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One died on the black-draped scaffold,
One broke on old age's wheel :
Felt the thorns in the rim of the crown
Or the ease of the regal down.
Was the Stuart of Scotland plotting
For her royal sister's all ?
Drove the Tudor to work her fall ?
And black crime at the Kirk of Field ? And what meed had the smothered passion
That for Essex stood half revealed ?
Dark questions ! - and who shall solve them?
Not one, till the great assize, When royal secrets and motives
Shall be opened to commonest eyes; Not even by bookworm students,
Who shall dig and cavil and grope, And keep to the ear learned promise,
While they break it to the hope !
Ah, well, — there is one sad lesson
Made clear to us all, at the worst: Of two forces made quite incarnate,
And that equally blessed and cursed. With the English woman, all-conquering
Was Power, and its handmaid, Pride;
With the Scottish walked fierce-eyed Passion,
Calling lovers to her side ;
Of disease and of woe, to both,
And their weapon the broken troth;
To know she had failed to find A content, even poorly perfect,
As that blessing some landless hind !
Divided, yet side by side ;
If their sepulchres severed wide.
That the eyes, to judge them at last, Will be free from the gloss and glamour Blinding ours through present and past !
WORLD, what have your poets while they live
But sorrow and the finger of the scorner ? And, dead, the highest honor you can give
Is burial in a corner.
Not so, my poets of the popular school
Disprove that mean, yet prevalent conception. Once in an age that may be ; but the rule
Is proved by the exception.
And so, good World, the poet still remains
To all your benefices a poor foreigner; Considered well rewarded if he gains
At last rest in a corner.
Here in Westminster's sanctuary, where
Some two-three kings usurp one half the Abbey, Whole generations of the poets share
This nook so dim and shabby.
So when we come to see Westminster's lions,
The needy vergers of the Abbey wait us; And while we pay to see the royal scions,
We see the poets gratis.
Some in corporeal presence crowd the nook,
While others, who in body are not near it, Are here as in the pages of a book,
Present only in spirit.
White-bearded Chaucer's here, an honored guest,
His sword of cutting humor in its scabbard; And, sooth, he did not find such quiet rest
In Southwark at the Tabard !
Here's Michael Drayton in his laurelled tomb,
And Shakespeare over all the host commanding; And rare Ben Jonson, who got scanty room,
And so was buried standing.
Spenser is here from faerie land, his eyne
Filled with the glamour of some dreamy notion, Admired the more that half his “Faerie Queen ”
Was lost in middle ocean.
Here's Prior, who was popular no doubt;
And Guy, with face and cowl round as a saucer ; And Dryden, who, some think, should be put out
Because he murdered Chaucer.
And Milton, after all his civil shocks,
Is here with look of sweet, yet strong decision, – John Milton, with the soft poetic locks
And supernatural vision.
Beaumont of the firm of B. and F. is here;
And Cowley, metaphysical and lyric; And Addison, the elegant and clear;
And Butler, all satiric.
Gray, of the famous Elegy, who found
His churchyard in the country rather lonely, Lies with the rest in this more classic ground,
Although in spirit only.
And Goldsmith at the Temple leaves his bones,
Comes here with tender heart and rugged feature, And mingles through this wilderness of stones
His milky human nature.
And here is he that wrote the Seasons four;
And so is Johnson, who discovered “Winter,” And Garrick, too, who had poetic lore
Enough to bid him enter.
And Southey, who for bread wrote many a tome,
Of prose and verse a progeny plethoric, – And he that sung the lays of ancient Rome,
Macaulay, the historic.
Campbell is here in body as in soul,
He for a national song eclipsed by no land; And in whose grave the patriotic Pole
Sprinkled the earth of Poland.
Of other famous names we find the trace,
And think of many from their non-appearance ; Byron, for one, who was denied a place
Through priestly interference.
Now most upon their own true genius stand ;
A few, perhaps, on little else than quackery;
THE TOMB OF ADDISON.
My soul's best part forever to the grave ?