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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 herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
126 ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
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 heap, Each in his narrow cell forever 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 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.
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 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.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
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 fragrance on the desert air.
Some village Hampden,* that with dauntless breast
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.
*An English patriot, who resisted King Charles the First's usurpation of power.
128 ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.
The applause of listening senates to command,
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,
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,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered Muse,
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?
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 the unhonored dead,
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, woful-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 be.
"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,