chorus, sweet and strong.
Roll’d its full stream of sainted song.

” O! fountain of our sacred fire,
To whom our kindred souls aspire,                                                                                                      (Struck from the vast chaotic dark,
As from these flints we strike the spark,
Thou Lord of Life and Light and Joy,
Great to preserve, but not destroy,
On us, thy favor’d offspring, shine!
Who know their God must grow divine.
And when thy radiant course is done,
Thou, shadow of another sun,
Shalt fade into his brighter sky,
And time become eternity.”

But past, long past, the Druid reign;
The Cross o’ertopt the Pagan fane.
To this remote asylum flew
A priesthood of another hue;
More like the raven than the dove,
Tho’ murm’ring much of faith and love.

A lazy sullen virtue slept
O’er the dull lake: around it crept
The self-tormenting anchorite,
And shunn’d th’ approach of cheerful light;
Yet darkly long’d to hoard a name,
And in the cavern grop’d for fame.
Where Nature reign’d, in solemn state,
There Superstition chose her seat;
Her vot’ries knew, with subtle art,
Thro’ wond’ring eyes to chain the heart;
By terrors of the scene, to draw
And tame the savage to their law,
Then seat themselves on Nature’s throne,
And make her mighty spell their own.
The charming sorc’ry of the place
Gave Miracle a local grace;
And, from the mountain-top sublime,
The Genius of our changeful clime                                                                                                              A sort of pleasing panic threw,
Which felt each passing phantom true.

E’en at a more enlighten’d hour
We feel this visionary pow’r;
And, when the meanest of his trade,
The ragged minstrel of the glade,
With air uncouth, and visage pale,
Pours forth the legendary tale,
The Genius, from his rock-built pile,
Awful, looks down, and checks our smile.
We listen—then a pleasing thrill
Creeps thro’ our frame, and charms our will,
’Till, fill’d with forms fantastic, wild,
We feign—and then become the child.

We see the hooded fathers take
Their silent circuit round the lake:
Silent—except a wailful song,
Extorted by the leathern thong.

Cronan, Cornloch, Lochaun, Doquain,
Superiors of the servile train,
Envelop’d in their cowls, they move,
And shun the God of Light and Love.

Who leads the black procession on ?
St. Keivin’s living skeleton,
That travels through this vale of tears,
Beneath the yoke of six score years;
Sustains his step a crozier wand;
Extended stiff one wither’d hand,
To which the blackbird flew distress’d,
And found a kind protecting nest;
There dropt her eggs, while outstretch’d stood
The hand—till she had hatched her brood!

Hark! what a peal, sonorous, clear,
Strikes, from yon tow’r, the tingling ear!
(No more of fire the worship’d tow’r;
The holy water quenched its pow’r.
And now, from every floor, a hell
Tolls Father Martin’s funeral knell,
Who slipt his foot on holy ground,
And plunged into the lake profound ;
Or, by the load of life oppress’d,
Sought refuge in its peaceful breast.

What!—Did not peace, delighted, dwell
The hermit of the mountain cell ?

No—’twas a cage of iron rule,
Of pride and selfishness the school,
Of dark desires, and doubts profane,
And harsh repentings, late, but vain;
To fast—to watch—to scourge—to praise
The golden legend of their days;
To idolize a stick or bone,
And turn the bread of life to stone;
Till, mock’d and marr’d by miracles,
Great Nature from her laws rebels,
And man becomes, by monkish art,
A prodigy—without a heart.
No friend sincere, no smiling wife,
The blessing and the balm of life;
And knowledge, by a forged decree,
Still stands an interdicted tree,—
Majestic tree! that proudly waves
Thy branching words, thy letter leaves;—
Whether, with strength that time commands,
An oak of ages, Homer stands,                                                                                                                  Or Milton, high-topt mountain pine,
Aspiring to the light divine;
Or laurel of perennial green,
The Shakespeare of the living scene,—
Whate’er thy form—in prose sublime,
Or trained by art, and prun’d by rhyme,
All hail, thou priest-forbidden tree !
For God had bless’d, and made thee free.
God did the foodful blessing give,
That man might eat of it, and live;
But they who have usurp’d his throne,
To keep his Paradise their own,
Have spread around a demon’s breath,
And named thee Upas, tree of death.
Thy root is Truth, thy stem is Pow’r,
And Virtue thy consummate flow’r.
Receive the circling nations’ vows,
And the world’s garland deck thy boughs !

From the bleak Scandinavian shore
The Dane his raven standard bore:
It rose amidst the whitening foam,
When the fierce robber hated home;
And, as he plough’d the wa’try way,
The raven seem’d to scent its prey;
Outstretch’d the gloomy om’nous wing,
For feast of carnage war must bring.
’Twas here the Christian savage stood,
To seal his faith in flame and blood.
The sword of midnight murder fell
On the calm sleeper of the cell.
Flash’d thro’ the trees with horrid glare
The flames—and poison’d all the air.
Her song, the lark began to raise,
As she had seen the solar blaze;                                                                                                            But, smote with terrifying sound,
Forsook the death-polluted ground;
And never since, these limits near,
Was heard to hymn her vigil clear.

This periodic ravage fell,
How oft, our bloody annals tell!
But ah, how much of woe untold,
How many groans of young and old,
Has Hist’ry, in this early age,
Sunk in the margin of her page,
Which, at the best, but stamps a name
On vice, and misery, and shame.

