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1 Whilst some affect the Sun, and some the Shade,
2 Some flee the City, some the Hermitage;
3 Their Aims as various, as the Roads they take
4 In Journeying thro' Life; the Task be mine
5 To paint the gloomy Horrors of the Tomb;
6 Th'appointed Place of Rendezvous, where all
7 These Travellers meet. Thy Succours I implore,
8 Eternal King! whose potent Arm sustains
9 The Keys of Hell and Death. The Grave, dread Thing!
10 Men shiver, when thou'rt named: Nature appall'd
11 Shakes off her wonted Firmness. Ah! how dark
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12 Thy long-extended Realms, and rueful Wastes!
13 Where nought but Silence reigns, and Night, dark Night,
14 Dark as was Chaos, 'ere the Infant Sun
15 Was roll'd together, or had try'd his Beams
16 Athwart the Gloom profound! The sickly Taper
17 By glimmering thro' thy low-brow'd misty Vaults,
18 (Furr'd round with mouldy Damps, and ropy Slime,)
19 Lets fall a supernumerary Horror,
20 And only serves to make thy Night more irksome.
21 Well do I know thee by thy trusty Yew,
22 Chearless, unsocial Plant! that loves to dwell
23 'Midst Sculls and Coffins, Epitaphs and Worms:
24 Where light-heel'd Ghosts, and visionary Shades,
25 Beneath the wan cold Moon (as Fame reports)
26 Embody'd thick, perform their mystick Rounds.
27 No other Merriment, Dull Tree! is thine.
28 See yonder Hallow'd Fane! the pious Work
29 Of Names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
30 And buried 'midst the Wreck of things which were:
31 There lie interr'd the more illustrious Dead.
32 The Wind is up: Hark! how it howls! Methinks
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33 'Till now, I never heard a sound so dreary:
34 Doors creak, and Windows clap, and Night's foul Bird
35 Rook'd in the Spire screams loud: The gloomy Isles
36 Black-plaster'd, and hung round with Shreds of 'Scutcheons
37 And tatter'd Coats of Arms, send back the Sound
38 Laden with heavier Airs, from the low Vaults
39 The Mansions of the Dead. Roused from their Slumbers
40 In grim Array the grizly Spectres rise,
41 Grin horrible, and obstinately sullen
42 Pass and repass, hush'd as the Foot of Night.
43 Again! the Screech-Owl shrieks: Ungracious Sound!
44 I'll hear no more, it makes one's Blood run chill.
45 Quite round the Pile, a Row of Reverend Elms,
46 Coæval near with that, all ragged shew,
47 Long lash'd by the rude Winds: Some rift half down
48 Their branchless Trunks: Others so thin a Top,
49 That scarce two Crows could lodge in the same Tree.
50 Strange Things, the Neighbours say, have happen'd here:
51 Wild Shrieks have issued from the hollow Tombs,
52 Dead Men have come again, and walk'd about,
53 And the great Bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.
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54 (Such Tales their Chear, at Wake or Gossiping,
55 When it draws near to Witching Time of Night.)
56 Oft, in the lone Church-yard at Night I've seen
57 By Glimpse of Moon-shine, chequering thro' the Trees,
58 The School-boy with his Satchel in his Hand,
59 Whistling aloud to bear his Courage up,
60 And lightly tripping o'er the long flat Stones
61 (With Nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
62 That tell in homely Phrase who lie below;
63 Sudden! he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears
64 The Sound of something purring at his Heels:
65 Full fast he flies, and dares not look behind him,
66 'Till out of Breath he overtakes his Fellows;
67 Who gather round, and wonder at the Tale
68 Of horrid Apparition, tall and ghastly,
69 That walks at Dead of Night, or takes his Stand
70 O'er some new-open'd Grave; and, strange to tell!
71 Evanishes at Crowing of the Cock.
72 The new-made Widow too, I've sometimes spy'd,
73 Sad Sight! slow moving o'er the prostrate Dead:
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74 Listless, she crawls along in doleful Black,
