Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
 
Bedfont
The Two Peacocks of Bedfont
Thomas Hood (1799–1845)
 
ALAS! that breathing Vanity should go
  Where Pride is buried,—like its very ghost,
Uprisen from the naked bones below,
  In novel flesh, clad in the silent boast
Of gaudy silk that flutters to and fro,        5
  Shedding its chilling superstition most
On young and ignorant natures, as it wont
To haunt the peaceful churchyard of Bedfont!
 
Each Sabbath morning, at the hour of prayer,
  Behold two maidens, up the quiet green        10
Shining, far distant, in the summer air
  That flaunts their dewy robes and breathes between
Their downy plumes,—sailing as if they were
  Two far-off ships,—until they brush between
The churchyard’s humble walls, and watch and wait        15
On either side of the wide opened gate.
 
And there they stand—with haughty necks before
  God’s holy house, that points towards the skies—
Frowning reluctant duty from the poor,
  And tempting homage from unthoughtful eyes:        20
And Youth looks lingering from the temple door,
  Breathing its wishes in unfruitful sighs,
With pouting lips,—forgetful of the grace,
Of health, and smiles, on the heart-conscious face;—
 
Because that Wealth, which has no bliss beside,        25
  May wear the happiness of rich attire;
And those two sisters, in their silly pride,
  May change the soul’s warm glances for the fire
Of lifeless diamonds;—and for health denied,—
  With art, that blushes at itself, inspire        30
Their languid cheeks,—and flourish in a glory
That has no life in life, nor after-story.
 
The aged priest goes shaking his gray hair
  In meekest censuring, and turns his eye
Earthward in grief, and heavenward in prayer,        35
  And sighs, and clasps his hands, and passes by.
Good-hearted man! what sullen soul would wear
  Thy sorrow for a garb, and constantly
Put on thy censure, that might win the praise
Of one so gray in goodness and in days?        40
 
Also the solemn clerk partakes the shame
  Of this ungodly shine of human pride,
And sadly blends his reverence and blame
  In one grave bow, and passes with a stride
Impatient:—many a red-hooded dame        45
  Turns her pained head, but not her glance, aside
From wanton dress, and marvels o’er again,
That heaven hath no wet judgments for the vain.
*        *        *        *        *
The aged priest goes on each Sabbath morn,
  But shakes not sorrow under his gray hair;        50
The solemn clerk goes lavendered and shorn,
  Nor stoops his back to the ungodly pair;—
And ancient lips that puckered up in scorn,
  Go smoothly breathing to the house of prayer;
And in the garden-plot, from day to day,        55
The lily blooms its long white life away.
 
And where two haughty maidens used to be,
  In pride of plume, where plumy Death had trod,
Trailing their gorgeous velvets wantonly,
  Most unmeet pall, over the holy sod;—        60
There, gentle stranger, thou may’st only see
  Two sombre Peacocks.—Age, with sapient nod
Marking the spot, still tarries to declare
How they once lived, and wherefore they are there.
 
 
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