ON to Iona!—What can she afford
To us save matter for a thoughtful sigh,
Heaved over ruin with stability
In urgent contrast? To diffuse the Word
(Thy paramount, mighty Nature! and time’s Lord)
Her temples rose, mid pagan gloom; but why,
Even for a moment, has our verse deplored
Their wrongs, since they fulfilled their destiny?
And when, subjected to a common doom
Of mutability, those far-famed piles
Shall disappear from both the sister isles,
Iona’s saints, forgetting not past days,
Garlands shall wear of amaranthine bloom,
While heaven’s vast sea of voices chants their praise.
HOW sad a welcome! To each voyager
Some ragged child holds up for sale a store
Of wave-worn pebbles, pleading on the shore
Where once came monk and nun with gentle stir,
Blessings to give, news ask, or suit prefer.
Yet is yon neat, trim church a grateful speck
Of novelty amid the sacred wreck
Strewn far and wide. Think, proud philosopher!
Fallen though she be, this glory of the west,
Still on her sons the beams of mercy shine;
And hopes, perhaps more heavenly bright than thine,
A grace by thee unsought and unpossest,
A faith more fixed, a rapture more divine,
Shall gild their passage to eternal rest.
XXXII. THE BLACK STONES OF IONA.
[See Martin’s Voyage among the Western Isles.]
Here on their knees men swore: the stones were black,
Black in the People’s minds and words, yet they
Were at that time, as now, in colour grey.
But what is colour, if upon the rack
Of conscience souls are placed by deeds that lack
Concord with oaths? What differ night and day
Then, when before the Perjured on his way
Hell opens, and the heavens in vengeance crack
Above his head uplifted in vain prayer
To Saint, or Fiend, or to the Godhead whom
He had insulted–Peasant, King, or Thane?
Fly where the culprit may, guilt meets a doom;
And, from invisible worlds at need laid bare,
Come links for social order’s awful chain.
— William Wordsworth, The Poetical Works, vol. 5, Sonnets Composed or Suggested During a Tour in Scotland, in the Summer of 1833, London: Edward Moxon, 1837.