75 Whilst Bursts of Sorrow gush from either Eye,
76 Fast-falling down her new untasted Cheek.
77 Prone on the lowly Grave of the Dear Man
78 She drops; whilst busy-meddling Memory,
79 In barbarous Succession, musters up
80 The past Endearments of their softer Hours,
81 Tenacious of its Theme. Still, still she thinks
82 She sees him, and indulging the fond Thought,
83 Clings yet more closely to the senseless Turf,
84 Nor heeds the Passenger who looks that Way.
85 Invidious Grave! how do'st thou rend in sunder
86 Whom Love has knit, and Sympathy made one;
87 A Tie more stubborn far than Nature's Band!
88 Friendship! Mysterious Cement of the Soul!
89 Sweetner of Life! and Solder of Society!
90 I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
91 Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
92 Oft have I prov'd the Labours of thy Love,
93 And the warm Efforts of the gentle Heart
94 Anxious to please. Oh! when my Friend and I
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95 In some thick Wood have wander'd heedless on,
96 Hid from the vulgar Eye; and sat us down
97 Upon the sloping Cowslip-cover'd Bank,
98 Where the pure limpid Stream has slid along
99 In grateful Errors thro' the Under-wood
100 Sweet-murmuring: Methought! the shrill-tongu'd Thrush
101 Mended his Song of Love; the sooty Black-bird
102 Mellow'd his Pipe, and soften'd ev'ry Note:
103 The Eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the Rose
104 Assum'd a Dye more deep; whilst ev'ry Flow'r
105 Vy'd with its Fellow-Plant in Luxury
106 Of Dress. Oh! then the longest Summer's Day
107 Seem'd too, too much in Haste: Still the full Heart
108 Had not imparted half: 'Twas Happiness
109 Too exquisite to last. Of Joys departed
110 Not to return, how painful the Remembrance!
111 Dull Grave! thou spoil'st the Dance of Youthful Blood,
112 Strik'st out the Dimple from the Cheek of Mirth,
113 And ev'ry smirking Feature from the Face;
114 Branding our Laughter with the Name of Madness.
115 Where are the Jesters now? the Men of Health
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116 Complexionally pleasant? Where the Droll?
117 Whose ev'ry Look and Gesture was a Joke
118 To clapping Theatres and shouting Crouds,
119 And made even thick-lip'd musing Melancholy
120 To gather up her Face into a Smile
121 Before she was aware? Ah! Sullen now,
122 And Dumb, as the green Turf that covers them!
123 Where are the mighty Thunderbolts of War?
124 The Roman Cæsars, and the Græcian Chiefs,
125 The Boast of Story? Where the hot-brain'd Youth?
126 Who the Tiara at his Pleasure tore
127 From Kings of all the then discover'd Globe;
128 And cry'd forsooth, because his Arm was hamper'd,
129 And had not Room enough to do it's Work?
130 Alas! how slim, dishonourably slim!
131 And cramm'd into a Space we blush to name.
132 Proud Royalty! how alter'd in thy Looks?
133 How blank thy Features, and how wan thy Hue?
134 Son of the Morning! whither art thou gone?
135 Where hast thou hid thy many-spangled Head,
136 And the majestick Menace of thine Eyes
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137 Felt from afar? Pliant and powerless now,
138 Like new-born Infant wound up in his Swathes,
139 Or Victim tumbled flat upon its Back,
140 That throbs beneath the Sacrificer's Knife:
141 Mute, must thou bear the Strife of little Tongues,
142 And coward Insults of the base-born Crowd;
143 That grudge a Privilege, thou never hadst,
144 But only hop'd for in the peaceful Grave,
145 Of being unmolested and alone.
146 Arabia's Gums and odoriferous Drugs,
147 And Honours by the Heralds duly paid
148 In Mode and Form, ev'n to a very Scruple;
149 Oh cruel Irony! These come too late;
150 And only mock, whom they were meant to honour.
151 Surely! There's not a Dungeon-Slave, that's bury'd
152 In the High-way, unshrouded and uncoffin'd,
153 But lies as soft, and sleeps as sound as He.
154 Sorry Pre-eminence of high Descent
155 Above the vulgar-born, to rot in State!
156 But see! the well-plum'd Herse comes nodding on,
157 Stately and slow; and properly attended
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158 By the whole Sable Tribe, that painful watch
159 The sick Man's Door, and live upon the Dead,
160 By letting out their Persons by the Hour
161 To mimick Sorrow, when the Heart's not sad.
162 How rich the Trappings, now they're all unfurl'd,
163 And glittering in the Sun! Triumphant Entrys
164 Of Conquerors, and Coronation Pomps,
165 In Glory scarce exceed. Great Gluts of People
166 Retard th'unweildy Show; whilst from the Casements
167 And Houses Tops, Ranks behind Ranks close-wedg'd
168 Hang bellying o'er. But! tell us, Why this Waste?
169 Why this ado in Earthing up a Carcase
170 That's fall'n into Disgrace, and in the Nostril
171 Smells horrible? Ye Undertakers! tell us,
172 'Midst all the gorgeous Figures you exhibit,
173 Why is the Principal conceal'd, for which
174 You make this mighty Stir? 'Tis wisely done:
175 What would offend the Eye in a good Picture
176 The Painter casts discreetly into Shades.
177 Proud Lineage! now how little thou appear'st!
178 Below the Envy of the Private Man!
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179 Honour! that meddlesome officious Ill,
