ALMÆ MATRES - Isa Craig Knox Poems


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(St. Andrews, 1862. Oxford, 1865)

ST. ANDREWS by the northern sea,
    A haunted town it is to me!
A little city, worn and gray,
    The gray North Ocean girds it round;
And o'er the rocks, and up the bay,
    The long sea-rollers surge and sound;
And still the thin and biting spray
    Drives down the melancholy street,
And still endure, and still decay,
    Towers that the salt winds vainly beat.
Ghost-like and shadowy they stand
Dim mirrored in the wet sea-sand.

O ruined chapel! long ago
    We loitered idly where the tall
Fresh budded mountain ashes blow
    Within thy desecrated wall:
The tough roots rent the tomb below,
    The April birds sang clamorous,
We did not dream, we could not know,
    How hardly fate would deal with us!

O broken minster, looking forth
    Beyond the bay, above the town!
O winter of the kindly north,
    O college of the scarlet gown,
And shining sands beside the sea,
    And stretch of links beyond the sand,
Once more I watch you, and to me
    It is as if I touched his hand!

And therefore art thou yet more dear,
    O little city, gray and sere,
Though shrunken from thine ancient pride
    And lonely by thy lonely sea,
Than these fair halls on Isis' side,
    Where Youth an hour came back to me!

A land of waters green and clear,
    Of willows and of poplars tall,
And, in the spring-time of the year,
    The white may breaking over all,
And Pleasure quick to come at call.
    And summer rides by marsh and wold,
And autumn with her crimson pall
    About the towers of Magdalen rolled;
And strange enchantments from the past,
    And memories of the friends of old,
And strong Tradition, binding fast
    The 'flying terms' with bands of gold, --
All these hath Oxford: all are dear,
    But dearer far the little town,
The drifting surf, the wintry year,
    The college of the scarlet gown,
        St. Andrews by the northern sea,
        That is a haunted town to me!