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TOMBS OF ELIZABETH AND MARY.
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 weather. A marble figure of Mary is stretched upon the tomb, round which is an iron railing much corroded, bearing her national emblem, the thistle. I was weary with wandering, and sat down to rest myself by the monument, revolving in my mind the checkered and disastrous story of poor Mary."
Time is the great regulator. How sure he is to do justice at last! Mrs. Jamieson has set this matter in its proper light. Mary Stuart needed no better defender of her fame. After waiting nearly three hundred years, justice was done to her name by the heroic and beautiful biographer of the imperious, and hateful Elizabeth.
GREAT number of the tombs and shrines of the Abbey have been shockingly mutilated and defaced. Even the kings of England, not satisfied with grinding from their living subjects
all that oppression could exact, have entered this temple, and robbed the dead of those few choice jewels and treasures which surviving affection had placed in their coffins. But this, perhaps, should pass without censure, as the English Constitution declares the king can do no wrong! The sceptre has been stolen from the mouldered hand of Elizabeth, and there is hardly a royal monument which has not been plundered or mutilated. The grave is a sanctuary for the dead in the peaceful country churchyard; but not so in Westminster Abbey. They who are buried here have found no security against the rapacity and insult of the living.
I pity the man who lives and dies in the hope of being long remembered, who has no more enduring monument than the marble to perpetuate his fame. There are many inscriptions in the Abbey which cannot be read; they have faded away with the names and deeds of those they were intended to commemorate. Nothing ever appears to me so mournful as a gravestone with its epitaph obliterated by time. "Thus man passes away; his name perishes from record and recollection; his history is as a tale that is told, and his very monument becomes a ruin." This is one of those touching morals taught us by Irving, in writing about this hall of death.
One sees in Westminster Abbey almost as much as he would have seen had he lived in England for a thousand years. If a great person has died, or a great deed been done in this island, for centuries, they have brought some memento, and placed it within these walls. Here we read the story of the virtues and the crimes of England's great men; here we find their monuments, their escutcheons, and their ashes. In different ages, and from different scenes of action, England's kings have come to these solemn cloisters at last, to forget in the deep slumber of the grave, the troubles, the follies, and the guilt of the life just ended. No one of them, as he went to his sepulchre, stopped to listen to the clamors that swelled behind him; to the contentions of fierce and eager aspirants to his vacant throne.
INSIGNIA AND RELICS IN THE ABBEY.
Even bluff Harry VIII. goes sturdily to his resting-place, without sceming, in his dying moments, to bestow a thought on his discarded wives or injured daughters.
UT 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 battle and the terrors of the wreck. As you pass along those aisles, whose silence is unbroken save by your own footfall, and read the quaint epitaphs 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
THOUGHTS ON VISITING the ABBEY.
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.*
* THOUGHTS ON VISITING WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
OLD structure! Round thy solid form Have heaved the crowd, and swept the storm,
And centuries roll'd their tide; Yet still thou standest firmly there, Thy gray old turrets stern and bare, The grave of human pride.
Erect, immovable, sublime,
Thou holdest England's proudest dead,
To her long call'd the Virgin Queen,
Mysterious form, thy old gray wall
And felt the mighty beat
And now, as 'neath this arch I stand,
And round about me cast,
Oh! how the pageants rise, and swim,
I see the solemn funeral train,
The mournful requiem train.
The priest's low chant, the mutter'd
The tread of warriors, all are there;
Of the deep bell, whose heavy knell
The kingdom's sceptre sway'd, and threw Whence comes that high and deafen
A glory, and a shadow too,
'Tis gone! and thro' the portals wide
Till e'en these steadfast turrets reel?
Oh! how the gorgeous, proud array
With drum and trumpet tone!
His lip is wreathing in a smile,
The banners droop around him;
To where the lordly crown him.
NIGHT COMING OVER THE ABBEY.
HE day had passed away as a night of rich dreams goes by, and we were unconscious 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 ?
His heart in this exciting hour,
The given crown shall bring;
Resounds, "God save the king!"
"Tis vanish'd! "like a morning cloud"The throne, the king, the shouting crowd,
And here I stand alone;
And like the ocean's solemn roar
I seem to hear the steady beat
Are borne unto the dim seen strand
I'm with the dead; and at my feet
One arch gives ample room
Here, too, are slumbering side by side,
On which enraptured thousands hung,
I see the poet's broken lyre,
O'er which were utter'd words of fire;
The sage's tomes; the wreath of fame—
Old Abbey ! on my thoughtful heart,
Thy silent walls have left;
And now, more wise than I have been,
Again, and onward drift.