Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

On Some Skulls in Beauley Abbey, near Inverness

  • 1
  • In silent barren synod met
  • Within these roofless walls, where yet,
  • The shafted arch and carved fret
  • Cling to the rain
  • The brethren’s skulls mourn, dewy wet,
  • Their creed’s undoing.
  • 2
  • The mitred ones of Nice and Trent
  • Were not so tongue-tied — no, they went
  • Hot to their Councils, scarce content
  • With orthodoxy;
  • But ye, poor tongueless things, were meant
  • To speak by proxy.
  • 3
  • Your chronicles no more exist,
  • Since Knox, the revolutionist,
  • Destroy’d the work of every fist
  • That scrawl’d black letter;
  • Well! I’m a craniologist,
  • And may do better.
  • 4
  • This skull-cap wore the cowl from sloth,
  • Or discontent, perhaps from both;
  • And yet one day, against his oath,
  • He tried escaping,
  • For men, though idle, may be loth
  • To live on gaping.
  • 5
  • A toper this! he plied his glass
  • More strictly than he said the mass,
  • And lov’d to see a tempting lass,
  • Come to confession
  • Letting her absolution pass
  • O’er fresh transgression.
  • 6
  • This crawl’d through life in feebleness,
  • Boasting he never knew excess,
  • Cursing those crimes he scarce could guess,
  • Or feel but faintly,
  • With prayers that heaven would cease to bless
  • Men so unsaintly.
  • 7
  • Here’s a true churchman! he’d affect
  • Much charity, and ne’er neglect
  • To pray for mercy on th’ elect
  • But thought no evil
  • In sending heathen, Turk, and sect
  • All to the devil!
  • 8
  • Poor skull, thy fingers set ablaze,
  • With silver saint in golden rays,
  • The holy missal; thou did’st craze
  • ’Mid bead and spangle,
  • While others pass’d their idle days
  • In coil and wrangle.
  • 9
  • Long time this sconce a helmet wore,
  • But sickness smites the conscience sore;
  • He broke his sword, and hither bore
  • His gear and plunder,
  • Took to the cowl, — then rav’d and swore
  • At his damn’d blunder!
  • 10
  • This lily-colour’d skull, with all
  • The teeth complete, so white and small,
  • Belong’d to one whose early pall
  • A lover shaded;
  • He died ere superstition’s gall
  • His heart invaded.
  • 11
  • Ha! here is “undivulged crime”!
  • Despair forbad his soul to climb
  • Beyond this world, this mortal time
  • Of fever’d sadness,
  • Until their monkish pantomime
  • Dazzled his madness!
  • 12
  • A younger brother this! a man
  • Aspiring as a Tartar khan,
  • But, curb’d and baffled, he began
  • The trade of frightening;
  • It smack’d of power! — and here he ran
  • To deal heaven’s lightening.
  • 13
  • This ideot-skull belong’d to one,
  • A buried miser’s only son,
  • Who, penitent ere he’d begun,
  • To taste of pleasure,
  • And hoping heaven’s dread wrath to shun
  • Gave hell his treasure.
  • 14
  • Here is the forehead of an ape,
  • A robber’s mark, —and near the nape
  • That bone, fie on’t, bears just the shape
  • Of carnal passion;
  • Ah! he was one for theft and rape
  • In monkish fashion!
  • 15
  • This was the porter! — he could sing,
  • Or dance, or play, do any thing,
  • And what the friars bade him bring,
  • They ne’er were balk’d of;
  • Matters not worth remembering,
  • And seldom talk’d of.
  • 16
  • Enough! why need I further pore?
  • This corner holds at least a score,
  • And yonder twice as many more
  • Of reverend brothers;
  • ’Tis the same story o’er and o’er, —
  • They’re like the others!

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “On Some Skulls in Beauley Abbey, near Inverness.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.6 , University of Victoria, 23 November 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_on_some_skulls_in_beauley_abbey.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, “On Some Skulls in Beauley Abbey, near Inverness,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.6 , last modified 23rd November 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_on_some_skulls_in_beauley_abbey.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. “On Some Skulls in Beauley Abbey, near Inverness.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.6 , last modified 23rd November 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_on_some_skulls_in_beauley_abbey.html.