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There pass with melancholy state
By all the solemn heaps of Fate,
And think, as softly-sad you tread,
Above the venerable dead,
like thee, they life possest, And time shall be, that thou shalt rest.
Those with bending osier bound,
That nameless heave the crumbled ground,
Quick to the glancing thought disclose,
Where toil and poverty repose.
The flat smooth stones that bear a name,
The chisel's slender help to fame,
(Which ere our set of friends decay
Their frequent steps may wear away)
A middle race of mortals own,
Men, half ambitious, all unknown.
The marble tombs that rise on high,
Whose dead in vaulted arches lie,
Whose pillars swell with sculptur'd stones,
Arms, angels, epitaphs, and bones,
These, all the poor remains of state,
Adorn the rich, or praise the great;
Who, while on Earth in fame they live,
Are senseless of the fame they give.
Ha! while I gaze, pale Cynthia fades,
The bursting earth unveils the shades !
All slow, and wan, and wrap'd with shrouds;
They rise in visionary crowds,
And all with sober accent cry,
“ Think, mortal, what it is to die.”
Now from yon black and funeral yew, That bathes the charnel-house with dew,
Mcthinks, I hear a voice begin ;
(Ye ravens, cease your croaking din,
Ye tolling clocks, no time resound
O'er the long lake and midnight ground !)
It sends a peal of hollow groans,
Thus speaking from among the bones.
“ When men my scythe and darts supply,
How great a king of fears am I!
They view me like the last of things;
They make, and then they draw, my strings.
Fools! if you less provok'd your fears,
No more my spectre-form appears.
Death's but a path that must be trod,
If man would ever pass to God :
A port of calms, a state
From the rough rage of swelling seas.
Why then thy flowing sable stoles,
Deep pendant cypress, mourning poles,
Loose scarfs to fall athwart thy weeds,
Long palls, drawn hearses, cover'd steeds,
And plumes of black, that, as they tread,
Nod o'er the escutcheons of the dead ?
Nor can the parted body know,
Nor wants the soul these forms of woe;
As men who long in prison dwell,
With lamps that glimmer round the cell,
Whene'er their suffering years are run,
Spring forth to greet the glittering Sun:
Such joy, though far transcending sense,
Have pious souls at parting hence.
On Earth, and in the body plac'd,
A few, and evil years, they waste :
But when their chains are cast aside,
See the glad scene unfolding wide,
Clap the glad wing, and tower away,
And mingle with the blaze of day.
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well :
Remote from men, with God he pass'd the days,
Prayer all his business, all his pleasure praise.
A life so sacred, such serene repose,
Seem'd Heaven itself, till one suggestion rose ;
That Vice should triumph, Virtue, Vice obey,
This sprung some doubt of Providence's
His hopes no more a certain prospect boast,
And all the tenour of his soul is lost :
So when a smooth expanse receives imprest
Calm Nature's image on its watery breast,
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow,
And skies beneath with answering colours glow :
But if a stone the gentle sea divide,
Swift ruffling circles curl on every side,
And glimmering fragments of a broken Sun,
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run.
To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight, To find if books, or swains, report it right, (For yet by swains alone the world he knew, Whose feet came wandering o'er the nightly dew)
He quits his cell; the pilgrim-staff he bore,
And fix'd the scallop in his hat before ;
Then with the Sun a rising journey went,
Sedate to think, and watching each event.
The morn was wasted in the pathless grass,
And long and lonesome was the wild to pass ;
But when the southern Sun had warm'd the day,
A youth came posting o'er a crossing way ;
His raiment decent, his complexion fair,
And soft in graceful ringlets wav'd his hair.
Then near approaching, “ Father, hail !” he cry'd,
“ And hail, my son,” the reverend sire reply'd;
Words follow'd words, from question answer flow'd,
And talk of various kind deceiv'd the road ;
Till each with other pleas'd, and loth to part,
While in their age they differ, join in heart.
Thus stands an aged elm in ivy bound,
Thus youthful ivy clasps an elm around.
Now sunk the Sun; the closing hour of day Came onward, mantled o'er with sober grey ; Nature in silence bid the world repose ; When near the road a stately palace rose : There by the Moon through ranks of trees they pass, Whose verdure crown'd their sloping sides of grass. It chanc'd the noble master of the dome Still made his house the wandering stranger's home: Yet still the kindness, from a thirst of praise, Prov'd the vain flourish of expensive ease. The pair arrive : the livery'd servants wait; Their lord receives them at the pompous gate. The table groans with costly piles of food, And all is more than hospitably good.
Then led to rest, the day's long toil they drown, Deep sunk in sleep, and silk, and heaps of down.
At length 'tis morn, and at the dawn of day, Along the wide canals the zephyrs play: Fresh o'er the gay parterres the breezes creep, And shake the neighbouring wood to banish sleep. Up rise the guests, obedient to the call : An early banquet deck'd the splendid hall; Rich luscious wine a golden goblet grac'd, Which the kind master forc'd the guests to taste. Then, pleas'd and thankful, from the porch they go ; And, but the landlord, none had cause of woe : His cup was vanish’d; for in secret guise The younger guest purloin'd the glittering prize.
As one who spies a serpent in his way, Glistening and basking in the summer ray, Disorder'd stops to shun the danger near, Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear ; So seem'd the sire ; when far upon the road, The shining spoil his wily partner show'd. He stopp'd with silence, walk'd with trembling heart, And much he wish'd, but durst not ask to part : Murmuring he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard, That generous actions meet a base reward.
While thus they pass, the Sun his glory shrouds, The changing skies hang out their sable clouds; A sound in air presag'd approaching rain, And beasts to covert scud across the plain. Warn'd by the signs, the wandering pair retreat, To seek for shelter at a neighbouring seat. 'Twas built with turrets on a rising ground, And strong, and large, and unimprov'd around;