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R I T T E N
COUNTRY CHURCH-Y A R D.
The cursew 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.
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds ;
The moping owl does to the Moon complain Of such, as, wand’ring near her secret bow'r,
Moleft her ancient, folitary 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 ,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 busy housewife ply her evening care: No children run to lisp their fire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their fickle yield;
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their teams afield !
How bow'd 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, Await, alike, th' inevitable hour;
The paths of glory lead but to the grave. Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise, Where thro’ the long-drawn ile 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 filent duft,
Or Flatt’ry foothe the dull cold ear of death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire:
Or wak’d to extasy the living lyre.
Rich with the spoils of Time, did ne'er unroll;
And froze the genial current of the soul.
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear;
And waste its sweetness on the desart air.
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
And read their history in a nations eyes,
Their growing virtues but their crimes confin’d;
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 e'en these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh, With uncouth rhimes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
The place of fame and elegy supply;
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
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 foul 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 th’ unhonour'd dead,
Dol in these lines their artless tale relate; If, chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate;
Haply some hoary-headed fwain may say,
46 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, Ilis lifless 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, 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 th’accustom’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 fad array,
Slow thro’ the church-yard path we saw him borne, Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”