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Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Molest her ancient, solitary reign.
Where heaves the turf in many a moldering heap,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
Or busy housewife ply her evening care ;
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 bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure ;
The short and simple annals of the poor.
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
If Memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can Honor'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 swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre. VOL X. - 19
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll; Chill Penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul. Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark, unfathomed 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 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;
To quench the blushes of ingenuous Shame,
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame. [The thoughtless world to Majesty may bow,
Exalt the brave, and idolize success; But more to Innocence their safety owe,
Than Power or Genius e'er conspired to bless.] [Hark, how the sacred calm that broods around
Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease,
A grateful earnest of eternal peace.]
Their sober wishes never learned to stray ;
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. Yet even these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial, still erected nigh, With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh,
Their names, their years, spelt by th' unlettered 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 berug e'er resigned, 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 th’unhonored 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. “ Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies, he would rove; Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love. “One morn I missed him on the 'customed hill,
Along the heath, and near his favorite 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." ["There scattered oft, the earliest of the year,
By hands unseen, are showers of violets found; The redbreast loves to build and warble there,
And little footsteps lightly print the ground.")
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown;
And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Heaven did a recompense as largely send :
He gained from Heaven ('t was all he wished) a friend.
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
The Bosom of his Father and his God. [The stanzas included in brackets were omitted by Gray in the first edition of the “ Elegy," and as sanctioned by him or by later editors are (except as to the third one) of infrequent appearance in the poem.)
ODE ON THE SPRING.
Fair Venus' train, appear,
And wake the purple year!
The untaught harmony of spring;
Their gathered fragrance fling.
A broader, browner shade,
O'er-canopies the glade,
(At ease reclined in rustic state)
How indigent the great!
The panting herds repose:
The busy murmur glows!