180 Pursues thee ev'n to Death; nor there stops short.
181 Strange Persecution! when the Grave itself
182 Is no Protection from rude Sufferance.
183 Absurd! to think to over-reach the Grave,
184 And from the Wreck of Names to rescue ours!
185 The best concerted Schemes Men lay for Fame
186 Die fast away: Only themselves die faster.
187 The far-fam'd Sculptor, and the lawrell'd Bard,
188 Those bold Insurancers of deathless Fame,
189 Supply their little feeble Aids in vain.
190 The tap'ring Pyramid! th'Egyptian's Pride,
191 And Wonder of the World! whose spiky Top
192 Has wounded the thick Cloud, and long out-liv'd
193 The angry Shaking of the Winter's Storm;
194 Yet spent at last by th'Injuries of Heav'n,
195 Shatter'd with Age, and furrow'd o'er with Years,
196 The mystick Cone, with Hieroglyphicks crusted,
197 Gives Way. Oh! lamentable Sight! at once
198 The Labour of whole Ages lumbers down;
199 A hideous and mishapen Length of Ruins.
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200 Sepulchral Columns wrestle but in vain
201 With all-subduing Time: Her cank'ring Hand
202 With calm deliberate Malice wasteth them:
203 Worn on the Edge of Days, the Brass consumes,
204 The Busto moulders, and the deep-cut Marble,
205 Unsteady to the Steel, gives up its Charge.
206 Ambition! half convicted of her Folly,
207 Hangs down the Head, and reddens at the Tale.
208 Here! all the mighty Troublers of the Earth,
209 Who swam to Sov'reign Rule thro' Seas of Blood;
210 Th'oppressive, sturdy, Man-destroying Villains!
211 Who ravag'd Kingdoms, and laid Empires Waste;
212 And, in a cruel Wantonness of Pow'r,
213 Thinn'd States of half their People, and gave up
214 To Want the rest: Now like a Storm that's spent,
215 Lye hush'd, and meanly sneak behind thy Covert.
216 Vain Thought! to hide them from the gen'ral Scorn,
217 That haunts and doggs them like an injur'd Ghost
218 Implacable. Here too the petty Tyrant
219 Of scant Domains Geographer ne'er notic'd,
220 And well for neighbouring Grounds, of Arm as short;
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221 Who fix'd his Iron Talons on the Poor,
222 And grip'd them like some Lordly Beast of Prey;
223 Deaf to the forceful Cries of gnawing Hunger,
224 And piteous plaintive Voice of Misery:
225 (As if a Slave was not a Shred of Nature,
226 Of the same common Nature with his Lord:)
227 Now! tame and humble, like a Child that's whipp'd,
228 Shakes Hands with Dust, and calls the Worm his Kinsman;
229 Nor pleads his Rank and Birthright. Under Ground
230 Precedency's a Jest; Vassal and Lord
231 Grossly familiar, Side by Side consume.
232 When Self-Esteem, or others Adulation,
233 Would cunningly persuade us we were Something
234 Above the common Level of our Kind;
235 The Grave gainsays the smooth-complexion'd Flatt'ry,
236 And with blunt Truth acquaints us what we are.
237 Beauty! thou pretty Play-thing! dear Deceit!
238 That steals so softly o'er the Stripling's Heart,
239 And gives it a new Pulse, unknown before!
240 The Grave discredits thee: Thy Charms expung'd,
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241 Thy Roses faded, and thy Lillies soil'd;
242 What hast thou more to boast of? Will thy Lovers
243 Flock round thee now, to gaze and do thee Homage?
244 Methinks! I see thee with thy Head low laid;
245 Whilst, surfeited upon thy Damask Cheek,
246 The high-fed Worm, in lazy Volumes roll'd,
247 Riots unscar'd. For this, was all thy Caution?
248 For this, thy painful Labours at thy Glass?
249 T'improve those Charms, and keep them in Repair,
250 For which the Spoiler thanks thee not. Foul-feeder!
251 Coarse Fare and Carrion please thee full as well,
252 And leave as keen a Relish on the Sense.
253 Look! how the Fair One weeps! the conscious Tears
254 Stand thick as Dew-drops on the Bells of Flow'rs:
255 Honest Effusion! the swoln Heart in vain
256 Works hard to put a Gloss on its Distress.
257 Strength too! thou surly, and less gentle Boast
258 Of those that laugh loud at the Village-ring!
259 A Fit of common Sickness pulls thee down
260 With greater Ease, than e'er thou didst the Stripling
261 That rashly dar'd thee to th'unequal Fight.
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262 What Groan was that I heard? Deep Groan indeed!
263 With Anguish heavy-laden! Let me trace it:
264 From yonder Bed it comes, where the strong Man,
265 By stronger Arm belabour'd, gasps for Breath
266 Like a hard-hunted Beast. How his great Heart
267 Beats thick! his roomy Chest by far too scant
268 To give the Lungs full Play! What now avail
269 The strong-built sinewy Limbs, and well-spread Shoulders?
270 See! how he tugs for Life, and lays about him,
271 Mad with his Pain! Eager he catches hold
272 Of what comes next to Hand, and grasps it hard,
273 Just like a Creature drowning! Hideous Sight!
274 Oh! how his Eyes stand out, and stare full ghastly!
275 Whilst the Distemper's rank and deadly Venom
276 Shoots like a burning Arrow cross his Bowels,
277 And drinks his Marrow up. Heard you that Groan?
278 It was his last. See how the great Goliah,
279 Just like a Child that brawl'd itself to Rest,
280 Lies still. What mean'st thou then, O mighty Boaster!
281 To vaunt of Nerves not thine? What means the Bull,
282 Unconscious of his Strength, to play the Coward,
283 And flee before a feeble Thing like Man;
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284 That knowing well the Slackness of his Arm,
