ELEGY-written in a country churchyard

ELEGY-written in a country churchyard

by Thomas Grey


THE CURFEW TOLLS the knell of parting day,
  
 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 sight,

      And all the air a solemn stillness holds,

  Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,

   And drowsey tinklings lull the distant
                               
    folds:




     Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
        
  The moping owl does to the moon
           
    complain
        
 Of such as, wand'ring near her secret
  
    bower,
 
  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 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 ob-

  scure;



  Nor grandeur her with a distainful

  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,

  Await 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 thro' 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 celes-

 tial 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 flower is born to blush un-

  seen,

  And waste its sweetness on the desert

   air.

Some village Hampden, that, with daunt-

   less breast,

   The little tyrant of his fields withstood,

Some mute inglorious Milton, here may 

  rest,


Th' applause of list'ning senates to com-

  mand,

The threats of pain and ruin to de-

  spise,

To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,

  And read their history in a nation's

   eyes,


Their lot forbade:  nor circumsribed

  alone

   Their growing virtues , but their crimes

   confined;

  Forbade to wade through slaughter to a 

   throne,

 And shut the gates of mercy on man-

  kind,


The struggling pangs of conscious thruth

  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 those bones from insult to protect,

   Some frail memorial still erected nigh, 

With uncouth rhymes and shapless

  sculpture deck'd,

   Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.


Their name, their years , spelt by th' un-

   letter'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;

E'en from the tomb the voice of nature 

   cries,

   E'en 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,

   Sone 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 step 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, woful-wan, like one
  
forlorn,

   Or crazed with care, or cross'd in 

hopeless  love.

One morn I miss'd him on the 'cus-

   tom'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 un- known: 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, Heaven did a recompense as largely send; He gave mis'ry(all he had) a tear, He gained from heav'n ('twas all he wish'd ) a friend. No farther seek his merits to dis- close, Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, (There they alike in trembling hope repose,) The bosom of his Father and his God. -END-

WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO DEAN AND SON LIMITED (early edition(the riverside press limited ,edinburgh))

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