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by Thomas Gray |

Sonnet On The Death Of Mr Richard West

 In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
And redd'ning Phoebus lifts his golden fire:
The birds in vain their amorous descant join;
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire:
These ears, alas! for other notes repine,
A different object do these eyes require:
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
And in my breast the imperfect joys expire.
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer, And new-born pleasure brings to happier men: The fields to all their wonted tribute bear; To warm their little loves the birds complain: I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear, And weep the more, because I weep in vain.


by Thomas Gray |

The Bard

 Pindaric Ode

"Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!
Confusion on thy banners wait!
Tho' fanned by Conquest's crimson wing,
They mock the air with idle state.
Helm, nor hauberk's twisted mail, Nor e'en thy virtues, Tyrant, shall avail To save thy secret soul from nightly fears, From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears!" Such were the sounds that o'er the crested pride Of the first Edward scattered wild dismay, As down the steep of Snowdon's shaggy side He wound with toilsome march his long array.
Stout Glo'ster stood aghast in speechless trance: "To arms!" cried Mortimer, and couched his quiv'ring lance.
On a rock, whose haughty brow Frowns o'er cold Conway's foaming flood, Robed in the sable garb of woe With haggard eyes the Poet stood; (Loose his beard and hoary hair Streamed like a meteor to the troubled air) And with a master's hand, and prophet's fire, Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre.
"Hark, how each giant-oak and desert-cave Sighs to the torrent's awful voice beneath! O'er thee, O King! their hundred arms they wave, Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe; Vocal no more, since Cambria's fatal day, To high-born Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.
"Cold is Cadwallo's tongue, That hushed the stormy main; Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed: Mountains, ye mourn in vain Modred, whose magic song Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topt head.
On dreary Arvon's shore they lie, Smeared with gore, and ghastly pale: Far, far aloof th' affrighted ravens sail; The famished eagle screams, and passes by.
Dear lost companions of my tuneful art, Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes, Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart, Ye died amidst your dying country's cries— No more I weep.
They do not sleep.
On yonder cliffs, a grisly band, I see them sit; they linger yet, Avengers of their native land: With me in dreadful harmony they join, And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.
"Weave, the warp! and weave, the woof! The winding sheet of Edward's race: Give ample room and verge enough The characters of hell to trace.
Mark the year and mark the night When Severn shall re-echo with affright The shrieks of death, thro' Berkley's roof that ring, Shrieks of an agonizing king! She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs, That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate, From thee be born, who o'er thy country hangs The scourge of Heaven! What terrors round him wait! Amazement in his van, with Flight combined, And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.
"Mighty victor, mighty lord! Low on his funeral couch he lies! No pitying heart, no eye, afford A tear to grace his obsequies.
Is the sable warrior fled? Thy son is gone.
He rests among the dead.
The swarm that in thy noon-tide beam were born? Gone to salute the rising morn.
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows, While proudly riding o'er the azure realm In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes: Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm: Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway, That, hushed in grim repose, expects his ev'ning prey.
"Fill high the sparkling bowl, The rich repast prepare; Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast: Close by the regal chair Fell Thirst and Famine scowl A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.
Heard ye the din of battle bray, Lance to lance, and horse to horse? Long years of havoc urge their destined course, And thro' the kindred squadrons mow their way.
Ye towers of Julius, London's lasting shame, With many a foul and midnight murder fed, Revere his consort's faith, his father's fame, And spare the meek usurper's holy head.
Above, below, the rose of snow, Twined with her blushing foe, we spread: The bristled Boar in infant-gore Wallows beneath the thorny shade.
Now, brothers, bending o'er the accursed loom, Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.
"Edward, lo! to sudden fate (Weave we the woof.
The thread is spun.
) Half of thy heart we consecrate.
(The web is wove.
The work is done.
) Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn Leave me unblessed, unpitied, here to mourn: In yon bright track that fires the western skies They melt, they vanish from my eyes.
But oh! what solemn scenes on Snowdon's height Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll? Visions of glory, spare my aching sight, Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul! No more our long-lost Arthur we bewail.
All hail, ye genuine kings! Britannia's issue, hail! "Girt with many a baron bold Sublime their starry fronts they rear; And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old In bearded majesty, appear.
In the midst a form divine! Her eye proclaims her of the Briton-line: Her lion-port, her awe-commanding face, Attempered sweet to virgin grace.
What strings symphonious tremble in the air, What strains of vocal transport round her play! Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear; They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
Bright Rapture calls, and soaring as she sings, Waves in the eye of heav'n her many-coloured wings.
"The verse adorn again Fierce War, and faithful Love, And Truth severe, by fairy Fiction drest.
In buskined measures move Pale Grief, and pleasing Pain, With Horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast.
A voice, as of the cherub-choir, Gales from blooming Eden bear; And distant warblings lessen on my ear, That lost in long futurity expire.
Fond impious man, think'st thou yon sanguine cloud, Raised by thy breath, has quenched the orb of day? Tomorrow he repairs the golden flood, And warms the nations with redoubled ray.
Enough for me: with joy I see The diff'rent doom our fates assign.
Be thine Despair and sceptred Care; To triumph and to die are mine.
" He spoke, and headlong from the mountain's height Deep in the roaring tide he plunged to endless night.


