Poem of the day

Bredfield Hall
by Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883)

Lo, an English mansion founded
      In the elder James’s reign,
Quaint and stately, and surrounded
      With a pastoral domain.

With well-timber’d lawn and gardens
      And with many a pleasant mead,
Skirted by the lofty coverts
      Where the hare and pheasant feed.

Flank’d it is with goodly stables,
      Shelter’d by coeval trees
So it lifts its honest gables
      Toward the distant German seas

Where it once discern’d the smoke
      Of old sea-battles far away:
Saw victorious Nelson’s topmasts
      Anchoring in Hollesley Bay.

But whatever storm might riot,
      Cannon roar, and trumpet ring,
Still amid these meadows quiet
      Did the yearly violet spring

Still Heaven’s starry hand suspended
      That light balance of the dew,
That each night on earth descended,
      And each morning rose anew

And the ancient house stood rearing
      Undisturb’d her chimneys high,
And her gilded vanes still veering
      Toward each quarter of the sky:

While like wave to wave succeeding
      Through the world of joy and strife,
Household after household speeding
      Handed on the torch of life.

First, sir Knight in ruff and doublet,
      Arm in arm with stately dame
Then the Cavaliers indignant
      For their monarch brought to shame

Languid beauties limn’d by Lely;
      Full-wigg’d Justice of Queen Anne:
Tory squires who tippled freely;
      And the modern Gentleman:

Here they lived, and here they greeted,
      Maids and matrons, sons and sires,
Wandering in its walks, or seated
      Round its hospitable fires:

Oft their silken dresses floated
      Gleaming through the pleasure ground:
Oft dash’d by the scarlet-coated
      Hunter, horse, and dappled hound.

Till the Bell that not in vain
      Had summon’d them to weekly prayer,
Call’d them one by one again
      To the church — and left them there!

They with all their loves and passions,
      Compliment, and song, and jest,
Politics, and sports, and fashions,
      Merged in everlasting rest!

So they pass — while thou, old Mansion,
      Markest with unaltered face
How like the foliage of thy summers
      Race of man succeeds to race.

To most thou stand’st a record sad,
      But all the sunshine of the year
Could not make thine aspect glad
      To one whose youth is buried here.

In thine ancient rooms and gardens
      Buried — and his own no more
Than the youth of those old owners,
      Dead two centuries before.

Unto him the fields around thee
      Darken with the days gone by:
O’er the solemn woods that bound thee
      Ancient sunsets seem to die.

Sighs the selfsame breeze of morning
      Through the cypress as of old
Ever at the Spring’s returning
      One same crocus breaks the mould.

Still though ‘scaping Time’s more savage
      Handywork this pile appears,
It has not escaped the ravage
      Of the undermining years.

And though each succeeding master,
      Grumbling at the cost to pay,
Did with coat of paint and plaster
      Hide the wrinkles of decay,

Yet the secret worm ne’er ceases,
      Nor the mouse behind the wall;
Heart of oak will come to pieces,
      And farewell to Bredfield Hall!

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