October Poem-Gray--Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard


Not the glorious seventeenth--but surely a highlight of the eighteenth. It's a shame so few read it these days and so few know its noble rhythms and pithy turns of phrase. In this brief excerpt for your pleasure there are no fewer than three really catchy phrases. Find the complete poem here.

from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray (1751)

            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 hist'ry 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 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 tenor of their way.

            Yet ev'n 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 th' 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, ling'ring 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.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 27, 2003 7:32 AM.

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