Page images
PDF
EPUB

c H A P.

X.

ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY

CHURCH.YARD.

[ocr errors]

T
"HE curfew tolls the knell of parting days

The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the fight,
And all the air a solemn, stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his drony flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds ;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantledi tow'r,
The mopeing owl does to the moon complain
Of fuch, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
Moleft her ancient folitary reign,

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care :

[merged small][ocr errors]

No children run to lisp their fire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their siekle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke :
How jocund did they drive their team afield !
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke !

Let no ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure ;
Nor grandeur hear with a difdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gaven;
Await alike th' inevitable hour,,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If Mem’ry o'er their tomb. no trophies raise,
Where thro' the long-drawn isle, and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the filent duft,
Or flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death ?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire ;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or wak'd to ecstacy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of Time did ne'er unroll ;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the foul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of Ocean bear :
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness in the desert air,

Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breaft
The little tyrant of his fields withstood ;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

Th’applause of lift’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes.

Their lot forbade : nor circumfcrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd:
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;

The struggling pangs of conscious Truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous Shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kiridled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble ftrife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray ;

Along

Along the cool fequefter'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial ftill erected nigh,
With uncouth rhimes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a figh.

1

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Mufe,
The place of fame and elegy supply ;
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralift to die..

For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er refign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling'ring look behind ?

On some fond breast the parting foul relies, .
Some pious drops the clofing eye requires ;
Even from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who mindful of th' unhonour'd Dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate:
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred Spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply fome hoary-headed fwain may say,
6. Oft have we seen him at the

peep

of dawn,
• Brushing with hasty steps the dew away
• To meet the fun upon the upland lawn, .

N 5

There

• There at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
"That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
• Hiş listless length at noontide would he stretch,
. And pore upon the brook that bubbles by.

• Hard hy yon wood, now smiling, as in scorn,
• Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
· Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
• Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

« One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,

Along the heath, and near his favourite tree ; • Another came ; nor yet, beside the rill, « Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he :

« The next with dirges due in fad array
· Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,
' Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
• Grav'd on the stone, beneath yon aged thorn.'

THE EPITAPH.

HERE refts his head upon the lap of Earth

Arouth, to Fortune and to Fame unknown :
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy markd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his foul sincere,
Heav'n did a recompence as largely send :
He

gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,
He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wisb'd) a friend,

No

« PreviousContinue »