Letitia Elizabeth Landon 1802 (Chelsea) – 1838 (Cape Coast)
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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"St. Mawgan Church and Lanhern Nunnery, Cornwall" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Sep. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/45279/st.-mawgan-church-and-lanhern-nunnery,-cornwall>.