Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Lady Margaret Holand and the Poet's Muse

The tomb of the Lady Margaret Holand (1385-1439) and her two husbands, John Beaufort, duke of Somerset (d. 1410) to her left and on her right, Thomas, duke of Clarence (d. 1421). This Canterbury tomb once inspired the great American poet, Emma Lazarus ("give me your tired, your poor..."). Margaret, great-great-granddaughter of Edward I, married for her first husband a descendant of Edward III; her second husband was a son of Henry IV.

The Warrior's Chapel: construction was started on the Chapel between 1428 and 1437, although no exact date is available, and was dedicated to St. Michael on 18 December 1439. The chapel was designed by Richard Beke, who was the Priory’s architect between 1432 and 1458. It is often referred to as the “Holland Chapel” on account of the tomb it was built to house for Margaret Holand and her two soldier husbands. These figures rank among the most accomplished English alabaster effigies of the 15th century.

St. Michael's Chapel (Emma Lazarus)

When the vexed hubbub of our world of gain
Roars round about me as I walk the street,
The myriad noise of Traffic, and the beat
Of Toil's incessant hammer, the fierce strain
Of struggle hand to hand and brain to brain,
Ofttimes a sudden dream my sense will cheat,
The gaudy shops, the sky-piled roofs retreat,
And all at once I stand enthralled again
Within a marble minster over-seas.
I watch the solemn gold-stained gloom that creeps
To kiss an alabaster tomb, where sleeps
A lady 'twixt two knights' stone effigies,
And every day in dusky glory steeps
Their sculptured slumber of five centuries.

"In this same chapel (St. Michael's) is a monument of marble and alabaster, very fine to look upon, to the memory of Lady Margaret Holland and her two husbands. She lies in full-length effigy between her two lords: one, the earl of Somerset; the other, the duke of Clarence. At their feet, as usual, animals are sculptured. These generally indicate the characteristic of the deceased; e. g., an eagle, courage; a hound, fleetness; and a dog, fidelity." [Merrie England: In the Cathedral,]

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