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by Thomas Gray


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day

The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way

And leaves the world to darknessand 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: -

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower

The moping owl does to the moon complain

Of such aswandering near her secret bower

Molest her ancient solitary reign. -

Beneath those rugged elmsthat yew-tree's shade

Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering 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 twittering from the straw-built shed

The cock's shrill clarionor 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 stroke! -

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil

Their homely joysand destiny obscure;

Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile

The short and simple annals of the Poor. -

The boast of heraldrythe pomp of power

And all that beautyall that wealth e'er gave

Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. -

Nor youye Proudimpute to these the fault

If Memory 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 Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death? -

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;

Handsthat the rod of empire might have sway'd

Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre: -

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page

Rich with the spoils of timedid 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. -

Some village-Hampdenthat with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of his fields withstood

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest

Some Cromwellguiltless 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 history in a nation's eyes-

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone

Their growing virtuesbut 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 learn'd to stray;

Along the cool sequester'd vale of life

They kept the noiseless tenour of their way. -

Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect

Some frail memorial still erected nigh

With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd

Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. -

Their nametheir yearsspelt by th' unletter'd Muse

The place of fame and elegy supply:

And many a holy text around she strews

That teach the rustic moralist to die. -

For whoto dumb forgetfulness a prey

This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd

Let the warm precincts of the cheerful day

Nor cast one longing lingering look behind? -

On some fond breast the parting soul relies

Some pious drops the closing eye requires;

E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries

E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires. -

For theewhomindful of th' unhonour'd dead

Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;

If chanceby 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. -

'Hand by yon woodnow smiling as in scorn

Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;

Now droopingwoeful wanlike one forlorn

Or crazed with caror cross'd in hopeless love. -

'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill

Along the heathand near his favourite tree;

Another came; nor yet beside the rill

Nor up the lawnnor at the wood was he; -

'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.'


Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth

A Youthto 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 bountyand his soul sincere;

Heaven did a recompense as largely send:

He gave to Misery all he hada tear

He gain'd from Heaven'twas all he wish'da 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. - -





'Twas on a lofty vase's side

Where China's gayest art had dyed

The azure flowersthat blow

Demurest of the tabby kind

The pensive Selima reclined

Gazed on the lake below. -

Her conscious tail her joy declared:

The fair round facethe snowy beard

The velvet of her paws

Her coat that with the tortoise vies

Her ears of jetand emerald eyes-

She saw; and purr'd applause. -

Still had she gazedbut 'midst the tide

Two angel forms were seen to glide

The Genii of the stream:

Their scaly armor's Tyrian hue

Through richest purpleto the view

Betray'd a golden gleam. -

The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:

A whisker firstand then a claw

With many an ardent wish.

She stretch'din vainto reach the prize-

What female heart can gold despise?

What Cat's averse to fish? -

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent

Again she stretch'dagain she bent

Nor knew the gulf between-

Malignant Fate sat by and smiled-

The slippery verge her feet beguiled;

She tumbled headlong in! -

Eight times emerging from the flood

She mew'd to every watery God

Some speedy aid to send.

No Dolphin cameno Nereid stirr'd:

Nor cruel Tom nor Susan heard.

A favourite has no friend! -

From henceye Beautiesundeceived

Know one false step is ne'er retrieved

And be with caution bold.

Not all that tempts your wandering eyes

And heedless heartsis lawful prize;

Nor all that glistersgold. - -