By Robert Southwell

A vale there is, enwrapt with dreadful shades,
     Which thick of mourning pines shrouds from the sun,
Where hanging cliffs yield short and dumpish glades,
     And snowy flood with broken streams doth run.

Where eye-room is from rock to cloudy sky,
     From thence to dales with stony ruins strew'd,
Then to the crushèd water's frothy fry,
     Which tumbleth from the tops where snow is thaw'd.

Where ears of other sound can have no choice,
     But various blust'ring of the stubborn wind
In trees, in caves, in straits with divers noise;
     Which now doth hiss, now howl, now roar by kind.

Where waters wrestle with encount'ring stones,
     That break their streams, and turn them into foam,
The hollow clouds full fraught with thund'ring groans,
     With hideous thumps discharge their pregnant womb.

And in the horror of this fearful quire
     Consists the music of this doleful place;
All pleasant birds from thence their tunes retire,
     Where none but heavy notes have any grace.

Resort there is of none but pilgrim wights,
     That pass with trembling foot and panting heart;
With terror cast in cold and shivering frights,
     They judge the place to terror framed by art.

Yet nature's work it is, of art untouch'd,
     So strait indeed, so vast unto the eye,
With such disorder'd order strangely couch'd,
     And with such pleasing horror low and high,

That who it views must needs remain aghast,
     Much at the work, more at the Maker's might;
And muse how nature such a plot could cast
     Where nothing seemeth wrong, yet nothing right.

A place for mated mindes, an only bower
     Where everything do soothe a dumpish mood;
Earth lies forlorn, the cloudy sky doth lower,
     The wind here weeps, here sighs, here cries aloud.

The struggling flood between the marble groans,
     Then roaring beats upon the craggy sides;
A little off, amidst the pebble stones,
     With bubbling streams and purling noise it glides.

The pines thick set, high grown and ever green,
     Still clothe the place with sad and mourning veil;
Here gaping cliff, there mossy plain is seen,
     Here hope doth spring, and there again doth quail.

Huge massy stones that hang by tickle stays,
     Still threaten fall, and seem to hang in fear;
Some wither'd trees, ashamed of their decays,
     Bereft of green are forced gray coats to wear.

Here crystal springs crept out of secret vein,
     Straight find some envious hole that hides their grace;
Here searèd tufts lament the want of rain,
     There thunder-wrack gives terror to the place.

All pangs and heavy passions here may find
     A thousand motives suiting to their griefs,
To feed the sorrows of their troubled mind,
     And chase away dame Pleasure's vain reliefs.

To plaining thoughts this vale a rest may be,
     To which from worldly joys they may retire;
Where sorrow springs from water, stone and tree;
     Where everything with mourners doth conspire.

Sit here, my soul, main streams of tears afloat,
     Here all thy sinful foils alone recount;
Of solemn tunes make thou the doleful note,
     That, by thy ditties, dolour may amount.

When echo shall repeat thy painful cries,
     Think that the very stones thy sins bewray,
And now accuse thee with their sad replies,
     As heaven and earth shall in the latter day.

Let former faults be fuel of thy fire,
     For grief in limbeck of thy heart to still
Thy pensive thoughts and dumps of thy desire,
     And vapour tears up to thy eyes at will.

Let tears to tunes, and pains to plaints be press'd,
     And let this be the burden of thy song,—
Come, deep remorse, possess my sinful breast;
     Delights, adieu!  I harbour'd you too long.


The Poetical Works of the Rev. Robert Southwell.
William B. Turnbull, Esq., ed.
London: John Russell Smith, 1856. 139-142.

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