First publ. B & P iii (DL), 26 Nov. 1842, with Incident of the French Camp ( II 3), which preceded it, under the collective title Camp and Cloister, with the title ‘Cloister (Spanish)’. Repr. 1849 (when it was separated from Incident and given its present title), 1863, 18632, 1868, 1880, 1888. In 1863 the poem was listed on the contents page as no. III of Garden-Fancies, but, though it immediately follows that poem in the text, it retains its separate identity. The contents page may be misprinted, or may contain the trace of a change which B. thought better of; the contents page of 1865, the revised reissue of 1863, lists the poem separately. The date of composition is unknown. J. U. Rundle (N & Q cxcvi [1951] 252) suggests a debt to Burns’s Holy Willie’s Prayer. G. Bornstein, in Poetic Remaking: The Art of Browning, Yeats and Pound (Pennsylvania 1988, p. 23) suggests that the poem ‘may glance at the debate over religious ritual stirred by the Oxford Movement’: see headnote to Tomb at St Praxed’s (pp. 233-4). The setting is contemporary, but articulates a traditional Protestant attack on monastic life as a breeding-ground for petty feuds and religious hypocrisy; cp. the ‘old monk’ in Sordello i 299-308 ( I 414). False or perverted religious feeling, whether Protestant or Catholic, is a recurring topic of B.’s work; cp., in this period, Johannes Agricola (p. 74) and Tomb at St. Praxed’s (p. 232). Spanish Catholicism in particular is further attacked in Confessional ( II 337).