Thus flow’d in flames, and blood, and tears,
A lava of two hundred years;
And though some seeds of science seen,
Shot forth, in heart-enliv’ning green,
To clothe the gaps of civil strife,
And smooth a savage-temper’d life,
Yet soon new torrents black’ning came,
Wrapt the young growth in rolling flame,
And, as it blasted, left behind
Dark desolation of the mind.

But now no more the rugged North
Pours half its population forth ;
No more that iron-girded coast
The sheath of many a sworded host,
That rush’d abroad for bloody spoil,
Still won on hapless Erin’s soil,
Where Discord wav’d her flaming brand,
Sure guide to a devoted land;
A land, by fav’ring Nature nurs’d,
By human fraud and folly curs’d,

Which never foreign friend shall know,
While to herself the direst foe!

Is that a friend, who, sword in hand,
Leaps, pond’rous, on the sinking strand,
Full plum’d, with Anglo-Norman pride—
The base adult’rer by his side
Pointing to Leinster’s fertile plain,
Where (wretch!) he thinks once more to reign ?
Yes, thou shalt reign, and live to know
Thy own, amid thy country’s woe!
That country’s curse upon thy head,
Torments thee living, haunts thee dead;
And, howling thro’ the vaults of Time,
E’en now proclaims and damns thy crime:
Six cent’ries past, her curse still lives,
Nor yet forgets, nor yet forgives
Dermod, who bade the Normans come
To sack and spoil his native home.

Sown by this traitor’s bloody hand,
Dissension rooted in the land;
Mix’d with the seed of springing years,
Their hopeful blossoms steep’d in tears—
And late posterity can tell
The fruitage rotted as it fell.

Then Destiny was heard to wail,
While on black stone of Inisfail,
She marked this nation’s dreadful doom,
And character’d the woes to come.
Battle, and plague, and famine plac’d,
The epochs of th’ historic waste;
And, crowning every ill of life,
Self-conquer’d by domestic strife.

Was this the scheme of mercy, plann’d
In Adrien’s heart, thro’ Henry’s hand,
To draw the savage from his den,
And train the Irishry to men,
To fertilize the human clay,
And turn the stubborn soil to day ?
No—’twas two Englishmen, who play’d,
The mas’try of their sep’rate trade:
Conquest was then, and ever since,
The real design of priest and prince;
And, while his flag the king unfurl’d,
The father of the Christian world,
Bless’d it, and hail’d the hallow’d deed—
For none hut savages would bleed;
Yet, when these savages began,
To turn upon their hunter, man—
Rush’d from their forests, to assail
Th’ encroaching circuit of the pale—
The cause of quarrel still was good;
The enemy must be subdued.

Subdued! The nation still was gor’d
By law more penal than the sword;
Till Vengeance, with a tiger start,
Sprang from the covert of the heart.
Resistance took a blacker name,
The scaffold’s penalty and shame;
There was the wretched rebel led,
Uplifted there the traitor’s head.

Still there was hope th’ avenging hand,
Of Heav’n would spare a hapless land;
That days of ruin, havoc, spoil,
Would cease to desolate the soil;
Justice, tho’ late, begin her course,—
Subdued the lion law of force.

There was a hope, that, civil hate,
No more a policy of state,
Religion not the tool of pow’r,
Her only office, to adore—
That Education, here, might stand,
The harp of Orpheus in her hand,
Of power t’ infuse the social charm,
With love of peace and order warm,
The ruder passions all repress’d,
And tam’d the tigers of the breast,
By love of country and of kind,
And magic of a master mind.

As from yon dull and stagnant lake,
The streams begin to live, and take,
Their course thro’ Clara’s wooded vale,
Kiss’d by the health-inspiring gale,
Heedless of wealth their banks may hold,
They glide, neglectful of the gold,
Yet seem to hope a Shakespeare’s name,
To give our Avon deathless fame;
So, from the savage barren heart,
The streams of science and of art,
May spread their soft refreshing green,
To vivify the moral scene.
O, vanish’d hope!—O, transient boast!
O, country, gain’d but to be lost!
Gain’d by a nation, rais’d, inspir’d,
By eloquence and virtue fir’d,
By trans-atlantic glory stung,
By Grattan’s energetic tongue,
By Parliament that felt its trust,
By Britain—terrify’d and just.
Lost—by thy chosen children sold ;
And conquer’d—not by steel, but gold :                                                                                                Lost—by a low and servile great,
Who smile upon their country’s fate,
Crouching to gain the public choice,
And sell it by their venal voice.
Lost—to the world and future fame,
Remember’d only in a name,
Once in the courts of Europe known,
To claim a self-dependent throne.
Thy ancient records torn, and tost
Upon the waves that beat thy coast;
The mock’ry of a mongrel race,
Sordid, illiterate, and base.
To science lost, and letter’d truth;
The genius of thy native youth,
To Cam, or Isis glad to roam,
Nor keep a heart or hope for home:
Thy spark of independence dead ;
Thy life of life, thy freedom, fled.

Where shall her sad remains be laid ?
Where invocate her solemn shade ?

Here be the mausoleum plac’d,
In this vast vault, this silent waste;—
Yon mould’ring pillar, ’midst the gloom,
Finger of Time ! shall point her tomb ;
While silence of the ev’ning hour,
Hangs o’er Glendalloch’s ruin’d tow’r.

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