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in thus glancing at the peculiarities of those who enter the Abbey of Westminster.
While noting down these reflections, I am standing among the living and the dead, and solemn feelings are gathering within me. The armed knight lying supine upon his tomb, his gauntleted hands raised in supplication; the pendant banners, once floating in the stormy blast of battle, but now hanging motionless; the piles of sculptured marble, commemorating the achievements of the illustrious dead, and the arresting inscriptions that point to the mortal dust mouldering beneath them—all speak the same impressive language, "Prepare to meet thy God." The pageantry of these costly monuments, however highly estimated, will soon pass away.
"These little things are great to little men,"
but how pitifully poor, how unspeakably insignificant must they be in the sight of the High and Holy One, who sitteth on the throne of heaven! The polished marble, and gilded inscription, may be well-pleasing in the eyes of human beings; but "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise," Psalm li. 17.
Imagine not, because I thus speak, that I undervalue, or affect to feel but little interest in works of art and human ingenuity: on the contrary, I am thrillingly alive to their magic influence, and have been gazing on some of these "breathing statues" with enthusiastic admiration. It is only to mark the distinction between what is acceptable to God and man, that I thus speak. Let us not regard those things which call forth the praise of man, as necessarily receiving the approbation of God. There is a greater glory resting round the lowliest turf, that covers the humblest disciple of the Redeemer, than that which gilds the hatchment of an ungodly hero, or the mausoleum of an unbelieving monarch.
It would be well if the country visitor and the soldier; the learned man, the antiquarian, and the gifted bard; the young and old; the citizen, and the stranger from a foreign clime, on visiting Westminster Abbey, would apply the often-quoted, but heart-searching inquiry:—•
"Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath t
For if these things cannot prolong for a moment the life that now is, they will have no influence on that which is to come.
Few persons of any reflection can visit Westminster Abbey without admiration of the exquisite specimens of human art and ingenuity that decorate the place—without feeling a reverence for the resting-places of so many illustrious dead, and a conviction of the transitory tenure of earthly greatness; while the Christian visitant, in addition to these, carries his solicitude into an eternal world, and sighs while he thinks of many of those who have obtained earthly renown.
Though the grave is a more fit place for the language of humiliation than of praise, yet it does not appear unseemly to commemorate on the tomb whatever has been done by the sleeping inhabitant below for God's glory, or man's good. When the sculptor's chisel and the poet's pen are employed to make us love what is truly lovely, and reverence what is worthy of our best regard, according to the Scripture standard, they serve the cause of virtue; it is only when they pander to vice, and offer homage to the unworthy, that they call for reproof.
When sculptured monuments, adorn'd with rhymes,
The fables of monkish writers respecting the Abbey are better passed unheeded. Enough that Segbert the Saxon is the supposed founder of the first building, in the sixth century; that Edward the Confessor cleared away its ruinsand erected a more spacious edifice; thatHenry m. contributed to its execution; and that Henry vn. erected the splendid chapel which bears his name. It was thoroughly repaired and decorated by Sir Christopher Wren, the celebrated architect of St. Paul's, and a new choir by Keen, and an altar by Wyatt, have been added.
The portico, called "beautiful," or "Solomon's gate," leading into the north Cross, and the elaborately decorated east end of the Abbey, seen from the public street, are beyond all praise in point of workmanship.
I have been standing at the western door between the towers to take a general view of the interior: and the great extent, the stately pillars, the lofty roof, the galleries of double columns, the monuments, and the fine stained glass in the north, and the great west window, all have contributed to excite pleasing astonishment and admiration.
I am now standing in that wonder of the world, the chapel of Henry vu., where, what before appeared surpassing is surpassed. The brazen gates, the elevated ceiling, wrought with wondrous skill and surprising variety, the double range of windows, the brown-wainscoted stalls, with their beautifully carved gothic canopies; the brass chapel and tomb of the founder, the pavement of black and white marble; these, and the motionless banners of the chieftains, blazoned with illustrious names well known to victory and fame, are all striking in the extreme. Here the mouldering tenants of the tomb are all of "royal blood;" some connexion with royalty being indispensably necessary to secure a resting-place in this peculiar spot.
The ten chapels that are encompassed by the Abbey walls, all contain something which the lover of sculpture must admire. Now and then a solemn epitaph strikes the eye and the heart of the beholder, while not a few marble slabs offer up their unseemly incense of worthless flattery. Many of those who moulder here conquered others, but could not control themselves—were wise as to this world, but foolish as to the world to come; and knew many things, without knowing Him whom to know is eternal life.
Monarchs, statesmen, judges, generals, admirals, poets, painters, and musicians occupy their several spots of earth: death has assigned them all a dwelling-place.
Here lies the "chief lady of the bed-chamber;" there the "greatest heiress in England;" and yonder the "master of his majesty's buck-hounds."
Here is a monument that demands a pause, for beneath it reposes the mortal part of Matilda, wife of Henry iv., who, every day of Lent, walked barefoot from her palace to the church, wearing a