by Thomas Gray |

The Fatal Sisters

 Now the storm begins to lower,
(Haste, the loom of Hell prepares!)
Iron-sleet of arrowy shower
Hurtles in the darkened air.
Glittering lances are the loom, Where the dusky warp we strain, Weaving many a soldier's doom, Orkney's woe and Randver's bane.
See the grisly texture grow, ('Tis of human entrails made!) And the weights that play below, Each a gasping warrior's head.
Shafts for shuttles, dipped in gore, Shoot the trembling cords along.
Sword, that once a monarch bore, Keep the tissue close and strong.
Mista, black, terrific maid, Sangrida, and Hilda, see, Join the wayward work to aid; 'Tis the woof of victory.
Ere the ruddy sun be set, Pikes must shiver, javelins sing, Blade with clattering buckler meet, Hauberk crash, and helmet ring.
(Weave the crimson web of war!) Let us go, and let us fly Where our friends the conflict share, Where they triumph, where they die.
As the paths of fate we tread, Wading through the ensanguined field, Gondula and Geira, spread O'er the youthful king your shield.
We the reins to slaughter give; Ours to kill, and ours to spare; Spite the dangers he shall live.
(Weave the crimson web of war!) They whom once the desert beach Pent within its bleak domain, Soon their ample sway shall stretch O'er the plenty of the plain.
Low the dauntless earl is laid, Gored with many a gaping wound; Fate demands a nobler head; Soon a king shall bite the ground.
Long his loss shall Eirin weep Ne'er again his likeness see; Long her strains in sorrow steep, Strains of immortality! Horror covers all the heath; Clouds of carnage blot the sun.
Sisters, weave the web of death; Sisters, cease, the work is done.
Hail the task, and hail the hands! Songs of joy and triumph sing! Joy to the victorious bands Triumph to the younger king.
Mortal, thou that hear'st the tale, Learn the tenor of our song.
Scotland, through each winding vale Far and wide the notes prolong.
Sisters, hence with spurs of speed; Each her thundering falchion wield; Each bestride her sable steed.
Hurry, hurry to the field!


by Thomas Gray |

On The Death Of A Favourite Cat Drowned In A Tub Of Gold Fishes

 'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow,
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.
Her conscious tail her joy declared; The fair round face, the snowy beard, The velvet of her paws, Her coat, that with the tortoise vies, Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes, She saw; and purred applause.
Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide Two angel forms were seen to glide, The genii of the stream: Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue Through richest purple to the view Betrayed a golden gleam.
The hapless nymph with wonder saw: A whisker first, and then a claw, With many an ardent wish, She stretched, in vain, to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise? What cat's averse to fish? Presumptuous maid! with looks intent Again she stretched, again she bent, Nor knew the gulf between: (Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled) The slippery verge her feet beguiled, She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood She mewed to ev'ry wat'ry god Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no nereid stirred; Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A fav'rite has no friend! From hence, ye beauties undeceived, Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved, And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes And heedless hearts is lawful prize; Nor all that glisters, gold.


