Morwenstow by Francis Coutts

Written for the occasion of the dedication of a memorial window to the Rev. R.S. Hawker, unveiled today. September 8th, 1904.

Nature bestows on every place
A gloom, a glory, or a grace;
But yet strange power belongs to Man
The hill and vale to bless or ban.

Here, by this black, forbidding coast,
Dwelt one who heard the heavenly host
Singing in every wind that blows,
In wave that breaks or stream that flows,

And surely deemed that love divine,
Whose tendrils all his church entwine,
Is not too distant to be won
By Nature’s humblest orison.

Wherefore amid these moors and steeps
His spirit ever laughs and weeps,
Weeps with the storm or laughs with glee
For rhythmic laughter of the sea:

For who beside Morwenna’s well
The “former gladness” tries to tell,
Or reads in Tidna-Combe’s “mild” stream
The pathos of the poet’s dream, –

Who lingers by St. Nectan’s Kieve,
Watching the “foamy waters” leave
Their mossy cave, to seek for rest
In Severn Sea’s unslumbering breast, –

Who strays where rushy Tamar spills
Her new-born flood in slender rills,
Unguessing in her modest source
The “goodly channel” of her course, –

Who pauses reverently to con
The sacred well-house of St. John,
Whose fountain feeds the lustral bowl
Wherein is laved each infant soul, –

What pilgrim, – sinner, saint, or sage, –
Who ponders here a vanished age,
By main or moor, by holy grot
Or mystic knoll, remembers not

The name of Hawker? Honoured long
In Cornwall for his life and song,
And now in British hearts enshrined,
A man at peace with God, in friendship with Mankind.

*  *  *  *  *

Francis Burdett Money-Coutts (1852-1923), 5th Baron Latymer and heir to the Coutts banking fortune, was a London solicitor, a prolific poet and a contributor to the Yellow Book. He is now remembered chiefly as a patron and collaborator of the Spanish composer Isaac Albéniz.

This poem appears on pages 658-659 of The Life and Letters of R. S. Hawker, ed. C. E. Byles, where Byles writes ‘At a public tea held in the village hall after the Dedication Service, Mr Francis Coutts read aloud his poem on the occasion, which, in a slightly altered form, is to be found in his recently published volume, ‘Musa Veticordia.’ It was also published in the Daily Chronicle and reprinted as a leaflet by W. Ellis, Holsworthy, presumably for distribution at the service.

Poem contributed by Charlie Cox.