صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

safety of England, that she has not many sons like you. It would be a wise movement, I think, to send you to the Tower: this sounds too much like treason. We will send for you to come to New York, and deliver us a 4th of July oration; you would save us the trouble of saying these things for ourselves. You know we have the credit abroad of devoting that day to the work of self-glorification.”

“ Well,” replied the captain, “it is right that you should be proud of the achievements of your fathers; and it is also quite natural that we should feel somewhat sensitive on these points. The pride of England was never more effectually humbled than in America."

We stopped a few moments before the superb monument of Sir Isaac Newton. It is grand and expressive; worthy of the illustrious man to whom it was erected. The inscription is in Latin, short, but full of meaning. It concludes with this beautiful sentiment: “Mortals have reason to exult in the existence of so noble an ornament to the human race.”

After looking at the monuments of which I have spoken, I directed my attention to the architecture of the Abbey. It is an immense pile, built in the form of a cross, its length from east to west being 416 feet, and its breadth about 200. The two fine towers on the west end are 225 feet high. Around the choir of the Abbey there is a succession of small chapels, filled with curious antique monuments, and the effigies of royal families, lying in state.

CHAPEL OF ST. EDWARD.

83

We were led through every part of the Abbey by a pale old verger, who has been so long cloistered within these sacred walls that he seemed to have lost all sympathy with the external world. His face was pale as marble; his step as solemn and still as you ever heard in the chamber of death; and his voice seemed to come up as in hollow tones from the sepulchre: a fitting representative of the spirit of the place.

We passed several hours among the chapels. The verger seemed inclined to finish his explanations as soon as possible ; but we did not like the idea of being hurried through these impressive chambers, and expressed a wish to remain a while: this we were denied. But knowing that in such cases there is one argument that never fails, I slipped a half crown into the old codger's hand, which settled the matter without farther words.

I will only speak of two of the chapels-St. Edward's and Henry the Seventh's. In the centre of the former stands the venerable shrine of St. Edward, which was once considered the glory of England. But the sepulchre was long ago broken open, and the ornaments stolen from his body. Edward was the last Saxon king of England. He died the year of the battle of Hastings (1066), and was canonized in 1269. Henry III. pledged the jewels belonging to the shrine of Edward to foreigners; being compelled, as the record still preserved in the Tower states, to take this course " by heavy emergencies.” No very creditabl: way for a king to raise money.

Here Matilda, queen of England, daughter of Malcolm, king of Scots, and wife of Henry I., is buried. It was her custom every day in Lent to walk from her palace to the Abbey barefoot, clothed in a garment of coarse hair, kissing the feet of the poorest people she met in her way, and dispensing charities. In this chapel, in a large plain coffin of gray marble, lies the body of the great Edward, called the English Justinian. He died in 1307. Four hundred and sixty-seven years after his burial his tomb was opened by the Dean of Westminster. “ The body was perfect, having on two robes, one of gold and silver tissue, and the other of crimson velvet; a sceptre of gold in each hand measuring near five feet; a crown on his head, and many jewels quite bright: he measured six feet and two inches.”

Here, too, Henry V., of Jack Falstaff memory, and victor of Agincourt, sleeps. In this chapel are also to be seen the two coronation chairs. The most ancient of these chairs was brought with the regalia from Scotland, by Edward I., in 1297 (after overcoming John Baliol), and offered at St. Edward's shrine. In this chair the monarchs of England are crowned, and to this place they come for their sepulchres.

Henry Seventh's chapel is called “the wonder of the world.” It stands at the east end of the Abbey, and is so neatly joined to it that it seems to be part of the main edifice. It is adorned with sixteen Gothic towers, beautifully ornamented, and jutting

CHAPEL OF HENRY VII.

85

from the building in different angles. It is built on the plan of a cathedral, with a nave and side-aisles. The entrance to this chapel is through curiously wrought, ponderous gates of brass. The lofty ceiling is worked into an astonishing variety of designs, and you may imagine my surprise when I was told that it was all wrought 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. The pavement is of white and black marble. This splendid chapel was designed to be a kingly sepulchre, in which none but the royal should sleep; and the will of the founder has been so far observed, that none have been admitted to burial here who could not trace their descent from some ancient family of kings. “But nothing is so universally and justly admired for its antiquity and fine workmanship, as the magnificent tomb of Henry the Seventh, and his queen Elizabeth,' the last of the House of York that wore the English crown.' This tomb stands in the body of the chapel, enclosed in a curious chantry of cast brass, most admirably designed and executed, and ornamented with statues. Within it are the effigies of the royal pair in their robes of state, lying close together, carved on a tomb of black marble.

Here at last found rest the remains of the two young princes who were basely murdered by their treacherous uncle, Richard III. The story is faithfully told in a Latin inscription over their grave. You

VOL. I.-H

[ocr errors]

remember that these poor boys were confined in the Tower, stifled with pillows, and then privately buried. One hundred and ninety years passed away before their bones were discovered, and then they were found among the rubbish of the stairs leading to the White Tower. Charles II. removed their remains to this spot, where their ancestors lie, One of these princes was born in the old sanctuary which once belonged to the Abbey, where his mother had taken refuge during the terrible civil wars of the houses of York and Lancaster.

“ Two small aisles on each side of this chapel present a touching picture of the equality of the grave, which brings down the oppressor to a level with the oppressed, and mingles the dust of the bitterest enemies together. In one is the sepulchre of the haughty Elizabeth ; in the other is that of her victim, the lovely and unfortunate Mary. Not an hour in the day but some ejaculation of pity is uttered over the fate of the latter, mingled with indignation at her oppressor. The walls of Elizabeth's sepulchre continually echo with sighs of sympathy heaved at the grave of her rival. A peculiar melancholy reigns over the aisle where Mary lies buried. The light struggles dimly through windows darkened by dust. The greater part of the place is in deep shadow, and the walls are stained and tinted by time and weath

A marble figure of Mary is stretched upon the tornb, round which is an iron railing much corroded, bearing her national emblem the thistle. I was

er.

« السابقةمتابعة »