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The Aisle of Tombs

Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)

The interior of Chester-le-Street church, Durham, contains a singular collection of monuments, bearing effigies of the deceased ancestry of the Lumley family, from the time of Liulphus to the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

The quiet and the chillness
  Of the aisle of tombs;
The shadow and the stillness
  A rosy light illumes:
  Like the memory of the past,
  On the carved arms delaying,
On the marble pall
  O’er the blood-red scutcheon playing
With a crimson fall,
  Into sudden sunshine cast
  Are the ancient warriors,
  The warriors of olden time.

So with kindled heart we love them,
  Dwelling on their fame,
So doth memory fling above them
  Its shadow of a name;
  Noblest shadow flung on earth:
We remember many a story
  Of the old chivalric day,
When the red cross, like a glory,
  Shone above the fray;
  ’Twas a glorious age gave birth
  To the ancient warriors,
  The warriors of olden time.

Though the sword no more be trusted
  As it was of old;
Tho’ the shining spear be rusted,
  And the right hand cold;
  They have left their fame behind,
Still a spirit from their slumbers
  Rises true and brave;
Asks the minstrel for his numbers,
  Music from their grave:
  Noble, gentle, valiant, kind,
  Were the ancient warriors.
  The warriors of olden time.

All their meaner part hath perished,
  In the earth at rest;
And the present hour hath cherished
  What of them was best.
  What a knight should be we keep;
For the present doth inherit
  All the glories of the past;
We retain what was its spirit,
  While its dust to dust is cast,
  All good angels guard the sleep
  Of the ancient warriors,
  The warriors of olden time.
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Submitted by Madeleine Quinn on February 25, 2020

1:24 min read

Letitia Elizabeth Landon

Letitia Elizabeth Landon was an English poet. Born 14th August 1802 at 25 Hans Place, Chelsea, she lived through the most productive period of her life nearby, at No.22. A precocious child with a natural gift for poetry, she was driven by the financial needs of her family to become a professional writer and thus a target for malicious gossip (although her three children by William Jerdan were successfully hidden from the public). In 1838, she married George Maclean, governor of Cape Coast Castle on the Gold Coast, whence she travelled, only to die a few months later (15th October) of a fatal heart condition. Behind her post-Romantic style of sentimentality lie preoccupations with art, decay and loss that give her poetry its characteristic intensity and in this vein she attempted to reinterpret some of the great male texts from a woman’s perspective. Her originality rapidly led to her being one of the most read authors of her day and her influence, commencing with Tennyson in England and Poe in America, was long-lasting. However, Victorian attitudes led to her poetry being misrepresented and she became excluded from the canon of English literature, where she belongs. more…

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1 Comment

  • Peter Bolton
    Landon needs only four tombs to represent the whole, and, as she comments, we only remember of a knight what he ought to have been.
    LikeReplyReport1 year ago


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"The Aisle of Tombs" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 23 Oct. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/52597/the-aisle-of-tombs>.

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