by Thomas Gray |

Hymn To Adversity

 Daughter of Jove, relentless Power,
Thou tamer of the human breast,
Whose iron scourge and tort'ring hour
The Bad affright, afflict the Best!
Bound in thy adamantine chain
The Proud are taught to taste of pain,
And purple Tyrants vainly groan
With pangs unfelt before, unpitied and alone.
When first thy Sire to send on earth Virtue, his darling child, designed, To thee he gave the heav'nly Birth, And bade to form her infant mind.
Stern rugged Nurse! thy rigid lore With patience many a year she bore: What sorrow was, thou bad'st her know, And from her own she learned to melt at others' woe.
Scared at thy frown terrific, fly Self-pleasing Folly's idle brood, Wild Laughter, Noise, and thoughtless Joy, And leave us leisure to be good.
Light they disperse, and with them go The summer Friend, the flatt'ring Foe; By vain Prosperity received, To her they vow their truth, and are again believed.
Wisdom in sable garb arrayed Immersed in rapt'rous thought profound, And Melancholy, silent maid With leaden eye, that loves the ground, Still on thy solemn steps attend: Warm Charity, the gen'ral Friend, With Justice, to herself severe, And Pity dropping soft the sadly-pleasing tear.
Oh, gently on thy Suppliant's head, Dread Goddess, lay thy chast'ning hand! Not in thy Gorgon terrors clad, Not circled with the vengeful Band (As by the Impious thou art seen), With thund'ring voice, and threat'ning mien, With screaming Horror's funeral cry, Despair, and fell Disease, and ghastly Poverty.
Thy form benign, O Goddess, wear, Thy milder influence impart, Thy philosophic Train be there To soften, not to wound my heart.
The gen'rous spark extinct revive, Teach me to love and to forgive, Exact my own defects to scan, What others are, to feel, and know myself a Man.


by Thomas Gray |

Ode On The Spring

 Lo! where the rosy-bosomed Hours,
Fair Venus' train, appear,
Disclose the long-expecting flowers,
And wake the purple year!
The Attic warbler pours her throat,
Responsive to the cuckoo's note,
The untaught harmony of spring:
While, whisp'ring pleasure as they fly,
Cool Zephyrs thro' the clear blue sky
Their gathered fragrance fling.
Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch A broader browner shade, Where'er the rude and moss-grown beech O'er-canopies the glade, Beside some water's rushy brink With me the Muse shall sit, and think (At ease reclined in rustic state) How vain the ardour of the Crowd, How low, how little are the Proud, How indigent the Great! Still is the toiling hand of Care; The panting herds repose: Yet hark, how through the peopled air The busy murmur glows! The insect-youth are on the wing, Eager to taste the honied spring And float amid the liquid noon: Some lightly o'er the current skim, Some show their gayly-gilded trim Quick-glancing to the sun.
To Contemplation's sober eye Such is the race of Man: And they that creep, and they that fly, Shall end where they began.
Alike the Busy and the Gay But flutter thro' life's little day, In Fortune's varying colours drest: Brushed by the hand of rough Mischance, Or chilled by Age, their airy dance They leave, in dust to rest.
Methinks I hear, in accents low, The sportive kind reply: Poor moralist! and what art thou? A solitary fly! Thy joys no glittering female meets, No hive hast thou of hoarded sweets, No painted plumage to display: On hasty wings thy youth is flown; Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone— We frolic while 'tis May.


by Thomas Gray |

Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard

 The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind 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 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 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 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 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.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits 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 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, 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 forbad: nor circumscribed alone Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined; Forbad 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 learned to stray; Along the cool sequestered 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 decked, Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, 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 being e'er resigned, 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.
For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonoured dead, Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; If chance, by lonely Contemplation led, Some kindred spirit shall enquire 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 noon-tide would he stretch, And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
"Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, Mutt'ring his wayward fancies would he rove; Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn, Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love.
"One morn I missed him from the customed hill, Along the heath, and near his fav'rite 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 can'st 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 frowned not on his humble birth, And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, Heaven did a recompense as largely send: He gave to Misery (all he had) a tear, He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wished) a friend.
No farther seek his merits to disclose, Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, (There they alike in trembling hope repose,) The bosom of his Father and his God.


