**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Abbey Mason
by [?]

– “The abbot spoke to me to-day:
He hangs about the works alway.

“He knows the source as well as I
Of the new style men magnify.

“He said: ‘You pride yourself too much
On your creation. Is it such?

“‘Surely the hand of God it is
That conjured so, and only His! –

“‘Disclosing by the frost and rain
Forms your invention chased in vain;

“‘Hence the devices deemed so great
You copied, and did not create.’

“I feel the abbot’s words are just,
And that all thanks renounce I must.

“Can a man welcome praise and pelf
For hatching art that hatched itself? . . .

“So, I shall own the deft design
Is Heaven’s outshaping, and not mine.”

“What!” said she. “Praise your works ensure
To throw away, and quite obscure

“Your beaming and beneficent star?
Better you leave things as they are!

“Why, think awhile. Had not your zest
In your loved craft curtailed your rest –

“Had you not gone there ere the day
The sun had melted all away!”

– But, though his good wife argued so,
The mason let the people know

That not unaided sprang the thought
Whereby the glorious fane was wrought,

But that by frost when dawn was dim
The method was disclosed to him.

“Yet,” said the townspeople thereat,
“‘Tis your own doing, even with that!”

But he–chafed, childlike, in extremes –
The temperament of men of dreams –

Aloofly scrupled to admit
That he did aught but borrow it,

And diffidently made request
That with the abbot all should rest.

– As none could doubt the abbot’s word,
Or question what the church averred,

The mason was at length believed
Of no more count than he conceived,

And soon began to lose the fame
That late had gathered round his name . . .

– Time passed, and like a living thing
The pile went on embodying,

And workmen died, and young ones grew,
And the old mason sank from view

And Abbots Wygmore and Staunton went
And Horton sped the embellishment.

But not till years had far progressed
Chanced it that, one day, much impressed,

Standing within the well-graced aisle,
He asked who first conceived the style;

And some decrepit sage detailed
How, when invention nought availed,

The cloud-cast waters in their whim
Came down, and gave the hint to him

Who struck each arc, and made each mould;
And how the abbot would not hold

As sole begetter him who applied
Forms the Almighty sent as guide;

And how the master lost renown,
And wore in death no artist’s crown.

– Then Horton, who in inner thought
Had more perceptions than he taught,

Replied: “Nay; art can but transmute;
Invention is not absolute;

“Things fail to spring from nought at call,
And art-beginnings most of all.

“He did but what all artists do,
Wait upon Nature for his cue.”

– “Had you been here to tell them so
Lord Abbot, sixty years ago,

“The mason, now long underground,
Doubtless a different fate had found.

“He passed into oblivion dim,
And none knew what became of him!

“His name? ‘Twas of some common kind
And now has faded out of mind.”

The Abbot: “It shall not be hid!
I’ll trace it.” . . . But he never did.

– When longer yet dank death had wormed
The brain wherein the style had germed

From Gloucester church it flew afar –
The style called Perpendicular. –

To Winton and to Westminster
It ranged, and grew still beautifuller:

From Solway Frith to Dover Strand
Its fascinations starred the land,

Not only on cathedral walls
But upon courts and castle halls,

Till every edifice in the isle
Was patterned to no other style,

And till, long having played its part,
The curtain fell on Gothic art.

– Well: when in Wessex on your rounds,
Take a brief step beyond its bounds,

And enter Gloucester: seek the quoin
Where choir and transept interjoin,

And, gazing at the forms there flung
Against the sky by one unsung –

The ogee arches transom-topped,
The tracery-stalks by spandrels stopped,

Petrified lacework–lightly lined
On ancient massiveness behind –

Muse that some minds so modest be
As to renounce fame’s fairest fee,

(Like him who crystallized on this spot
His visionings, but lies forgot,

And many a mediaeval one
Whose symmetries salute the sun)

While others boom a baseless claim,
And upon nothing rear a name.