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'Tis fhe! but why that bleeding bofom gor'd?
Why bade ye elfe, ye Pow'rs! her foul aspire
From thefe perhaps (ere nature bade her die)
And fep'rate from their kindred dregs below;
But thou, falfe guardian of a charge too good, Thou mean deferter of thy brother's blood! See on these ruby lips the trembling breath, These cheeks, now fading at the blaft of death; Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before, And those love-darting eyes muft roll no more. Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball,
Thus fhall your wives, and thus your children fall:
So perish all, whofe breaft ne'er learnt to glow
What can atone (oh ever-injur'd shade !)
Poets themselves must fall, like those they fung,
But of Elegies on the fubject of death, this by Mr. Gray is one of the beft that has appeared in our language, and may be justly efteem'd a masterpiece.
Written in a country church-yard.
The curfeu tolls the knell of parting day,
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain Of fuch as, wand'ring near her fecret bow'r, Moleft her ancient folitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's fhade, Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap, Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude fore-fathers of the hamlet fleep. The breezy call of incenfe breathing morn,
The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed, The cock's fhrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more fhall rouse them from their lowly bed. For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn, Or bufy housewife ply her evening care: No children run to lifp their fire's return,
Or climb his knees the envy'd kifs to fhare.
Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and deftiny obfcure;
The fhort and fimple annals of the poor.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Oft did the harveft to their fickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team a field!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Forgive, ye proud, th' involuntary fault,
Can ftoried urn, or animated buft,
Back to its manfion call the fleeting breath? Can honour's voice provoke the filent duft,
Or flatt'ry footh the dull cold ear of death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celeftial fire, Hands that the reins of empire might have fway'd, Or wak'd to extafy the living lyre.
But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
And froze the genial current of the foul.
Full many a gem of pureft ray ferene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And wafte its fweetnefs on the defert air. Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breaft The little tyrant of his fields withstood; Some mute inglorious Milton here may reft, Some Cromwell guiltlefs of his country's blood. Th' applause of lift'ning fenates to command, The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To fcatter plenty o'er a fmiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes Their lot forbad; nor circumfcrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd; Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne, And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The ftruggling pangs of confcious truth to hide,
With incenfe, kindled at the mufe's flame.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble ftrife,
Yet e'en these bones from infult to protect,
Their name, their years, fpelt by th' unletter'd muse,
For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleafing anxious being e'er refign'd, Left the warm precincts of the chearful day,
Nor caft one longing, ling'ring look behind?
On fome fond breaft the parting foul relies,
Some pious drops the clofing eye requires ; Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries, Awake and faithful to her wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of th' unhonour'd dead
Some kindred spirit fhall inquire thy fate.
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn Brushing with hafty steps the dews away, • To meet the fun upon the upland lawn.
There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots fo high, His liftless length at noon-tide would he ftretch, • And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
Hard by yon wood, now fmiling as in fcorn,