Old Walls

'Old Walls' remains of Bishop's Palace

‘Old Walls’ remains of Bishop’s Palace

So today we move further up the river to Bishopsteignton and then take a short detour inland to the ruins of the Bishops’ Palace, an area now known as ‘Old Walls’.

I have already commented on the comparative shortage of female poets before the 20th century. Well I have tracked down another one, Marianne Prowse, who came from Teignmouth and was an acquaintance (if not unrequited lover of Keats). She wrote one book of verse on themes often related to nature and disaster! This poem seems to describe a walk she took to these ruins. There’s an interesting use of the word ‘lout’!

Old Walls (Ruins of a monastery in the south of Devon)
(Marianne Prowse, 1830)

We strolled along much at our ease,
Talking of spring, and birds, and trees;
When lo! o’ergrown with ivy green,
An abbey’s dark remains are seen—
Roofless and desolate,
Of all its former state
No trace remains,
Nor chaunted strains
Of vespers, bearing on their wings
The raptured soul to heaven.

But here the blackbird sweetly sings
A requiem to the slumbering dead;
And here the primrose lifts its head,
And fearless blooms
Among the tombs,
And decks each nameless bed.
Here, too, the murmuring breath of spring
Sighs softly round, and seems to bring
A sad mysterious moan–
Departed glory’s meed
And cold the heart indeed
That would not echo a responsive tone!

Perhaps, in olden time,
Before this holy shrine,
The white robed virgin bands,
With meekly folded hands,
And eyes to heaven upraised,
Have their great maker praised;
And bright celestial visions seem’d
To flit before each raptured eye
And on each ear dwelt angel minstrelsy,
While heavenly splendours round the altar beam’d!

But all is past—and none that live,
Its history may tell;
Yet to its fall a sigh we give,
Grey ruin, fare thee welI !”
So, on we went; whiIe from our view
The mouldering pile recedes;
Yet many a Iingering glance we threw
Back o’er the yellow meads.
And then we said, at least a name
These hallowed relics still may claim,
To tell of former deeds.

We asked a peasant if he knew
Aught of these ruined halls
“Aye,” said the lout, “full sure I do;
That place be called Old Walls !”
And this is all ! — and thus must pass
Whate’er is great or fair;
‘Tis viewed awhile in memory’s glass,
Then vanishes in air.


The poem is taken from: Prowse, Marianne. Poems: by Miss I. S. Prowse. London: Smith, Elder and Co., Baldwin and Cradock, 1830.

With acknowledgments to Nineteenth Century Collections Online. Web. 19 July 2014. To see the book in full go to:

Nineteeth Century Collections Online …..

(Note: if you read the original in the above link you will see that the poem is written continuously, i.e. without stanzas, and is curiously indented.  I have tried to break it into meaningful stanzas for ease of reading)

Want to know more?  Check out:

Marianne Prowse …..
Old Walls …..




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