WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCLIX.
1 AH me! what is this mortal life? (I cry'd)
2 What changes croud the page of flitting Time!
3 What dire reverse of Fate have numbers try'd!
4 What youth, what beauty, wither'd in the prime!
5 Inexorable Destiny pursues,
6 And levels in the chace with rapid wing:
7 Pity in vain, or Mirth, or Merit sues,
8 Equally vain the beggar and the king!
9 Ah! what is Fame, the idol of the great?
10 No solid Pleasure can she e'er bestow;
11 If just to Worth, that justice comes too late:
12 Prompt is her malice, but her mercy slow!
13 Thus on the winding Isis' willowed bank,
14 The varying scenes of Fortune I deplore;
15 Wasting in fruitless sighs the evening dank,
16 Tears adding water to the river's store.
17 A gloomy mansion open to the view,
18 Disclosing horror heighten'd by the shade;
19 Where round the nodding walls the mournful yew
20 Points to the vault where Rosamond was laid:
21 Where with her birds of night, haggard and foul,
22 In sullen fellowship together dwell,
23 The bat ambiguous, and ill-omen'd owl,
24 Screaming to nighted swains a dreadful knell!
25 Intent I gaz'd, till Terror, ruling sight,
26 Rear'd a pale spectre from the yawning tomb,
27 A faint delusion of the murky night,
28 Begot and bred in Fancy's fruitful womb!
29 Semblance of virgin elegance and grace,
30 The mimic shape in every part adorn'd;
31 But wan and languid seem'd the beauteous face,
32 Which Elen envy'd, and which Henry mourn'd,
33 Now gently gliding o'er the hallow'd ground,
34 Close by my side the phantom made a stand,
35 Piercing the night-still'd air. An awful sound!
36 And claim'd attention with uplifted hand.
37 "I once was blest with Love's deluding joy,
38 " I also felt the worst extreme of hate!
39 "And can no length of time (she cry'd) destroy
40 " Remembrance of my love, and of my fate?
41 "O had Oblivion in her peaceful cell,
42 " Shrouded from every eye my mouldering dust!
43 "That on the chissel'd stone no verse might tell,
44 " My crime how great! my punishment how just!
45 "But Woodstock's blooming bowers still remain,
46 " The scenes, to me, of pleasure and of woe;
47 "And Godstow's walls perpetuate the stain
48 " My name reproaching, whilst my grave they shew.
49 "O Woodstock, fated long to be the seat
50 " Of all the charms that Wit and Beauty boast,
51 "The hero's guerdon, and his soft retreat,
52 " Yielding content, in fields and senates lost.
53 "Thy glories now are levell'd low in earth;
54 " No longer Beauty doth thy bowers adorn;
55 "No more thy woods resound the voice of Mirth;
56 " The laurel from thy victor brow is torn!
57 "But thou whose bosom foreign sorrow heaves,
58 " Whose eyes can stream for anguish not thine own;
59 "Whose heart the white-rob'd fugitive receives,
60 " When forc'd by awful Rigour from her throne;
61 "The scourge of vice, the good man's destiny,
62 " The wreck of fortune, and the waste of years;
63 "The miseries thou mournest thou shalt see,
64 " Sad consolation granted to thy tears. "
65 Now on the summit of a cloud-built height
66 Methought I stood: and from an opening glade
67 With faultering ray gleam'd forth a magic light,
68 And round the plain in lambent circles play'd.
69 Sudden the ground with inbred motion shook,
70 A solemn murmur rustled thro' the trees;
71 And on the pebbled shore the surging brook
72 Dash'd angry waves, unconscious of a breeze!
73 Daedalian mystery! from the parted soil,
74 A labyrinth' rose to sounds of melting note;
75 A moment's labour mocking all the toil
76 Of nations old, and monarchs long forgot.
77 High over-arch'd in Summer's gayest weed,
78 Meandering alleys form the wonderous maze,
79 And puzzle most when best they seem to lead
80 The untaught foot, that in their precincts strays.
81 Deep in a vale impervious to all tread,
82 Save by a flower-hid path, a grotto stood!
83 And ancient oaks their foliage round it spread,
84 O'ershading with their tops the neighbouring wood
85 And Nature sporting, with a lavish hand
86 This little spot in gay profusion grac'd,
87 With every wanton variation plann'd,
88 Luxuriant Fancy yielding but to Taste.
89 Here on the brink of a pellucid stream,
90 Circling in eddies o'er its moss-grown bed,
91 Where ever and anon a quivering beam,
92 Piercing the covert, on the surface play'd:
93 A Beauty lay, surpassing all the train
94 Of virgin Delia, or Idalia's queen;
95 Or what of dryads poets sweetly feign,
96 On Ida, or thessalian Oeta seen.
97 And by her side a form imperial lay,
98 With roses, and with myrtle garlands crown'd;
99 The wither'd laurel cast in scorn away,
100 The pomp of war in Lydian measures drown'd.
101 The little Loves that flutter'd on the boughs,
102 In grateful bondage did their limbs entwine,
103 And strove to join them closer than their vows,
104 With woodbine sweet, and twisted eglantine.
105 But weak all bonds when those of Beauty fail;
106 The monarch sated left the flowery bed,
107 Nor griev'd to see the maid his loss bewail,
108 Nor mingled parting tears with those she shed.
109 Now swift advancing to the guilty bower,
110 With frantic step the injur'd queen drew nigh;
111 And arm'd for vengeance seiz'd the fatal hour,
112 When all things slept but rage and jealousy.
113 Each eager hand a deadly weapon fill'd,
114 A pointed dagger, and a poison'd bowl;
115 My ebbing blood her mad demeanor chill'd,
116 And anguish unallay'd possess'd my soul.
117 Ah stop, inhuman! with a faultering tongue
118 And inarticulate voice, as in a dream,
119 I cry'd; and strait the rattling thunder rung,
120 And livid lightnings in the welkin gleam!
121 No more the mazy grove, or bower appear'd,
122 But all around a waste and barren plain;
123 The scatter'd trees of leaves and branches bar'd,
124 And blanch'd by srowning winds and beating rain.
125 And Murder shrieking hideous wander'd there:
126 And ruthless Envy, and relentless Hate,
127 With snaky locks, and shrivell'd bosoms bare,
128 Whilst lurking felons on their motions wait.
129 And soon the landscape shifting like a cloud,
130 To less'ning distance bore the hellish crew;
131 Now twang in fainter sounds their yellings loud;
132 Now vanish'd quite; a milder scene I view.
133 Of chequer'd light and shade, a sober dawn,
134 Faint thro' a lingering vapour did disclose,
135 A hamlet seated on an open lawn,
136 And from each roof the pillar'd smoke arose.
137 For now with freqent challenge, had the cock
138 His rivals menacing, awak'd the swain;
139 Now in the pen impatient bleats the flock,
140 And ruddy streaks the horizon distain.
141 The crouching dog the moon no longer bays,
142 But stretch'd supine upon the social hearth
143 He lies, rejoicing in the crackling blaze,
144 Whilst slaunting sun-beams dry the moisten'd earth.
145 Whilst to the strain of rural minstrelsy,
146 A band forth issuing to a neighbouring hill
147 Welcom'd the morn with decent jollity,
148 And all the air their youthful carrols fill.
149 With unskill'd hands a simple crown they wove
150 Of vervain, and the never-sading bay;
151 And rais'd a throne within a rude alcove;
152 To grace the parent of the British lay:
153 Old Chaucer, who in rough, unequal verse,
154 Sung quaint allusion and sacetious tale;
155 And ever as his jests he would rehearse,
156 Loud peals of laughter echo'd thro' the vale:
157 And eager gap'd the rustic listening throng,
158 And still their joy and laughter they renew;
159 And warlike barons, soften'd by the song,
160 From loud alarms to mute attention drew.
161 But short-liv'd pleasure soon to sorrow chang'd;
162 For melody a sigh, for mirth a tear;
163 And now the swains in solemn order rang'd,
164 Surround the bard extended on his bier.
165 What tho' succeeding poets, as their sire,
166 Revere his memory, and approve his wit;
167 Tho' Spenser's elegance and Dryden's fire
168 His name to ages far remote transmit;
169 His tuneless numbers hardly now survive,
170 As ruins of a dark and Gothic age;
171 And all his blithsome tales their praise derive
172 From Pope's immortal song, and Prior's page!
173 Again, quick rising thro' the tufted green,
174 Turrets and lofty battlements ascend;
175 Trees half obscuring columns, intervene,
176 And real boughs with sculptur'd fruitage blend.
177 And arched windows shine with torches clear,
178 Soothing the wanderer. A delusive home!
179 And busy crouds of ministers appear,
180 Decking with jocund haste a festive room.
181 And now of sprightly youths and damsels gay,
182 A wanton bevy at the board was set,
183 And all intent they seem'd on amorous play,
184 For kindling glances, kindling glances met.
185 Their volant fingers o'er the chorded lyre,
186 With modulating touch the artists ply;
187 Pursuing still to animate desire,
188 Strains that in thrilling undulations die.
189 And every cheek with deep suffusion glow'd,
190 Denoting thought inflam'd, and troubled breast,
191 And passion in seducing sighs avow'd
192 Mutual, yet still by decency represt.
193 But soon excess to madding riot led,
194 Ensuing meaning jest, and licence bold;
195 Till comely Order from the banquet fled,
196 Asham'd the lustful orgies to behold.
197 A youth exalted high above the rest,
198 In bad pre-eminence conspicuous shone!
199 And blind submission to his lewd behest,
200 Unrivall'd lewdness from them all had won.
201 And deeply was he skill'd in wanton lore,
202 With sertile thought suggesting every art,
203 To make impurer, fires impure before,
204 Tainting at once the manners and the heart.
205 Pleasing proportion, youthful Beauty's aid,
206 And bland complacency and winning smile,
207 And wit diffusive tempting to persuade,
208 Maintain'd his power, and held him in the toil.
209 Ah! why should Nature in an angel dress,
210 To lure with seeming worth unwary eyes,
211 Conceal rank thoughts and gross voluptuousness,
212 Too apt to poison without Virtue's guise?
213 Pride of thy country, Wilmot, and her shame!
214 By every grace adorn'd, and Muse inspir'd!
215 Thy early fall how pitied! and thy name,
216 How much detested, and how much admir'd!
217 Yet must unbiass'd posterity admit,
218 For all thou wrot'st and acted'st to atone,
219 Thy failings were the age's, but thy wit,
220 Thy parts and dying penitence, thine own.
221 But now prevailing o'er the hubbub wild,
222 The clanging trumpet kindles great acclaim;
223 And all around are warlike trophies pil'd,
224 And crouds triumphant echo Churchill's fame.
225 And thronging senates in the glorious cause,
226 Repell'd oppression, liberty maintain'd,
227 Accord with gratulant vote the loud applause;
228 The fairest prize by British valour gain'd.
229 Who erst implor'd, and soon obtain'd relief,
230 High-fated monarchs grateful homage pay,
231 And fulgent honours crown the matchless chief,
232 And verse harmonious, never to decay:
233 And humbled Gallia kneels with distant awe;
234 Her generals baffled, and her warriors slain;
235 No more to dictate but receive the law,
236 No longer to impose but wear the chain.
237 But venom'd Faction spreading o'er the land,
238 Too soon forgets the mighty debt to owe;
239 And Envy stretches out her lurid hand,
240 The victor's meed to blast and overthrow.
241 And yet unfinish'd stands the votive dome,
242 By all his toil and all his danger bought:
243 When just resentment calls him far from home,
244 Revisiting the fields where late he fought.
245 In vain auspicious Brunswick's happy reign,
246 Blunting the rancorous point of party strife,
247 Restores the hero to his friends again;
248 Too late to chear the dregs of lengthen'd life!
249 The lofty column and the voice of praise
250 In vain proclaim him great, and just, and brave;
251 Tardy repentance merit ill repays,
252 Unheard, unheeded, in the silent grave!
253 In conquest equal, and alike in fate,
254 Rome's mounting genius, godlike Scipio stood;
255 And propp'd by worth and dignity innate,
256 Contemn'd the venal censure of the croud.
257 Yet once again the visionary scene,
258 Ductile, for sorrow social beauty yields;
259 A temperate sunshine and an air serene,
260 Fostering the upland downs and level fields.
261 And tepid showers bedew the frolic herd,
262 Bounding in gamesome measure o'er the lea,
263 With daisies crimson-tipt, and green parterr'd,
264 And shadowing fragrance drops from every tree.
265 The wide expanded prospect gently clos'd,
266 On visto'd walks leading to high arcades;
267 Each waving copse in symmetry dispos'd,
268 Points to the terras capt with colonnades.
269 And more remote the cloister'd wings confine,
270 In architecture elegant and just,
271 A portall'd front where niches deep inshrine
272 The marble statue, and the gilded bust.
273 Unfolding wide the hospitable port
274 On ready hinges, to the searching eye
275 Reveals unblemish'd Childhood's harmless sport,
276 And placid parents stand delighted by.
277 For here unmindful of the call of State,
278 The smile of Favour, or the voice of Power;
279 In tranquil pleasure, even and sedate,
280 Great Churchill's heir enjoy'd the wasting hour.
281 And beaming rapture glisten'd on his brow,
282 And glad dependants share their patron's joy,
283 No frowns their heart-bred transports disallow,
284 Debasing worth in Servitude's alloy.
285 Such charms hath Innocence! such virtues Pride!
286 From starry height her sacred powers descend,
287 The garish pomp of Grandeur to deride,
288 And giddy Fortune's rash decrees amend.
289 A day he flourish'd in the peaceful soil,
290 Another saw him on the hostile strand,
291 Guiding the thunders of the white-cliff'd isle,
292 Ambition's wasteful rapine to withstand.
293 To match his great progenitor in war,
294 Elate with hope his generous bosom burns;
295 But inauspicious twinkled every star,
296 And heaven averted all his wishes spurns.
297 Too high request in every sphere to shine,
298 In peace a pattern, and a chief in blood;
299 The gods to each a separate path assign,
300 But he alone is great who's truly good.