Alnwick Castle

Original Text: 

Alnwick Castle, with Other Poems (New York: George Dearborn, 1836): 9-15. Internet Archive

2    Home of their beautiful and brave,
3Alike their birth and burial-place,
4    Their cradle and their grave!
5Still sternly o'er the Castle gate
6Their house's Lion stands in state,
7    As in his proud departed hours;
8And warriors frown in stone on high,
9And feudal banners "flout the sky"
10    Above his princely towers.
11A gentle hill its side inclines,
12    Lovely in England's fadeless green,
13To meet the quiet stream which winds
14    Through this romantic scene
15As silently and sweetly still,
16As when, at evening, on that hill,
17    While summer's wind blew soft and low,
20    A thousand years ago.
21Gaze on the Abbey's ruined pile:
22    Does not the succoring Ivy, keeping
23Her watch around it, seem to smile,
24    As o'er a loved one sleeping?
25One solitary turret gray
26    Still tells, in melancholy glory,
28    The Percys' proudest border story,
29That day its roof was triumph's arch;
30    Then rang, from aisle to pictured dome,
31The light step of the soldier's march,
32    The music of the trump and drum;
33And babe, and sire, the old, the young,
34And the monk's hymn, and minstrel's song,
35And woman's pure kiss, sweet and long,
36    Welcomed her warrior home.
37Wild roses by the Abbey towers
38    Are gay in their young bud and bloom:
39They were born of a race of funeral-flowers
40That garlanded, in long-gone hours,
41    A Templar's knightly tomb.
42He died, the sword in his mailed hand,
43On the holiest spot of the Blessed Land,
44    Where the Cross was damped with his dying breath;
45When blood ran free as festal wine,
46And the sainted air of Palestine
47    Was thick with the darts of death.
48Wise with the lore of centuries,
50    Those giant oaks could tell,
51Of beings born and buried here;
52Tales of the peasant and the peer,
53Tales of the bridal and the bier,
54    The welcome and farewell,
55Since on their boughs the startled bird
56First, in her twilight slumbers, heard
57    The Norman's curfew-bell.
58I wandered through the lofty halls
59    Trod by the Percys of old fame,
60And traced upon the chapel walls
61    Each high, heroic name,
63Where now, o'er mosque and minaret,
64    Glitter the Sultan's crescent moons;
65To him who, when a younger son,
67    A major of Dragoons.
68    * * * *
69That last half stanza -- it has dashed
70    From my warm lip the sparkling cup;
71The light that o'er my eyebeam flashed,
72    The power that bore my spirit up
73Above this bank-note world -- is gone;
74And Alnwick's but a market town,
75And this, alas! its market day,
76And beasts and borderers throng the way;
77Oxen, and bleating lambs in lots,
78Northumbrian boors, and plaided Scots,
79    Men in the coal and cattle line,
82From Wooller, Morpeth, Hexham, and
83    Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
84These are not the romantic times
86    So dazzling to the dreaming boy:
87Ours are the days of fact, not fable,
88Of Knights, but not of the Round Table,
91    Has called "the era of good feeling:"
92The Highlander, the bitterest foe
93To modern laws, has felt their blow,
94Consented to be taxed, and vote,
96    And leave off cattle-stealing:
97Lord Stafford mines for coal and salt,
98The Duke of Norfolk deals in malt,
99    The Douglass in red herrings;
100And noble name, and cultured land,
101Palace, and park, and vassal band
102Are powerless to the notes of hand
105    Has come: to-day the turbaned Turk
107Sleep on, nor from your cerements start,)
108    Is England's friend and fast ally;
109The Moslem tramples on the Greek,
110    And on the Cross and altar stone,
111    And Christendom looks tamely on,
112And hears the Christian maiden shriek,
113    And sees the Christian father die;
114And not a sabre blow is given
115For Greece and fame, for faith and heaven,
116    By Europe's craven chivalry.
117You'll ask if yet the Percy lives
118    In the armed pomp of feudal state?
119The present representatives
120    Of Hotspur and his "gentle Kate,"
121Are some half dozen serving men,
123    A chambermaid, whose lip and eye,
124And cheek, and brown hair, bright and curling,
125    Spoke Nature's aristocracy;
127Who bowed me through court, bower, and hall,
128From donjon-keep to turret wall,
129For ten-and-sixpence sterling.

Notes

1] Alnwick Castle: a seat of the duke of Northumberland, a member of the Percy family, at the time the poem was written, Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke of Northumberland (97). Back to Line
18] Hotspur: Sir Henry Percy (1364.-1403), who fought for the English against Glendower of Scotland and fell at the battle of Shrewsbury; and a figure in Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV. Back to Line
19] Katherine: in history, Hotspur married Lady Elizabeth Mortimer, but in Shakespeare's play she was Katherine. Back to Line
27] Cheviot: highest of the Cheviot Hills on the border with Scotland. Back to Line
49] "tongues in trees": the Duke in Shakespeare's As You Like It praises life in the forest when he says, "And this our life exempt from publike haunt, / Findes tongues in trees, bookes in the running brookes, / Sermons in stones, and good in euery thing" (621-23). Back to Line
62] him who once his standard set: "One of the ancesters of the Percy family was an Emperor of Constantinople." (97) Back to Line
66] Lexington: Sir Hugh Percy, second dukle of Northumberland, "commanded a detachment of the British army, in the affair at Lexington and Concord, in 1775" (97). Back to Line
80] Teviot: a river on the border between Scotland and England. Back to Line
81] royal Berwick: "formerly a Principality. Richard II. was styled 'King of England, France and Ireland, and Berwick-upon-Tweed." (97) Back to Line
85] Spenser: Edmund Spenser (1552-99), English Renaissance epic poet. Back to Line
89] Bailie Jarvie: a Scottish whisky named after a character in Walter Scott's novel Rob Roy. Back to Line
90] Monro: James Monroe, fifth President of the United States. Back to Line
95] pantaloons: trousers. Back to Line
103] Rothschild: German-Jewish banking family.
Barings: an old bank in England. Back to Line
104] Burke: Irish statesman, Edmund Burke (1729-97). Back to Line
106] Richard of the lion heart: Richard I (1157-99), king of England, crusader. Back to Line
122] William Penn: founder of the state of Pennsylvania, Back to Line
126] seneschal: steward. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012
Rhyme: