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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 ev'n 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 name, their years, spelt 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 who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd, Left 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; Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thec, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd 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 be stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
“ Him have we seen the greenwood side along,
While o'er the heath we bied, our labour done, Oft as the woodlark pip'd her farewell song,
With wistful eyes pursue the setting sun *.
“ 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 craz’d with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.
“ One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree; 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 through the church-way path we saw him
borne,Approach and read (for thou can’st read) the lay,
Gray'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”
* This stanza, which completes the account of the Poet's day, although in the author's MS. has hitherto appeared bat in the form of a pote; but as Mr. Mason observes, “ without it, wę have only his morning walk and his noon-tide repose.”
THE EPITAPH.* Here rests bis 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 : Ile gave to mis'ry (all he had) a tear,
Hegain'd from heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend. No farther seek bis 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.
* “ Before the Epitaph, Mr. Gray originally inserted a very beautiful stanza, which was printed in some of the first editions, but afterwards omitted, because he thought that it was too long a parenthesis in this place. The lines however are, in themselves, exquisitely fine, and demand preservation :
" There scatter'd ost, the earliest of the year,
By bands unseen are showers of violets found; · The redbreast loves to build and warble there,
And little footsteps lightly print the ground.'"
Tbe Editor of the present edition of the Poet, bas ventured to recall into the Elegy, one stanza (the fourth ) which appears only in the margin of former editions ; upon a hint received from a gentleman resident at Stoke Park, in the following letter: “ I do not see how the edition could suffer, in a critical point of view, by the restoration of that fine stanza of Gray's
into the body of the Elegy. It is acknowledged by Mason and others, to be equal to any in the poem ; and, certainly it contains more to characterize it than any other. The cause of its anfortunate rejection by the author is manifest, and shows that it was not from his having disapproved it. From two preceding, and a following stanza, which were rejected with it, he withdrew two ideas, and some lines, which he transferred and worked op. in other parts of the Elegy, thus leaving this fine stanza insulated ; and because it so became unfitted for the particular place for which he had first designed it, he dropped it altogether. But yet it contained only an abrupt and sudden reflection; which was suitable equally to other passages or places, though not employed there. This he appears not to have considered; and he thereby incautiously despoiled his poem of a sentiment, not only fitting, but moreover eminently requisite. Now, this sentiment finds a natural place immediately after the third stanza; after the descriptions of darkness and silence, and before the minuter particulars of the church-yard are entered upon. It would, therefore, I think, most sublimely constitute the fourth stanza of the Elegy. In that place, it would prepare the mind for the solemn-sequel, and throw a religious sanctity over it; at the same time correcting and explaining, what bas always given me and others, offence and pain,-the equivocal expression, • each in his narrow cell for ever laid: showing, that the Poet only meant for ever,' with reference to the scenes of this present life.”
THE DEATH OF MR. WEST.
In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
And redd'ning Phoebus lifts his golden fire: The birds in vain their amorous descart join ;
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire: These cars, 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 bosy 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 bim that cannot hear,
And weep the more, because I weep in vain.