by Thomas Gray |

The Curse Upon Edward

 WEAVE the warp, and weave the woof,
The winding-sheet of Edward's race.
Give ample room, and verge enough The characters of hell to trace.
Mark the year, and mark the night, When Severn shall re-echo with affright The shrieks of death, thro' Berkley's roofs that ring, Shrieks of an agonizing King! She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs, That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate, From thee be born, who o'er thy country hangs The scourge of Heav'n.
What terrors round him wait! Amazement in his van, with Flight combined, And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.
Mighty Victor, mighty Lord! Low on his funeral couch he lies! No pitying heart, no eye, afford A tear to grace his obsequies.
Is the sable warrior fled? Thy son is gone.
He rests among the dead.
The swarm that in thy noon tide beam were born? Gone to salute the rising morn.
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows, While proudly riding o'er the azure realm In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes; Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm; Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway, That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening prey.
Fill high the sparkling bowl, The rich repast prepare; Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast: Close by the regal chair Fell Thirst and Famine scowl A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.
Heard ye the din of battle bray, Lance to lance, and horse to horse? Long years of havoc urge their destined course, And thro' the kindred squadrons mow their way.
Ye Towers of Julius, London's lasting shame, With many a foul and midnight murder fed, Revere his consort's faith, his father's fame, And spare the meek usurper's holy head.
Above, below, the rose of snow, Twined with her blushing foe, we spread: The bristled boar in infant-gore Wallows beneath the thorny shade.
Now, brothers, bending o'er th' accursed loom Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.
Edward, lo! to sudden fate (Weave we the woof.
The thread is spun) Half of thy heart we consecrate.
(The web is wove.
The work is done.
)


by Thomas Gray |

The Progress of Poesy

 A Pindaric Ode

Awake, Aeolian lyre, awake,
And give to rapture all thy trembling strings.
From Helicon's harmonious springs A thousand rills their mazy progress take: The laughing flowers that round them blow Drink life and fragrance as they flow.
Now the rich stream of Music winds along, Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong, Thro' verdant vales, and Ceres' golden reign; Now rolling down the steep amain, Headlong, impetuous, see it pour; The rocks and nodding groves re-bellow to the roar.
Oh! Sov'reign of the willing soul, Parent of sweet and solemn-breathing airs, Enchanting shell! the sullen Cares And frantic Passions hear thy soft control.
On Thracia's hills the Lord of War Has curbed the fury of his car, And dropt his thirsty lance at thy command.
Perching on the sceptred hand Of Jove, thy magic lulls the feathered king With ruffled plumes and flagging wing: Quenched in dark clouds of slumber lie The terror of his beak, and lightnings of his eye.
Thee the voice, the dance, obey, Tempered to thy warbled lay.
O'er Idalia's velvet-green The rosy-crowned Loves are seen On Cytherea's day, With antic Sport, and blue-eyed Pleasures, Frisking light in frolic measures; Now pursuing, now retreating, Now in circling troops they meet: To brisk notes in cadence beating Glance their many-twinkling feet.
Slow melting strains their Queen's approach declare: Where'er she turns the Graces homage pay.
With arms sublime that float upon the air In gliding state she wins her easy way: O'er her warm cheek and rising bosom move The bloom of young Desire and purple light of Love.
Man's feeble race what ills await! Labour, and Penury, the racks of Pain, Disease, and Sorrow's weeping train, And Death, sad refuge from the storms of Fate! The fond complaint, my song, disprove, And justify the laws of Jove.
Say, has he giv'n in vain the heav'nly Muse? Night and all her sickly dews, Her sceptres wan, and birds of boding cry, He gives to range the dreary sky; Till down the eastern cliffs afar Hyperion's march they spy, and glitt'ring shafts of war.
In climes beyond the solar road, Where shaggy forms o'er ice-built mountains roam, The Muse has broke the twilight gloom To cheer the shivering Native's dull abode.
And oft, beneath the od'rous shade Of Chili's boundless forests laid, She deigns to hear the savage youth repeat, In loose numbers wildly sweet, Their feather-cinctured chiefs, and dusky loves.
Her track, where'er the Goddess roves, Glory pursue, and gen'rous Shame, Th' unconquerable Mind, and Freedom's holy flame.
Woods, that wave o'er Delphi's steep, Isles, that crown th' Aegean deep, Fields that cool Ilissus laves, Or where Maeander's amber waves In lingering lab'rinths creep, How do your tuneful echoes languish, Mute, but to the voice of anguish! Where each old poetic mountain Inspiration breathed around; Ev'ry shade and hallowed fountain Murmured deep a solemn sound: Till the sad Nine, in Greece's evil hour, Left their Parnassus for the Latian plains.
Alike they scorn the pomp of tyrant Power, And coward Vice, that revels in her chains.
When Latium had her lofty spirit lost, They sought, Oh Albion! next thy sea-encircled coast.
Far from the sun and summer-gale, In thy green lap was Nature's Darling laid, What time, where lucid Avon strayed, To him the mighty mother did unveil Her awful face: the dauntless child Stretched forth his little arms, and smiled.
"This pencil take (she said), whose colours clear Richly paint the vernal year: Thine too these golden keys, immortal Boy! This can unlock the gates of Joy; Of Horror that, and thrilling Fears, Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic Tears.
" Nor second he, that rode sublime Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy, The secrets of th' Abyss to spy.
He passed the flaming bounds of place and time: The living Throne, the sapphire-blaze, Where Angels tremble while they gaze, He saw; but, blasted with excess of light, Closed his eyes in endless night.
Behold where Dryden's less presumptuous car Wide o'er the fields of glory bear Two coursers of ethereal race, With necks in thunder clothed, and long-resounding pace.
Hark, his hands the lyre explore! Bright-eyed Fancy, hovering o'er, Scatters from her pictured urn Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.
But ah! 'tis heard no more— Oh! Lyre divine, what daring Spirit Wakes thee now? Though he inherit Nor the pride, nor ample pinion, That the Theban eagle bear, Sailing with supreme dominion Through the azure deep of air: Yet oft before his infant eyes would run Such forms as glitter in the Muse's ray, With orient hues, unborrowed of the Sun: Yet shall he mount, and keep his distant way Beyond the limits of a vulgar fate, Beneath the Good how far—but far above the Great.


