Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 10/John of Padua

Illustrated by Matthew James Lawless.

JOHN OF PADUA.[1]
A LEGEND OF LONGLEAT.

John of Padua (Lawless).png

John of Padua duly came,
A grave wise man with a dark pale face,
He sat him down with a pondering brow,
And rule and compass to plan and trace
Each door and window, and terrace and wall,
And the tower that should rise to crown them all.

Ha! many a summer sunrise found
Wise John at his great and patient toil,
At his squares, and circles, and legends, and lines,
And many a night he burnt the oil:
Till the house with its pillar’d porch began
To slowly grow in the brain of that man.

Long lines of sunny southern wall,
With mullioned windows, row on row,
And balustrades and parapets,
Where the western wind should wildly blow;
And cresting all the vanes, to burn,
And glisten over miles of fern.

When thirteen Junes had burnt away,
The house arose as out of a dream:
Wide and stately, and tall and fair,
With windows to catch the sunset gleam;
Fifteen fair miles of subject lands
Girdle it round where it proudly stands.

Two hundred feet of western front,
And chapel and turret, and acres of roof,
And porch, and staircase, and welcoming hall,
And gate, that would keep no beggar aloof;
Three kings had died since it began,
And John had grown old, and pale, and wan.

One day the builder smiling sat,
His red-lined parchments slowly roll’d,
His work was ended—the night had come—
He bound and number’d them fold by fold;
And sat so gravely in the sun,
As if his toil had scarce begun.

Yes, there his life’s work stately stood,
With its shining acres of beaten lead,
Its glittering windows, row on row,
That centuries hence, when he was dead,
Should shine as they were shining then:
A landmark unto other men.

And there were the long white terraces,
And the great wide porch, like an open hand
Stretch’d out to welcome, and the tower
That rose like a fountain o’er the land;
And the great elms bosoming round the walls,
The singing birds’ green citadels.

They found him there when daybreak came,
In the self-same posture, self-same place,
But the plans had dropp’d from his thin wan hands,
A frozen smile was upon his face;
And when they spoke no word he said,
For John of Padua sat there dead.

W. T.


  1. Longleat, the seat of the Marquis of Bath, situated on the borders of Wiltshire, is a beautiful example of Italian architecture of the Elizabethan age. It was some forty years in building, cost a fabulous sum of money, and was the work of John, an architect of Padua.