Project Canterbury

The Bells of S. Barnabas.

Suggested by reading in the papers of the remonstrance addressed to the Bishop of London, complaining that the bells of the above church "annoyed thousands of the inhabitants of the parish."

London: W. J. Cleaver, 1851.

"Old times are changed."
Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel.

Well may we mourn the sad decay
          Of England's glorious Prime;
For hearts of old have passed away
          With years of olden Time.
When Faith and Loyalty displayed
          Their palms in Honour's Crest,
And he, who most devoutly prayed,
          Was he, who served the best.

The Red Cross on their banners waved,
          It bore their Fame afar;
Its Symbol--on their souls engraved--
          Their Beacon and their Star:
And when on many a battle field
          Their conquering footsteps trod,
Those warriors did not blush to yield
          A tribute to their God.

Then well might England's sons be proud
          To claim her for their own--
Well might their fealty be vowed
          To Altar and to Throne.
Well might they swear to guard unstained
          Each fair and spotless gem,
That yet in pristine light remained
          To grace her diadem.

But such is not our modern praise,
          Nor such our modern pride;
We speak of those immortal days,
          But only to deride.
All vainly might our fathers rise,
          Their ancient flags unfold,
For Britons every act despise,
          Save what can bring them gold!

With careless eyes they look around,
          And deem themselves so strong;
The bulwarks cannot be unsound
          Which have endured so long.
"Survey our works--unknown of yore--
          Our arts and science scan;
Why need we further aid implore,
          Or worship aught--but man?

"The child of Wealth and Labour born
          Our giant City lies;
From Morn till Eve, and Eve till Morn,
          The ceaseless traffic plies.
From pole to pole her vessels sail;
          Her commerce reigns supreme;
Why need ye then the Past bewail?
          Let Priests and Women dream!"

They veil from their exulting sight
          The poverty--the sin--
The polished surface smooth and brought--
          Corruption foul within.
"Our Palaces are fair to view
          Our Feasts and Revels gay;
Be silent then--let things pursue
          Their free and prosperous way."

They hear of starving peasant bands;
          Of plains untilled and bare;
Of heavy hearts and idle hands;
          Of exile and despair.
But Plenty on their path is spread,
          And smiles upon their brow;
"We gave our yeomen Foreign Bread:
          What ails the murmurers now?"

In many a court and alley drear,
          The restless sufferers pine
For healthful breeze, and fountain clear,
          Or rays that warmly shine.
Forsaken many a cheerful home,
          And severed kindred ties;
For houseless now the wanderers roam
          Beneath the wintry skies.

But, hark! what soft and solemn notes
          Are borne upon the gale!
Their summons o'er the city floats
          When twilight's hues grow pale.
They peal from yonder holy Tower,
          And far and wide proclaim
That those who own their Maker's power
          May bless His sacred Name.

Like summer dew, or gentle balm,
          They solace many a breast;
Recalling childhood's early calm,
          And hours of Sabbath rest.
An Angel-voice in mercy sent
          E'en in our heedless day:
Some knees are in Devotion bent;
          Some lips are found to pray.

But not on grateful hearts alone
          They fall in measured chime;
For few their heavenly message own
          In this Enlightened Time.
The spirits--who impatient turn
          From all Divine control--
Ill brook reflections that concern
          The welfare of the soul.

The endless whirl of slavish toil
          Disturbs not their repose--
Nor crimes their tender conscience soil
          That taint unheeded grows.
Then speed the Wheel, and throw the Dice;
          Few mortals now can spare
A pause from Labour or from Vice--
          In which to breathe a Prayer.

"Then silence that disturbing bell,"
          They cry, "remind us not
Of hopes of bliss, or fears of hell,
          Or of the pauper's lot.
The progress of our vaunted Age,
          Such follies will not share,
Far other themes our minds engage
          Than forms of useless prayer.

"The poor of Christ we trample down
          Beneath our iron laws;
We strive not for the Patriot's Crown,
          Nor serve a Holier Cause.
In vain ye speak of things Divine--
          Of Church, or Altar bare:
We daily bow at Mammon's shrine,
          And place our offerings there.

"The warning of that irksome Bell
          Is hateful to our ear;
Its echoes might perchance dispel
          The dreams we hold so dear.
Our golden Idols, as a Seal
          On heart and brow we wear;
In yonder Fane why should be kneel?--
          We scorn the aid of Prayer.

"Away with those who would recall
          The thoughts of days gone by;
Let Faith's proud Pillars crumbling fall;
          Religion droop and die.
So long as worldly Wealth and Mirth
          Unto our souls be given,
We seek the Portion of the Earth,
          Nor value that of Heaven."

Oh England! different was Thy Voice,
          When Thou wert Great and Free;
Then did Thy faithful sons rejoice
          To pray on suppliant knee.
They did not grudge a moment's loss
          From Toil or Pleasure's claim;
They might revere their Saviour's Cross
          Without the Brand of Shame!

Then gladly did their hearts respond
          Unto the welcome sound,
Our valiant Ancestors were fond
          Of Consecrated Ground.
At dewy Morn, or silent Eve,
          They prest unto the Fane,
The Church's Blessing to receive,
          Then sought their homes again.

There was a strong and holy band
          Between the Rich and Poor;
Although the Castle owned the Land,
          The Cottage was secure.
The same indifference to their woes
          Could scarcely then be felt,
For men, perforce, would succour those
          With whom they daily knelt.

Oh England! why art Thou so changed?
          Whence this unnatural blight?
Why are Thy Rulers' hearts estranged
          From paths of Peace and Light?
God grant that Thou may'st not be driven
          Unto some fearful fate;
That Thine be not a blindness given
          To be removed too late!

Full many loyal subjects weep
          With vain but true regret;
The souls that pure Allegiance keep
          Perchance might save Thee yet!
Then pray--ere the mysterious Spell
          Upon Thy Doom be cast--
And bless the warning of the Bell
          That woke such thoughts at last!


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