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Beneath those rugged elins, 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 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 sın:le
The short and simple annals of the poor, The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth o'er gavo, 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 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 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 guil·less of his country's blood.
The applause of listening 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 growing 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 tenour of their way.
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
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 ; E'en from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
E'en 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 noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by. “ Him have we seen the greenwood side along, While o'er the heath we hied, our labour
done, Oft as the woodlark piped her farewell song,
With wistful eyes pursue the setting sun
* This stanza, which completes the account of the Poet's day, although in the author's MS., has hitherto
“ Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering 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 custom'd hill
Along the heath and near his favourite tree i 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.
appeared but in the form of a note ; but, as Mr. Mason observes, “ without it we have only his morning walk and his noontide repose."
* “ Before the Epitaph, Mr. Gray originally inserted a very beautiful stanza, which was printed in