Robert Stephen Hawker

‘Morwennae Statio’


My Saxon shrine! the only ground
Wherein this weary heart hath rest:
What years the birds of God have found
Along thy walls their sacred nest!
The storm — the blast — the tempest shock,
Have beat upon these walls in vain;
She stands — a daughter of the rock —
The changeless God’s eternal fane.

Firm was their faith, the ancient bands,
The wise of heart in wood and stone;
Who reared, with stern and trusting hands,
These dark grey towers of days unknown:
They fill’d these aisles with many a thought,
They bade each nook some truth reveal:
The pillar’d arch its legends brought,
A doctrine came with roof and wall.

Huge, mighty, massive, hard, and strong,
Were the choice stones they lifted then:
The vision of their hope was long,
They knew their God those faithful men.
They pitched no tent for change or death,
No home to last man’s shadowy day;
There! there! the everlasting breath,
Would breathe whole centuries away.

See now along that pillar’d aisle,
The graven arches, firm and fair:
They bend their shoulders to the toil,
And lift the hollow roof in air.
A sign! beneath the ship we stand,
The inverted vessel’s arching side;
Forsaken — when the fisher-band
Went forth to sweep a mightier tide.

Pace we the ground! our footsteps tread
A cross — the builder’s holiest form:
That awful couch, where once was shed
The blood, with man’s forgiveness warm.
And here, just where His mighty breast
Throb’d the last agony away,
They bade the voice of worship rest,
And white-robed Levites pause and pray.

Mark! the rich rose of Sharon’s bowers
Curves in the paten’s mystic mould:
The lily, lady of the flowers,
Her shape must yonder chalice hold.
Types of the Mother and the Son,
The twain in this dim chapel stand:
The badge of Norman banners, one
And one a crest of English land.

How all things glow with life and thought,
Where’er our faithful fathers trod!
The very ground with speech is fraught,
The air is eloquent of God.
In vain would doubt or mockery hide
The buried echoes of the past;
A voice of strength, a voice of pride,
Here dwells amid the storm and blast.

Still points the tower and pleads the bell;
The solemn arches breathe in stone;
Window and wall have lips to tell
The mighty faith of days unknown.
Yea! flood and breeze, and battle shock
Shall beat upon this church in vain:
She stands, a daughter of the rock,
The changeless God’s eternal fane.


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From Cornish Ballads and Other Poems, by R. S. Hawker, ed. by C. E, Byles, p. 49.  This poem was first published in Ecclesia, 1840.


Photo © Angela Williams 2010