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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 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, 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 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 growing virtues, but their crimes confined ; Forbade to wade thro' 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 Muses' flame.