285 Trusts only in the well-invented Knife?
286 With Study pale, and Midnight Vigils spent,
287 The Star-surveying Sage, close to his Eye
288 Applies the Sight-invigorating Tube;
289 And travelling through the boundless Length of Space
290 Marks well the Courses of the far-seen Orbs,
291 That roll with regular Confusion there,
292 In Extasy of Thought. But Ah! proud Man!
293 Great Heights are hazardous to the weak Head:
294 Soon, very soon, thy firmest Footing fails;
295 And down thou dropp'st into that darksome Place,
296 Where nor Device, nor Knowledge ever came.
297 Here! the Tongue-Warrior lies, disabled now,
298 Disarm'd, dishonour'd, like a Wretch that's gagg'd,
299 And cannot tell his Ail to Passers by.
300 Great Man of Language! whence this mighty Change?
301 This dumb Despair, and drooping of the Head?
302 Tho' strong Persuasion hung upon thy Lip,
303 And sly Insinuation's softer Arts
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304 In Ambush lay about thy flowing Tongue;
305 Alas! how Chop-fall'n now? Thick Mists and Silence
306 Rest, like a weary Cloud, upon thy Breast
307 Unceasing. Ah! Where is the lifted Arm,
308 The Strength of Action, and the Force of Words,
309 The well-turn'd Period, and the well-tun'd Voice,
310 With all the lesser Ornaments of Phrase?
311 Ah! fled for ever, as they ne'er had been!
312 Raz'd from the Book of Fame: Or more provoking,
313 Perchance some Hackney hunger-bitten Scribler
314 Insults thy Memory, and blots thy Tomb
315 With long flat Narrative, or duller Rhimes
316 With heavy-halting Pace that drawl along;
317 Enough to rouse a Dead Man into Rage,
318 And warm with red Resentment the wan Cheek.
319 Here! the great Masters of the healing Art,
320 These mighty Mock-Defrauders of the Tomb!
321 Spite of their Juleps and Catholicons
322 Resign to Fate. Proud Æsculapius' Son!
323 Where are thy boasted Implements of Art,
324 And all thy well-cramm'd Magazines of Health?
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325 Nor Hill, nor Vale, as far as Ship could go,
326 Nor Margin of the Gravel-bottom'd Brook,
327 Escap'd thy rifling Hand: From stubborn Shrubs
328 Thou wrung'st their shy retiring Virtues out,
329 And vex'd them in the Fire: Nor Fly, nor Insect,
330 Nor writhy Snake, escap'd thy deep Research.
331 But why this Apparatus? Why this Cost?
332 Tell us, thou doughty Keeper from the Grave!
333 Where are thy Recipe's and Cordials now,
334 With the long List of Vouchers for thy Cures?
335 Alas! thou speakest not. The bold Impostor
336 Looks not more silly when the Cheat's found out.
337 Here! the lank-sided Miser, worst of Felons!
338 Who meanly stole, discreditable Shift!
339 From Back and Belly too, their proper Cheer;
340 Eas'd of a Tax, it irk'd the Wretch to pay
341 To his own Carcase, now lies cheaply lodg'd,
342 By clam'rous Appetites no longer teaz'd,
343 Nor tedious Bills of Charges and Repairs.
344 But Ah! Where are his Rents, his Comings in?
345 Ay! now you've made the Rich Man Poor indeed:
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346 Robb'd of his Gods, what has he left behind!
347 Oh! Cursed Lust of Gold! when for thy Sake
348 The Fool throws up his Int'rest in both Worlds,
349 First starv'd in this, then damn'd in that to come.
350 How shocking must thy Summons be, O Death!
351 To him that is at Ease in his Possessions;
352 Who counting on long Years of Pleasure here,
353 Is quite unfurnish'd for that World to come!
354 In that dread Moment, how the frantick Soul
355 Raves round the Walls of her Clay Tenement,
356 Runs to each Avenue, and shrieks for Help,
357 But shrieks in vain! How wishfully she looks
358 On all she's leaving, now no longer hers!
359 A little longer, yet a little longer,
360 Oh! might she stay, to wash away her Stains,
361 And fit her for her Passage! Mournful Sight!
362 Her very Eyes weep Blood; and every Groan
363 She heaves is big with Horror: But the Foe,
364 Like a stanch Murth'rer steady to his Purpose,
365 Pursues her close through ev'ry Lane of Life,
366 Nor misses once the Track, but presses on;
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367 Till forc'd at last to the tremendous Verge,
