Download document

GRAY, Thomas

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
Molest her ancient solitary 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:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle 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 not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful 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 gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Memory o'er their Tomb no Trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle 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 silent dust,
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 waked to ecstasy 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 soul.

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 on the desert air.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
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 list'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 circumscribed alone
Their glowing virtues, but their crimes confined;
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 kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

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

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

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

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev'n 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 some hoary-headed Swain may say,
'Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

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

'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed 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 fav'rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

'The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn:'

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.

The Bard

Pindaric Ode

"RUIN seize thee, ruthless King!

Confusion on thy banners wait;

Tho' fann'd by Conquest's crimson wing

They mock the air with idle state.

Helm nor hauberk's twisted mail, 5

Nor e'en thy virtues, Tyrant, shall avail

To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,

From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears!"

—Such were the sounds that o'er the crested pride

Of the first Edward scatter'd wild dismay, 10

As down the steep of Snowdon's shaggy side

He wound with toilsome march his long array:—

Stout Glo'ster stood aghast in speechless trance;

"To arms!" cried Mortimer, and couch'd his quivering lance.

On a rock, whose haughty brow 15

Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood,

Robed in the sable garb of woe

With haggard eyes the Poet stood;

(Loose his beard and hoary hair

Stream'd like a meteor to the troubled air) 20

And with a master's hand and prophet's fire

Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre:—

"Hark, how each giant oak and desert cave

Sighs to the torrent's awful voice beneath!

O'er thee, O King! their hundred arms they wave, 25

Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe;

Vocal no more, since Cambria's fatal day,

To highborn Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.

"Cold is Cadwallo's tongue,

That hush'd the stormy main; 30

Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed:

Mountains, ye mourn in vain

Modred, whose magic song

Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topt head.

On dreary Arvon's shore they lie 35

Smear'd with gore and ghastly pale:

Far, far aloof the affrighted ravens sail;

The famish'd eagle screams, and passes by.

Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,

Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes, 40

Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,

Ye died amidst your dying country's cries—

No more I weep; They do not sleep;

On yonder cliffs, a griesly band,

I see them sit; They linger yet, 45

Avengers of their native land:

With me in dreadful harmony they join,

And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.

"Weave the warp and weave the woof

The winding-sheet of Edward's race; 50

Give ample room and verge enough

The characters of hell to trace.

Mark the year, and mark the night,

When Severn shall re-echo with affright

The shrieks of death thro' Berkley's roof that ring, 55

Shrieks of an agonizing king!

She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs

That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate,

From thee be born who o'er thy country hangs

The scourge of Heaven! What terrors round him wait! 60

Amazement in his van, with flight combined,

And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.

"Mighty victor, mighty lord,

Low on his funeral couch he lies!

No pitying heart, no eye, afford 65

A tear to grace his obsequies.

Is the sable warrior fled?

Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead.

The swarm that in thy noontide beam were born?

—Gone to salute the rising morn. 70

Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,

While proudly riding o'er the azure realm

In gallant trim the gilded Vessel goes:

Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm:

Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway, 75

That hush'd in grim repose expects his evening prey.

"Fill high the sparkling bowl,

The rich repast prepare;

Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast:

Close by the regal chair 80

Fell Thirst and Famine scowl

A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.

Heard ye the din of battle bray,

Lance to lance, and horse to horse?

Long years of havock urge their destined course, 85

And thro' the kindred squadrons mow their way.

Ye towers of Julius, London's lasting shame,

With many a foul and midnight murder fed,

Revere his consort's faith, his father's fame

And spare the meek usurper's holy head! 90

Above, below, the rose of snow,

Twined with her blushing foe, we spread:

The bristled boar in infant-gore

Wallows beneath the thorny shade.

Now, brothers, bending o'er the accursèd loom, 95

Stamp we our vengeance deep and ratify his doom.

"Edward, lo! to sudden fate

(Weave we the woof; The thread is spun;)

Half of thy heart we consecrate.

(The web is wove; The work is done.) 100

—Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn

Leave me unbless'd, unpitied, here to mourn:

In yon bright track that fires the western skies

They melt, they vanish from my eyes.

But oh what solemn scenes on Snowdon's height 105

Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?

Visions of glory, spare my aching sight,

Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!

No more our long-lost Arthur we bewail:—

All hail, ye genuine kings! Britannia's issue, hail! 110

"Girt with many a baron bold

Sublime their starry fronts they rear;

And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old

In bearded majesty, appear.

In the midst a form divine! 115

Her eye proclaims her of the Briton line;

Her lion port, her awe-commanding face

Attemper'd sweet to virgin-grace.

What strings symphonious tremble in the air,

What strains of vocal transport round her play? 120

Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;

They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.

Bright Rapture calls, and soaring as she sings,

Waves in the eye of Heaven her many-colour'd wings.

"The verse adorn again 125

Fierce war, and faithful love,

And truth severe, by fairy fiction drest.

In buskin'd measures move

Pale grief, and pleasing pain,

With horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast 130

A voice as of the cherub-choir

Gales from blooming Eden bear,

And distant warblings lessen on my ear

That lost in long futurity expire.

Fond impious man, think'st thou yon sanguine cloud 135

Raised by thy breath, has quench'd the orb of day?

To-morrow he repairs the golden flood

And warms the nations with redoubled ray.

Enough for me; with joy I see

The different doom our fates assign: 140

Be thine despair and sceptred care,

To triumph and to die are mine."

—He spoke, and headlong from the mountain's height

Deep in the roaring tide he plunged to endless night.

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

Ye distant spires, ye antique tow'rs,

         That crown the wat'ry glade,

Where grateful Science still adores

         Her Henry's holy Shade;

And ye, that from the stately brow

Of Windsor's heights th' expanse below

         Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,

Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowr's among

Wanders the hoary Thames along

         His silver-winding way.

Ah, happy hills, ah, pleasing shade,

         Ah, fields belov'd in vain,

Where once my careless childhood stray'd,

         A stranger yet to pain!

I feel the gales, that from ye blow,

A momentary bliss bestow,

         As waving fresh their gladsome wing,

My weary soul they seem to soothe,

And, redolent of joy and youth,

         To breathe a second spring.

Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen

         Full many a sprightly race

Disporting on thy margent green

         The paths of pleasure trace,

Who foremost now delight to cleave

With pliant arm thy glassy wave?

         The captive linnet which enthrall?

What idle progeny succeed

To chase the rolling circle's speed,

         Or urge the flying ball?

While some on earnest business bent

         Their murm'ring labours ply

'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint

         To sweeten liberty:

Some bold adventurers disdain

The limits of their little reign,

         And unknown regions dare descry:

Still as they run they look behind,

They hear a voice in ev'ry wind,

         And snatch a fearful joy.

Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,

         Less pleasing when possest;

The tear forgot as soon as shed,

         The sunshine of the breast:

Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,

Wild wit, invention ever-new,

         And lively cheer of vigour born;

The thoughtless day, the easy night,

The spirits pure, the slumbers light,

         That fly th' approach of morn.

Alas, regardless of their doom,

         The little victims play!

No sense have they of ills to come,

         Nor care beyond to-day:

Yet see how all around 'em wait

The ministers of human fate,

         And black Misfortune's baleful train!

Ah, show them where in ambush stand

To seize their prey the murth'rous band!

         Ah, tell them they are men!

These shall the fury Passions tear,

         The vultures of the mind

Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,

         And Shame that skulks behind;

Or pining Love shall waste their youth,

Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,

         That inly gnaws the secret heart,

And Envy wan, and faded Care,

Grim-visag'd comfortless Despair,

         And Sorrow's piercing dart.

Ambition this shall tempt to rise,

         Then whirl the wretch from high,

To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,

         And grinning Infamy.

The stings of Falsehood those shall try,

And hard Unkindness' alter'd eye,

         That mocks the tear it forc'd to flow;

And keen Remorse with blood defil'd,

And moody Madness laughing wild

         Amid severest woe.

Lo, in the vale of years beneath

         A griesly troop are seen,

The painful family of Death,

         More hideous than their Queen:

This racks the joints, this fires the veins,

That ev'ry labouring sinew strains,

         Those in the deeper vitals rage:

Lo, Poverty, to fill the band,

That numbs the soul with icy hand,

         And slow-consuming Age.

To each his suff'rings: all are men,

         Condemn'd alike to groan,

The tender for another's pain;

         Th' unfeeling for his own.

Yet ah! why should they know their fate?

Since sorrow never comes too late,

         And happiness too swiftly flies.

Thought would destroy their paradise.

No more; where ignorance is bliss,

       'Tis folly to be wise.