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For me, when I forget the darling theme,
Whether the blossom blows, the Summer ray
Russets the plain, inspiring Autumn gleams,
Or Winter rises in the blackening east,
Be my tongue mute, my Fancy paint no more,
And, dead to joy, forget my heart to beat!
Should fate command me to the farthest verge
Of the green earth, to distant barbarous climes,
Rivers unknown to song, where first the sun
Gilds Indian mountains, or his setting beam
Flames on the Atlantic isles, 'tis nought to me;
Since God is ever present, ever felt,
In the void waste, as in the city full ;
And where He vital breathes there must be joy.
When even, at last, the solemn hour shall come,
And wing my mystic flight to future worlds,
I cheerful will obey; there, with new powers,
Will rising wonder sing. I cannot go
Where Universal Love not smiles around,
Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their suns ;
From seeming evil still educing good,
And better thence again, and better still,
In infinite progression. But I lose
Myself in Him, in Light ineffable ;
Come then, expressive silence, muse His praise !
THOMAS GRAY. Born 1716; Died 1771.
Educated at Eton and Cambridge, Gray spent the greater part
of his life at the University, in which he held the appointment
of Professor of Modern History. An elegant scholar, cultivating to the very utmost all the rules of
poetic art, Gray left few works, but these of the most perfect finish. In his hands lyrical poetry was brought to a musical harmony and polish which it had never before attained in England
WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD.
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 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 lieap,
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 power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gavo
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 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 ecstacy 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.
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 ;
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 tenour 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 Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews
That teach the rustic moralist to die.