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I see how plenty surfeits oft,
And hasty climbers soonest fall ; I see that such as sit aloft
Mishap doth threaten most of all; These get with toil, and keep with fear; Such cares my mind could never bear.
No princely pomp, nor wealthy store,
No force to win a victory, No wily wit to salve a sore,
No shape to win a lover's eye ; To none of these I yield as thrall, For why? my mind despiseth all.
Some have too much, yet still they crave;
I little have, yet seek no more ; They are but poor, though much they have ;
And I am rich with little store;
I grudge not at another's gain;
I brook that is another's bane.
My wealth is health and perfect ease;
My conscience clear my chief defence ; I never seek by bribes to please,
Nor by desert to give offence ; Thus do I live, thus will I die ; Would all did so as well as I !
AN ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.
For care, I care not what it is ;
I fear not Fortune's fatal law.
I wish but what I have at will;
In greatest storms I sit on shore,
I kiss not where I wish to kill ;
I feign not love where most I hate ;
I wait not at the mighty's gate ;
The court, ne cart, I like ne loathe ;
Extremes are counted worst of all;
Doth surest sit, and fears no fall;
AN ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCH
YARD. – Gray.
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herds wind slowly o'er the lea, The ploughboy 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 drony flight,
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
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 ; Nor 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 teams afield!
How bowed 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.
AN ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD. 127
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 note of praise.
Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to their 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.
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,
Or waste its fragrance 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.
* An English patriot, who resisted King Charles the First's usurpation of power.
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 Muses' flame.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray ; Along the cool, sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet e'en 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 name, their years, spelt by the unlettered
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 resigned, Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind ?