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E L EGY

WRITTEN IN

A COUNTRY CHURCH-YARD.

[Originally called by Mr. Gray, “ Stanzas written in a Country Church

Yard.” The following Analysis of this Poem, which has been often said to be

without a Plan, was sketched by the late Mr. Scott, of Amwell:

" The Poet very graphically describes the process of a calm evening,

“ in which he introduces himself wandering near a Country Church“ yard. From the sight of the place, he takes occasion, by a few “ natural and simple, but important circumstances, to characterize 6 the life of a peasant; and observes, that it need not be disdained “ by ambition or grandeur, whose most distinguished superiorities “must all terminate in the grave. He then proceeds to intimate, “ that it was not from any natural inequality of abilities, but from « want of acquired advantages, as riches, knowledge, &c. that the 6 humble race, whose place of interment he was surveying, did not u rank with the most celebrated of their cotemporaries. The same « impediments, however, which obstructed their course to greatness, “ he thinks also precluded their progress in vice; and, consequently, « that what was lost in one respect was gained in the other. From “this reflection he not unnaturally proceeds to remark on that uni6 versality of regard to the deceased, which produces, even for these “humble villagers, a commemoration of their past existence. Then “ turning his attention to himself, he indulges the idea of his being " commemorated in the same manner, and introduces an Epitaph which he supposes to be employed on the occasion.”

See Scott's Critical Essays, 8vo. 1785.)

THE Curfew tolls the knell of parting day (r),

The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The ploughman 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 [39].

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower,

The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such as, wand'ring near her secret bower,

Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Tr) The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day.

squilla di lontano
Che paia 'l giorno pianger, che si muore.

Dante, Purgat. l. 8. [39] This verse seems to have strong features of similarity with the following in Collins's “ Ode to Evening:”

“ Now air ishush'd, save where the weak-ey'd bat
“ With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing,
« Qr where the beetle winds
* His small but sullen born.

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 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 bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,

stroke!

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 power,

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 Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise, Where thro' 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 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

sway'd,
Or wak’d to ecstacy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page

Rich with the spoils of Time did ne'er unroll; Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,

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 [40].

[40] This beautiful comparison of the Gem and the Flower seems borrowed (but with added force and elegance) from Dr. Young:

Such blessings Nature pours,
“ O'erstock'd mankind enjoy but half her stores ;
“ In distant wilds, by human eyes unseen,
“ She rears her flow'rs, and spreads her velvet green:
Pure gurgling rills the lonely desert trace,
“And waste their music on the savage race.”

Universal Passion, Sat. V.

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