368 At once she sinks to everlasting Ruin.
369 Sure! 'tis a serious Thing to Die! My Soul!
370 What a strange Moment must it be, when near
371 Thy Journey's End, thou hast the Gulf in View!
372 That awful Gulf, no Mortal e'er repass'd
373 To tell what's doing on the other Side!
374 Nature runs back, and shudders at the Sight,
375 And every Life-string bleeds at Thoughts of parting!
376 For part they must: Body and Soul must part;
377 Fond Couple! link'd more close than wedded Pair.
378 This wings its Way to its Almighty Source,
379 The Witness of its Actions, now its Judge:
380 That drops into the dark and noisome Grave,
381 Like a disabled Pitcher of no Use.
382 If Death was nothing, and nought, after Death;
383 If when Men dy'd, at once they ceas'd to Be,
384 Returning to the barren Womb of Nothing
385 Whence first they sprung; then might the Debauchee
386 Untrembling mouth the Heav'ns: Then might the Drunkard
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387 Reel over his full Bowl, and when 'tis drain'd,
388 Fill up another to the Brim, and laugh
389 At the poor Bug-bear Death: Then might the Wretch
390 That's weary of the World, and tir'd of Life,
391 At once give each Inquietude the Slip
392 By stealing out of Being, when he pleas'd,
393 And by what Way; whether by Hemp, or Steel:
394 Death's thousand Doors stand open. Who could force
395 The ill-pleas'd Guest to sit out his full Time,
396 Or blame him if he goes? Sure! he does well
397 That helps himself as timely as he can,
398 When able. But if there is an Hereafter,
399 And that there is, Conscience, uninfluenc'd
400 And suffer'd to speak out, tells ev'ry Man;
401 Then must it be an awful Thing to die:
402 More horrid yet, to die by one's own Hand.
403 Self-Murther! name it not: Our Island's Shame!
404 That makes her the Reproach of neighbouring States.
405 Shall Nature, swerving from her earliest Dictate
406 Self-Preservation, fall by her own Act?
407 Forbid it Heav'n! Let not upon Disgust
408 The shameless Hand be foully crimson'd o'er
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409 With Blood of its own Lord. Dreadful Attempt!
410 Just reeking from Self-slaughter, in a Rage
411 To rush into the Presence of our Judge!
412 As if we challeng'd him to do his worst,
413 And matter'd not his Wrath. Unheard of Tortures
414 Must be reserv'd for such: These herd together;
415 The Common Damn'd shun their Society,
416 And look upon themselves as Fiends less foul.
417 Our Time is fix'd, and all our Days are number'd;
418 How long, how short, we know not: This we know,
419 Duty requires we calmly wait the Summons,
420 Nor dare to stir 'till Heav'n shall give Permission:
421 Like Centrys that must keep their destin'd Stand,
422 And wait th'appointed Hour, 'till they're reliev'd.
423 Those only are the Brave, that keep their Ground,
424 And keep it to the last. To run away
425 Is but a Coward's Trick: To run away
426 From this World's Ills, that at the very worst
427 Will soon blow o'er, thinking to mend ourselves
428 By boldly vent'ring on a World unknown,
429 And plunging headlong in the dark; 'tis Mad:
430 No Frenzy half so desperate as this.
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431 Tell us! ye Dead! Will none of you, in Pity
432 To those you left behind, disclose the Secret?
433 Oh! that some courteous Ghost would blab it out!
434 What 'tis You are, and We must shortly be.
435 I've heard, that Souls departed have sometimes
436 Forewarn'd Men of their Death: 'Twas kindly done
437 To knock, and give th'Alarum. But what means
438 This stinted Charity? 'tis but lame Kindness
439 That does its Work by Halves. Why might you not
440 Tell us what 'tis to Die? Do the strict Laws
441 Of your Society forbid your speaking
442 Upon a Point so nice? I'll ask no more;
443 Sullen, like Lamps in Sepulchres, your Shine
444 Enlightens but yourselves: Well, 'tis no Matter;
445 A very little Time will clear up all,
446 And make us learn'd as you are, and as close.
447 Death's Shafts fly thick! Here falls the Village Swain,
448 And there his pamper'd Lord! The Cup goes round;
449 And who so artful as to put it by?
450 'Tis long since Death had the Majority;
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451 Yet strange! the Living lay it not to Heart.
452 See! yonder Maker of the Dead Man's Bed,
453 The Sexton! hoary-headed Chronicle,
454 Of hard unmeaning Face, down which ne'er stole
455 A gentle Tear; with Mattock in his Hand
456 Digs through whole Rows of Kindred and Acquaintance,
457 By far his Juniors! Scarce a Scull's cast up,
458 But well he knew its Owner, and can tell
459 Some Passage of his Life. Thus Hand in Hand
460 The Sot has walk'd with Death twice Twenty Years;
461 And yet ne'er Yonker on the Green laughs louder,
462 Or clubs a smuttier Tale: When Drunkards meet
463 None sings a merrier Catch, or lends a Hand
464 More willing to his Cup. Poor Wretch! he minds not,
465 That soon some trusty Brother of the Trade
466 Shall do for him what he has done for Thousands.
467 On this Side, and on that, Men see their Friends
468 Drop off, like Leaves in Autumn; yet launch out
469 Into fantastick Schemes, which the long Livers,
470 In the World's hale and undergenerate Days,
471 Could scarce have Leisure for! Fools that we are!
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472 Never to think of Death, and of Ourselves
