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WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.
THE curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r,
The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such as, wand'ring near her secret bow'r, Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt'ring 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 ;
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,
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault,
Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can Honor's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt'ry sooth 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 wak'd to extasy 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 unfathom'd 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,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.
Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,
Their lot forbad: nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd; Forbad 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 Muse's flame.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect
Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
And many a holy text around she strews,
For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
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' unhonour'd Dead
Some kindred spirit shall inquire 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 noontide would he stretch, And pour upon the brook that babbles by.
Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove; Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.
"One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd 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 thro' the church-way path we saw him borne. Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth,
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.
Large was his bounty and his soul sincere,
Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.
"RUIN seize thee, ruthless King!
To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,
He wound with toilsome march his long array.
To arms!" cried Mortimer, and couch'd his quiv'ring lance.