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SONNET

ON THE DEATH OF RICHARD WEST

In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,

And redd'ning Phoebus lifts his golden fire;
The birds in vain their amorous descant join,

Or cheerful fields resume their green attire:
These ears, alas! for other notes repine;

A different object do these eyes require;
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine,

And in my breast the imperfect joys expire.
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer,

And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;

To warm their little loves the birds complain:
I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear,
And weep the more because I weep in vain.

1775.

1742.

ODE ON THE DEATH OF A FAVOURITE CAT

DROWNED IN A TUB OF GOLDFISHES

'T was on a lofty vase's side,

Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw, and purred applause.

Still had she gazed: but 'midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

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1747.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first, and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,

She stretched, in vain, to reach the prize:
What female heart can gold despise,
What cat's averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,

Nor knew the gulf between:
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slipp'ry verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood,
She mewed to ev'ry wat'ry god,
Some speedy aid to send.

No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred,
Nor cruel Tom nor Susan heard:
A fav'rite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know one false step is ne'er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.

Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
And heedless hearts is lawful prize,
Nor all that glisters gold.

1748

ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day;

The lowing herd wind 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,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

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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,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever 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 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 pow'r,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits 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 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 Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

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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,
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.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,

And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,
Their lot forbad: 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 tenor of their way.

Yet ev'n 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.

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Their name, their years, spelt by th' unlettered Muse,

The place of fame and elegy supply; And many a holy text around she strews, That teach the rustic moralist to die:

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, ling'ring look behind?

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' unhonoured dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate,
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,

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 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 crazed with care or crossed in hopeless love.

"One morn I missed him on the customed 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;

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"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

Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."

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