473 At the same Time! As if to learn to Die
474 Were no Concern of ours. Oh! more than Sottish!
475 For Creatures of a Day, in gamesome Mood
476 To frolick on Eternity's dread Brink,
477 Unapprehensive; when for ought we know
478 The very first swoln Surge shall sweep us in.
479 Think we, or think we not, Time hurries on
480 With a resistless unremitting Stream,
481 Yet treads more soft than e'er did Midnight Thief,
482 That slides his Hand under the Miser's Pillow,
483 And carries off his Prize. What is this World?
484 What? but a spacious Burial-Field unwall'd,
485 Strew'd with Death's Spoils, the Spoils of Animals
486 Savage and Tame, and full of Dead Mens Bones?
487 The very Turf on which we tread, once liv'd;
488 And we that live must lend our Carcases
489 To cover our own Offspring: In their Turns
490 They too must cover theirs. 'Tis here all meet!
491 The shiv'ring Icelander, and Sun-burnt Moor;
492 Men of all Climes, that never met before;
493 And of all Creeds, the Jew, the Turk, and Christian.
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494 Here the proud Prince, and Favourite yet prouder,
495 His Sov'reign's Keeper, and the People's Scourge,
496 Are huddled out of Sight. Here lie abash'd
497 The great Negotiators of the Earth,
498 And celebrated Masters of the Ballance,
499 Deep read in Stratagems, and Wiles of Courts:
500 Now vain their Treaty-Skill! Death scorns to treat.
501 Here the o'er-loaded Slave flings down his Burthen
502 From his gall'd Shoulders; and when the cruel Tyrant
503 With all his Guards and Tools of Pow'r about him,
504 Is meditating new unheard-of Hardships,
505 Mocks his short Arm, and quick as Thought escapes
506 Where Tyrants vex not, and the Weary rest.
507 Here the warm Lover leaving the cool Shade,
508 The Tell-tale Echo, and the babbling Stream,
509 Time out of Mind the fav'rite Seats of Love,
510 Fast by his gentle Mistress lay him down
511 Unblasted by foul Tongue. Here Friends and Foe
512 Lie close; unmindful of their former Feuds.
513 The Lawn-rob'd Prelate, and plain Presbyter,
514 E'er while that stood aloof, as shy to meet,
515 Familiar mingle here, like Sister-Streams
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516 That some rude interposing Rock had split.
517 Here is the large-limb'd Peasant: Here the Child
518 Of a Span long, that never saw the Sun,
519 Nor press'd the Nipple, strangled in Life's Porch.
520 Here is the Mother with her Sons and Daughters;
521 The barren Wife; and long demurring Maid,
522 Whose lonely unappropriated Sweets
523 Smil'd like yon Knot of Cowslips on the Cliff,
524 Not to be come at by the willing Hand.
525 Here are the Prude severe, and gay Coquet,
526 The sober Widow, and the young green Virgin,
527 Cropp'd like a Rose, before 'tis fully blown,
528 Or half its Worth disclos'd. Strange Medley here!
529 Here garrulous Old Age winds up his Tale;
530 And jovial Youth of lightsome vacant Heart,
531 Whose ev'ry Day was made of Melody,
532 Hears not the Voice of Mirth: The shrill-tongu'd Shrew,
533 Meek as the Turtle-Dove, forgets her Chiding.
534 Here are the Wise, the Generous, and the Brave;
535 The Just, the Good, the Worthless, the Prophane,
536 The downright Clown, and perfectly Well-bred;
537 The Fool, the Churl, the Scoundrel, and the Mean,
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538 The supple Statesman, and the Patriot stern;
539 The Wrecks of Nations, and the Spoils of Time,
540 With all the Lumber of Six Thousand Years.
541 Poor Man! how happy once in thy first State!
542 When yet but warm from thy great Maker's Hand,
543 He stamp'd thee with his Image, and well pleas'd
544 Smil'd on his last fair Work. Then all was well.
545 Sound was the Body, and the Soul serene;
546 Like two sweet Instruments ne'er out of Tune,
547 That play their several Parts. Nor Head, nor Heart,
548 Offer'd to ache: Nor was there Cause they should;
549 For all was pure within: No fell Remorse,
550 Nor anxious Castings up of what might be,
551 Alarm'd his peaceful Bosom: Summer Seas
552 Shew not more smooth, when kiss'd by Southern Winds
553 Just ready to expire. Scarce importun'd
554 The generous Soil with a luxuriant Hand
555 Offer'd the various Produce of the Year,
556 And every Thing most perfect in its Kind.
557 Blessed! thrice blessed Days! But Ah, how short!
558 Bless'd as the pleasing Dreams of Holy Men;
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559 But fugitive like those, and quickly gone.
560 Oh! slipp'ry State of Things! What sudden Turns?
561 What strange Vicissitudes, in the first Leaf
562 Of Man's sad History? To-day most Happy,
563 And 'ere To morrow's Sun has set, most Abject!
564 How scant the Space between these vast Extremes!
565 Thus far'd it with our Sire: Not long he enjoy'd
566 His Paradise! Scarce had the happy Tenant
567 Of the fair Spot due Time to prove its Sweets,
568 Or sum them up; when strait he must be gone
569 Ne'er to return again. And must he go?
570 Can nought compound for the first dire Offence
571 Of erring Man? Like one that is condemn'd
572 Fain would he trifle Time with idle Talk,
573 And parley with his Fate. But 'tis in vain.
574 Not all the lavish Odours of the Place
575 Offer'd in Incense can procure his Pardon,
576 Or mitigate his Doom. A mighty Angel
577 With flaming Sword forbids his longer Stay,
578 And drives the Loit'rer forth; nor must he take
579 One last and farewel Round. At once he lost
580 His Glory and his God. If mortal now,
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581 And sorely maim'd, No Wonder! Man has sinn'd.
582 Sick of his Bliss, and bent on new Adventures,
583 Evil he wou'd needs try: Nor try'd in vain.
584 (Dreadful Experiment! Destructive Measure!
