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His body's resting-place, of old,
How oft their patron changed, they told;
How, when the rude Dane burned their pile,
The monks fled forth from Holy Isle;
O’er northern mountain, marsh, and moor,
From sea to sea, from shore to shore,
Seven years Saint Cuthbert's corpse they bore.
They rested them in fair Melrose ;
But though, alive, he loved it well,
Nor there his reliques might repose;
For, wond'rous tale to tell !
In his stone-coffin forth he rides,
(A ponderous bark for river tides)
Yet light as gossamer it glides,
Downward to Tillmouth cell.
Nor long was his abiding there,
For southward did the saint repair;
Chester-le-Street, and Rippon, saw
His holy corpse, ere Wardilaw
Hailed him with joy and fear;
And, after many wanderings past,
He chose his lordly seat at last,
Where his cathedral, huge and vast,
Looks down upon the Wear :
There, deep in Durham's Gothic shade,
His reliques are in secret laid ;
But none may know the place, Save of his holiest servants three, Deep sworn to solemn secrecy,
Who share that wond'rous grace.
XV. Who may his miracles declare! Even Scotland's dauntless king, and heir,
(Although with them they led Galwegians, wild as ocean's gale, And Lodon's knights, all sheathed in mail, And the bold men of Teviotdale,)
Before his standard fled.
'Twas he, to vindicate his reign,
Edged Alfred's faulchion on the Dane,
And turned the conqueror back again,
When, with his Norman bowyer band,
He came to waste Northumberland,
But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn,
If, on a rock, by Lindisfarn,
Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The sea-born beads that bear his name:
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
And said they might his shape behold,
And hear his anvil sound;
A deadened clang,—a huge dim form,
Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm,
And night were closing round. But this, as tale of idle fame, The nuns of Lindisfarn disclaim,
While round the fire such legends go
Far different was the scene of woe,
Where, in a secret aisle beneath,
Council was held of life and death.
It was more dark and lone that vault,
Than the worst dungeon cell;
Old Colwulf built it, for his fault,
In penitence to dwell,
When he, for cowl and beads, laid down
The Saxon battle-axe and crown.
This den, which, chilling every sense
Of feeling, hearing, sight,
Was called the Vault of Penitence,
Excluding air and light,
Was, by the prelate Sexhelm, made
A place of burial, for such dead
As, having died in mortal sin,
Might not be laid the church within.
'Twas now a place of punishment; Whence if so loud a shriek were sent,
As reached the upper air, The hearers blessed themselves, and said, The spirits of the sinful dead
Bemoaned their torments there.
But though, in the monastic pile,
Did of this penitential aisle
Some vague tradition go,
Few only, save the Abbot, knew
Where the place lay; and still more few
Were those, who had from him the clew
To that dread vault to go.
Victim and executioner
Were blind-fold when transported there.
In low dark rounds the arches hung,
From the rude rock the side-walls sprung;