Old church at Lismore


Old Church, thou still art Catholic, e’en dream they as they may
That the new rites and worship have swept the old away
There is no form of beauty raised by nature or by art
That preaches not God’s saving truths to man’s ador­ing heart

In vain they tore the altar down; in vain they flung aside
The mournful emblem of the death which our sweet Saviour died
In vain they left no single trace of saint or angel here
Still angel-spirits haunt the ground, and to the soul appear

I marvel how in scenes like these, so coldly they can pray
Nor hold sweet commune with the dead who once knelt down as they
Yet not as they, in sad mistrust or sceptic doubt for, oh
They looked in hope to the blessed saints, these dead of long ago

And then the churchyard, soft and calm, spread out beyond the scene
With sunshine warm and soothing shade and trees upon its green
Ah ! though their cruel Church forbid, are there no hearts will pray
For the poor souls that trembling left that cold and speechless clay?

My God, I am a Catholic, I grew into the ways
Of my dear Church since first my voice could lisp a word of praise
But oft I think though my first youth were taught and trained awrong
I still had learnt the one true faith from nature and from song

For still, whenever dear friends die, it is such joy to know
They are not all beyond the care that healed their wounds below,
That we can pray them into peace, and speed them to the shore
Where clouds and cares and thorny griefs shall vex their hearts no more

And the sweet saints, so meek below, so merciful above
And the pure angels, watching still with such untiring love
And the kind Virgin, Queen of Heaven with all her mother’s care
Who prays for earth, because she knows what break­ing hearts are there

Oh, let us lose no single link that our dear Church has bound
To keep our hearts more close to Heaven, on earth’s ungenial ground
But trust in saint and martyr yet and o’er their hallowed clay
Long after we have ceased to weep, kneel faithful down to pray

So shall the land for us be still the Sainted Isle of old
Where hymn and incense rise to Heaven, and holy beads are told
And even the ground they tore from God, in years of crime and woe
Instinctive with His truth and love, shall breathe of long ago


By Ellen Mary Patrick Downing (1828 – 1869)
This poem, inscribed in the manuscript “My Last Verses” was the last written by “Mary” before entering on her noviti­ate in 1849.

Song Clip