585 Where the worst Thing could happen, is Success.)
586 Alas! too well he sped: The Good he scorn'd
587 Retir'd reluctant, like an ill-us'd Ghost,
588 Not to return; or if it did, its Visits
589 Like those of Angels short, and far between:
590 Whilst the black Dæmon with his Hell-'scap'd Train,
591 Admitted once into its better Room,
592 Grew loud and mutinous, nor would be gone;
593 Lording it o'er the Man, who now too late
594 Saw the rash Error, which he could not mend:
595 An Error fatal not to him alone,
596 But to his future Sons, his Fortune's Heirs.
597 Inglorious Bondage! Human Nature groans
598 Beneath a Vassalage so vile and cruel,
599 And its vast Body bleeds through ev'ry Vein.
600 What Havock hast thou made? Foul Monster Sin!
601 Greatest and first of Ills! The fruitful Parent
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602 Of Woes of all Dimensions! But for thee
603 Sorrow had never been. All noxious Thing!
604 Of vilest Nature! Other Sorts of Evils
605 Are kindly circumscrib'd and have their Bounds.
606 The fierce Volcano, from its burning Entrails
607 That belches molten Stone and Globes of Fire,
608 Involv'd in pitchy Clouds of Smoke and Stench,
609 Marrs the adjacent Fields for some Leagues round,
610 And there it stops. The big-swoln Inundation,
611 Of Mischief more diffusive, raving loud,
612 Buries whole Tracts of Country, threat'ning more;
613 But that too has its Shore it cannot pass.
614 More dreadful far than these! Sin has laid waste
615 Not here and there a Country, but a World:
616 Dispatching at a wide extended Blow
617 Entire Mankind; and for their Sakes defacing
618 A whole Creation's Beauty with rude Hands;
619 Blasting the foodful Grain, the loaded Branches,
620 And marking all along its Way with Ruin.
621 Accursed Thing! Oh, where shall Fancy find
622 A proper Name to call thee by, expressive
623 Of all thy Horrors? Pregnant Womb of Ills!
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624 Of Temper so transcendently malign,
625 That Toads and Serpents of most deadly Kind
626 Compar'd to thee are harmless. Sicknesses
627 Of ev'ry Size and Symptom, racking Pains,
628 And bluest Plagues, are thine! See! how the Fiend
629 Profusely scatters the Contagion round!
630 Whilst deep-mouth'd Slaughter bellowing at her Heels
631 Wades deep in Blood new-spilt; yet for To-morrow
632 Shapes out new Work of great uncommon Daring,
633 And inly pines 'till the dread Blow is struck.
634 But hold! I've gone too far; too much discover'd
635 My Father's Nakedness, and Nature's Shame.
636 Here let me pause! and drop an honest Tear,
637 One Burst of filial Duty, and Condolence,
638 O'er all those ample Desarts Death hath spread,
639 This Chaos of Mankind. O Great Man-Eater!
640 Whose ev'ry Day is Carnival, not sated yet!
641 Unheard of Epicure! without a Fellow!
642 The veryest Gluttons do not always cram;
643 Some Intervals of Abstinence are sought
644 To edge the Appetite: Thou seekest none.
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645 Methinks! the countless Swarms thou hast devour'd,
646 And Thousands that each Hour thou gobblest up;
647 This, less than this, might gorge thee to the full!
648 But Ah! rapacious still, thou gap'st for more:
649 Like One, whole Days defrauded of his Meals,
650 On whom lank Hunger lays her skinny Hand,
651 And whets to keenest Eagerness his Cravings.
652 (As if Diseases, Massacrees, and Poison,
653 Famine, and War, were not thy Caterers!)
654 But know! that Thou must render up thy Dead,
655 Aud with high Int'rest too? They are not thine;
656 But only in thy Keeping for a Season,
657 'Till the Great promis'd Day of Restitution;
658 When loud diffusive Sound from brazen Trump
659 Of Strong-lung'd Cherub shall alarm thy Captives,
660 And rouse the long, long Sleepers into Life,
661 Day-Light, and Liberty. ——————
662 Then must thy Gates fly open, and reveal
663 The Mines, that lay long forming under Ground,
664 In their dark Cells immur'd; but now full ripe,
665 And pure as Silver from the Crucible,
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666 That twice has stood the Torture of the Fire,
667 And Inquisition of the Forge. We know,
668 Th'illustrious Deliverer of Mankind,
669 The Son of God, thee foil'd. Him in thy pow'r
670 Thou couldst not hold: Self-vigorous he rose,
671 And, shaking off thy Fetters, soon retook
672 Those Spoils, his voluntary Yielding lent.
673 (Sure Pledge of our Releasment from thy Thrall!)
674 Twice Twenty Days he sojourn'd here on Earth,
675 And shew'd himself alive to chosen Witnesses
676 By Proofs so strong, that the most slow-assenting
677 Had not a Scruple left. This having done,
678 He mounted up to Heav'n. Methinks! I see him
679 Climb the Aerial Heights, and glide along
680 Athwart the severing Clouds: But the faint Eye
681 Flung backwards in the Chace, soon drops its Hold;
682 Disabled quite, and jaded with pursuing.
683 Heaven's Portals wide expand to let him in;
684 Nor are his Friends shut out: As some great Prince
685 Not for himself alone procures Admission,
686 But for his Train: It was his Royal Will,
687 That where He is, there should his Followers be.
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688 Death only lies between! A gloomy Path!
