BYGONE SUSSEX - online book

Essays, Sketches and Illustrations of bygone Sussex

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POEMS OF SUSSEX PLACES.                   115
So beats the tide of life on Fate's sea-wall,— With Heaven's bright lamp of pity over all.
The same volume contains " A legend of Hastings." The life of Rahere, the founder of St. Bartholomew's Church and Hospital (written circa 1174-1189) includes a story of a " worshipful matrone " of Hastings, Cecilia—" Ceale " she is called in the English version—the wife of a wealthy shipmaster named Helyas, who, having brought his cargo safe to London, was praying at the newly-opened church in Smithfield at the very time that his house at Hastings was in danger of being swept away in a fierce conflag­ration. Cecilia, bereft of man's " counsell and helpe," commends herself to St. Bartholomew, and throws a thread round her house. The fire leaps over it, burns the houses on the other side, but spares this one, only " touchying the pynnacles, leavyng them half brent."
Cecilia, standing at her open door,
Sees Hastings town wrapped in devouring flames That leap exultant round the crackling frames,
And unappeased seek still one victim more.
She thinks of Helyas wandering up and down
At sea, and by the stormy tempest tossed,
On ocean struggling or in ocean lost ? Or safe perchance in famous London town.
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