- 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 glimm’ring landscape on the
- And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
- Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
- And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
- 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
- Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring
- 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
- 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,
- 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
- 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
- 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 soothe the dull cold ear of
- 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 ecstasy the living lyre.
- But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
- Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er
- 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 flow’r 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
- Th’ applause of list’ning senates to
- 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
- Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
- Their growing virtues, but their crimes
- Forbade 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
- 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 ev’n these bones from insult to
- Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
- With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
- Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
- Their name, their years, spelt by th’
- 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
- Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
- Nor cast one longing, ling’ring look
- 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’
- 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
- Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would
- Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
- Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in
- “One morn I miss’d him on the
- Along the heath and near his fav’rite
- Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
- Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
- “The next with dirges due in sad array
- Slow thro’ the church-way path we saw him
- Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay,
- Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged
- The Epitaph
- Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
- A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
- Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,
- And Melancholy mark’d him for her own.
- Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
- Heav’n did a recompense as largely send:
- He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,
- He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas
all he wish’d) a friend.
- No farther seek his merits to disclose,
- Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
- (There they alike in trembling hope repose)
- The bosom of his Father and his God.