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Wrapt in thy cloudy veil, th' incestuous queen
Sigh'd the sad call her son and husband heard, When once alone it broke the silent scene,
And he the wretch of Thebes no more appear'd.
O Fear, I know thee by my throbbing heart:
Thy withering power inspir'd each mournful line : Though gentle Pity claim her mingled part,
Yet all the thunders of the scene are thine !
Thou who such weary lengths hast past,
Or, in some hallow'd seat,
'Gainst which the big waves beat, Hear drowning seamen's cries, in tempests brought Dark power, with shudd'ring meek submitted thought.
Be mine to read the visions old
O thou whose spirit most possest
GR A Y.
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,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.
Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such as, wandering 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 mouldering 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 twittering 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 harrow 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 power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Await alike the' 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 notes 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 Flattery 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 guiltiess of his country's blood.
The' 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 circumscrib'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 ingenious 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 ;
Yet e'en 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 the’ 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 lingering 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 the 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 noon-tide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by. • Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering 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 sad array
Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borneApproach and read (for thou canst read) the lay, Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'
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 Misery (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.