On the Funeral of Charles the First at Night, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor

By William Lisle Bowles 1762–1850 William Lisle Bowles
The castle clock had tolled midnight:
      With mattock and with spade,
And silent, by the torches’ light,
      His corse in earth we laid.

   The coffin bore his name, that those
      Of other years might know,
When earth its secrets should disclose,
      Whose bones were laid below.

   “Peace to the dead” no children sung,
      Slow pacing up the nave,—
No prayers were read, no knell was rung,
      As deep we dug his grave.

   We only heard the winter's wind,
      In many a sullen gust,
As, o’er the open grave inclined,
      We murmured, “Dust to dust!”

   A moonbeam from the arch’s height
      Streamed, as we placed the stone;
The long aisles started into light,
      And all the windows shone.

   We thought we saw the banners then,
      That shook along the walls,
Whilst the sad shades of mailèd men
      Were gazing on the stalls.

   ’Tis gone! again on tombs defaced
      Sits darkness more profound;
And only by the torch we traced
      The shadows on the ground.

   And now the chilling, freezing air
      Without blew long and loud;
Upon our knees we breathed one prayer,
      Where he slept in his shroud.

   We laid the broken marble floor,—
      No name, no trace appears,—
And when we closed the sounding door,
      We thought of him with tears.

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Poet William Lisle Bowles 1762–1850



Subjects Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Heroes & Patriotism, Death

Occasions Funerals

Poetic Terms Ballad

 William Lisle  Bowles


Thomas Moore—William Lisle Bowles's friend, fellow minor poet, and longtime Wiltshire neighbor—recorded in a journal for 20 March 1819 that he found the middle-aged vicar "in the bar of the White Hart, dictating to a waiter (who acted as an amanuensis for him) his ideas of the true Sublime in Poetry." He concluded by recalling the innocent, absentminded, and benevolent country parson in Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews (1742): . . .

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Poems by William Lisle Bowles

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Heroes & Patriotism, Death



Poetic Terms Ballad

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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