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Julia, or the Convent of St. Claire

Amelia Opie 1769 (Norwich, England) – 1853 (Norwich, England)

Stranger, that massy, mouldering pile,
Whose ivied ruins load the ground,
Reechoed once to pious strains
By holy sisters breathed around.

There many a noble virgin came
To bid the world she loved....adieu;
There, victim of parental pride,
To years of hopeless grief withdrew.

Yes, proud St. Claire! thy costly walls
Have witnessed oft the mourner's pain;
And hearts in joyless durance bound,
Which sighed for kindred hearts in vain.

But never more within thy cells
Shall beauty breathe the fruitless sigh,
Nor hid beneath the envious veil
Shall sorrow dim the sparkling eye.

For now, a sight by reason blest,
Thy gloomy dome in ruins falls,
While bats and screechowls harbour there,
Sole tenants of thy crumbling walls.

And soon, blest change! as those dread plains,
Where Etna's burning torrents poured,
Become, when Time its power has shed,
With softly-smiling verdure stored:

So, when thy darkly-frowning towers
The verdant plain no longer load,
These scenes, where sorrow reigned, may prove
Fond, faithful lovers' blest abode.

And they shall pledge the nuptial vow,
Where once far different vows were heard;
And where thy pining virgins mourned,
Shall babes, sweet smiling babes, be reared.

Hail, glorious change, to Nature dear!
Methinks I see the bridal throng;
And hark, where lonely sisters prayed,
How sweetly swells the social song!

But nought, O! nought can her restore
To social life, to happy love,
Who once amidst thy cloistered train
With passion's hopeless sorrow strove.

Lamented maid! my faithful Muse
To pity's ear shall tell thy tale;
Shall tell, at midnight's awful hour
Why groaning ghosts affright the vale.

On Julia's softly dimpled cheek
Just bloom'd to view youth's opening rose,
When, proudly stern, her father bade
St. Claire's dark walls her bloom enclose.

But no reluctance to obey
With tears bedewed her beauteous cheek,
Since love with soft persuasive power
Not yet had taught her heart to speak.

"Yes,....be a nun's vocation mine,
So I my brother's bliss improve;
His be their wealth," sweet Julia cried,
So I may boast my parent's love!"

Proud Clermont blessed his generous child;
Her gentler mother dropped a tear,
As if her boding heart foretold
That love and Julia's woes were near.

For lo! where glows the nuptial feast,
And Clermont's heir leads in his bride,
While Julia, called that feast to grace,
Sits by a blooming baron's side.

Dear, fatal hour! the feast is o'er,
But still in faithful memory charms,
And Julia's conscious heart has learnt
To throb with passion's new alarms.

"Now then I feel the power of love,"
She on her sleepless pillow cried,
"Then must I still my sire obey,
And this warm heart in cloisters hide?

"But hold, fond girl! thy throbbing breast
May be with hopeless fondness fraught;
Yet sure Montrose's speaking eyes
Declared he felt the love he taught."

And well her hopes his glance had read,....
Montrose a mutual passion felt,
Nor long his tender pangs concealed,
But at her feet impassioned knelt.

Her downcast eye, her blush, her smile
To crown her lover's suit conspired,
Who, bold in hope, to Clermont told
The artless wish by fondness fired.

But told in vain--"Away!" he cried;
"O'er me your pleadings boast no power:
Think not my son his rights shall yield,
To swell my pining daughter's dower."

"No:--let his rights still sacred be,"
Montrose with throbbing heart replied,
"Give me but Julia's willing hand,
I ask, I wish for nought beside."

"And darest thou think that Clermont's child
Shall e'er pronounce the nuptial vow
Unless," he said, "I could a dower
Equal to Clermont's rank bestow!

"Away, young lord! entreat no more!
Nor thus with vain complainings mourn;
For, ere tomorrow's sun has set,
My child shall to her cell return."

He spoke, and frown'd.--Alas, Montrose!
In vain thy manly bosom mourned
For, ere tomorrow's sun had set,
Thy Julia to her cell returned.

But changed indeed! Youth's opening rose
Now on her cheek no longer glowed;
And now, with earthly cares opprest,
Before the holy shrine she bowed.

Now to religion's rites no more
Her heart with ready zeal impelled;
No more with genuine fervour warm,
Her voice the holy anthem swelled.

"Whence thy pale cheek? and
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:40 min read
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Amelia Opie

Amelia Opie, née Alderson, was an English author who published numerous novels in the Romantic Period of the early 19th century, through to 1828. Opie was also a leading abolitionist in Norwich, England. Amelia Opie's was the first of 187,000 names presented to the British Parliament on a petition from women to stop slavery. more…

All Amelia Opie poems | Amelia Opie Books

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