by Thomas Gray |

Ode On A Distant Prospect Of Eton College

 Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
That crown the watery glade,
Where grateful Science still adores
Her Henry's holy shade;
And ye, that from the stately brow
Of Windsor's heights th' expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among
Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way.
Ah happy hills, ah pleasing shade, Ah fields beloved in vain, Where once my careless childhood strayed, A stranger yet to pain! I feel the gales, that from ye blow, A momentary bliss bestow, As waving fresh their gladsome wing My weary soul they seem to soothe, And, redolent of joy and youth, To breathe a second spring.
Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen Full many a sprightly race Disporting on thy margent green The paths of pleasure trace, Who foremost now delight to cleave With pliant arm thy glassy wave? The captive linnet which enthral? What idle progeny succeed To chase the rolling circle's speed, Or urge the flying ball? While some on earnest business bent Their murm'ring labours ply 'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint To sweeten liberty: Some bold adventurers disdain The limits of their little reign, And unknown regions dare descry: Still as they run they look behind, They hear a voice in every wind, And snatch a fearful joy.
Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed, Less pleasing when possest; The tear forgot as soon as shed, The sunshine of the breast: Theirs buxom health of rosy hue, Wild wit, invention ever-new, And lively cheer of vigour born; The thoughtless day, the easy night, The spirits pure, the slumbers light, That fly th' approach of morn.
Alas! regardless of their doom The little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come, Nor care beyond today: Yet see how all around 'em wait The Ministers of human fate, And black Misfortune's baleful train! Ah, show them where in ambush stand, To seize their prey, the murd'rous band! Ah, tell them they are men! These shall the fury Passions tear, The vultures of the mind, Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear, And Shame that skulks behind; Or pining Love shall waste their youth, Or Jealousy with rankling tooth, That inly gnaws the secret heart, And Envy wan, and faded Care, Grim-visaged comfortless Despair, And Sorrow's piercing dart.
Ambition this shall tempt to rise, Then whirl the wretch from high, To bitter Scorn a sacrifice, And grinning Infamy.
The stings of Falsehood those shall try, And hard Unkindness' altered eye, That mocks the tear it forced to flow; And keen Remorse with blood defiled, And moody Madness laughing wild Amid severest woe.
Lo, in the vale of years beneath A grisly troop are seen, The painful family of Death, More hideous than their Queen: This racks the joints, this fires the veins, That every labouring sinew strains, Those in the deeper vitals rage: Lo, Poverty, to fill the band, That numbs the soul with icy hand, And slow-consuming Age.
To each his suff'rings: all are men, Condemned alike to groan; The tender for another's pain, Th' unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate? Since sorrow never comes too late, And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more;—where ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise.