St. Mawgan Church and Lanhern Nunnery, Cornwall

The old Mansion of Lanhern belonged to the Lords Arundell, of Wardour. It was given in 1794 by Henry Eighth, Lord Arundell, as an asylum for a convent of English Theresian nuns, who had migrated from Antwerp, in consequence of the invasion of the French. The sisterhood, or rather their successors, still continue secluded in the old and lonely house now called the Lanhern Nunnery.


It stands amid the sheltering boughs,
  A place of peace—a place of rest,
Where the veiled virgin’s hourly vows
  By prayer and penitence are blest.
The sunshine rests upon the walls
  More golden than the common day,
And there a stiller shadow falls
  Than rests on life’s tumultuous way.

Alas ! why should this quiet place
  Bring fancies of unrest to me ;
Why looks forth that beloved face
  I seem in every place to see ?
Ah, what may not those walls conceal !
  The sunshine of that sainted shrine
Might from its inmost depths reveal
  Some spirit passionate as mine ;

Some one condemned in youth to part
  From all that made her youth so dear,
To listen to her beating heart,
  In shame—in solitude and fear :
To know no hope before the grave,
  To fear there is no hope beyond,
Yet scarcely dare of heaven to crave.
  Forgiveness for a faith too fond :

To feel the white and vestal veil
  Grow wet and warm with worldly tears,
To pass the midnight watching pale,
  Yet tremble when the day appears
Prostrate before the cross to kneel,
  With eyes that may not look above;
How dare the delicate to feel
  The agony of earthly love ?

O ! misery, for the young heart doomed
  To waste and weep its youth away,
To be within itself entombed,
  And desperate with the long decay !
Yes, misery ! but there may he
  A yet more desperate despair ;
There is a love whose misery
  Mocks all those cells may soothe and share.

There the pale nun at least can keep
  One treasured and unbroken dream ;
The love for which she wakes to weep,
  Seems ever what it once could seem.
She knows not time’s uncharming touch
  Destroying every early hue ;
The false !—she dreameth not of such—
  Her love is still the deep, the true.

Not so the love of common life,
  ’Tis coloured by the common air ;
Its atmosphere with death is rife,
  A moral pestilence is there.
Fevered—exacting—false and vain,
  Like a disease, it lingers on,
Though all that blest its first sweet reign,
  Its morning dew and light, are gone.

Such is the actual life of love,
  Such is the love that I have known ;
Unworthy of the heaven above—
  Dust, like the earth where it has grown.
Ah ! better far alone to dwell,
  Dreaming above the dearest past,
And keeping in the silent cell,
  Life’s best illusions to the last
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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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"St. Mawgan Church and Lanhern Nunnery, Cornwall" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 20 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/45279/st.-mawgan-church-and-lanhern-nunnery,-cornwall>.

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