689 Made yet more gloomy by our Coward Fears!
690 But nor untrod, nor tedious: The Fatigue
691 Will soon go off. Besides, there's no By-road
692 To Bliss. Then why, like ill-condition'd Children,
693 Start we at transient Hardships, in the Way
694 That leads to purer Air, and softer Skies,
695 And a ne'er Setting Sun? Fools that we are!
696 We wish to be, where Sweets unwith'ring bloom;
697 But strait our Wish revoke, and will not go.
698 So have I seen upon a Summer's Even,
699 Fast by the Riv'let's Brink, a Youngster play:
700 How wishfully he looks! To stem the Tide
701 This Moment resolute, next unresolv'd:
702 At last! he dips his Foot; but as he dips,
703 His Fears redouble, and he runs away
704 From th'inoffensive Stream, unmindful now
705 Of all the Flow'rs, that paint the further Bank,
706 And smil'd so sweet of late. Thrice welcome Death!
707 That after many a painful bleeding Step
708 Conducts us to our Home, and lands us safe
709 On the long-wish'd for Shore. Prodigious Change!
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710 Our Bane turn'd to a Blessing! Death disarm'd
711 Loses her Fullness quite: All Thanks to him
712 Who scourg'd the Venom out. Sure! the last End
713 Of the Good Man is Peace. How calm his Exit!
714 Night-Dews fall not more gently to the Ground,
715 Nor weary worn-out Winds expire so soft.
716 Behold him! in the Evening-Tide of Life,
717 A Life well-spent, whose early Care it was
718 His riper Years should not upbraid his Green:
719 By unperceiv'd Degrees he wears away;
720 Yet like the Sun seems larger at his Setting!
721 High in his Faith and Hopes, look! how he reaches
722 After the Prize in View! and, like a Bird
723 That's hamper'd struggles hard to get away!
724 Whilst the glad Gates of Sight are wide expanded
725 To let new Glories in, the first fair Fruits
726 Of the fast-coming Harvest. Then! Oh Then!
727 Each Earth-born Joy grows vile, or disappears,
728 Shrunk to a Thing of Nought. Oh! how he longs
729 To have has Passport sign'd, and be dismiss'd!
730 'Tis done; and now he's Happy: The glad Soul
731 Has not a Wish uncrown'd. Ev'n the lag Flesh
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732 Rests too in Hope of meeting once again
733 Its better Half, never to sunder more.
734 Nor shall it hope in vain: The Time draws on
735 When not a single Spot of Burial-Earth,
736 Whether on Land, or in the spacious Sea,
737 But must give back its long-committed Dust
738 Inviolate: And faithfully shall these
739 Make up the full Account; not the least Atom
740 Embezzl'd, or mislaid, of the whole Tale.
741 Each Soul shall have a Body ready furnish'd;
742 And each shall have his own. Hence ye Prophane!
743 Ask not, how this can be? Sure the same Pow'r
744 That rear'd the Piece at first, and took it down,
745 Can re-assemble the loose scatter'd Parts,
746 And put them as they were. Almighty God
747 Has done much more; nor is his Arm impair'd
748 Thro' Length of Days: And what he can, he will:
749 His Faithfulness stands bound to see it done.
750 When the dread Trumpet sounds, the slumb'ring Dust,
751 Not unattentive to the Call, shall wake;
752 And ev'ry Joint possess it's proper Place,
753 With a new Elegance of Form, unknown
[Page 39]
754 To its first State. Nor shall the conscious Soul
755 Mistake its Partner; but amidst the Croud
756 Singling its other Half, into its Arms
757 Shall rush, with all th'Impatience of a Man
758 That's new-come Home; who, having long been absent,
759 With Haste runs over ev'ry different Room,
760 In Pain to see the whole. Thrice happy Meeting!
761 Nor Time, nor Death, shall ever part them more.
762 'Tis but a Night, a long and moonless Night,
763 We make the Grave our Bed, and then are gone.
764 Thus at the Shut of Ev'n, the weary Bird
765 Leaves the wide Air, and in some lonely Brake
766 Cow'rs down, and dozes 'till the Dawn of Day,
767 Then claps his well-fledg'd Wings, and bears away.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE GRAVE. A POEM.
Author: Robert Blair
Themes: death
Genres: blank verse; graveyard school

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Source edition

Blair, Robert, 1699-1746. The Grave. London: Printed for M. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-Noster-Row, 1743, pp. [3]-39. 4⁰. (Foxon B271)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Secondary literature

  • Bentley, E. B. Grave indignities: greed, hucksterism, and oblivion: Blake's watercolors for Blair's Grave.   Blake 40(2) (2006): 66-71. Print.
  • Butlin, Martin, ed. William Blake's watercolour inventions in illustration of The Grave by Robert Blair. With an essay on the poem by Morton D. Paley. William Blake Trust (2009): 95, (plates) 19. Print.
  • Means, James. A reading of ‘The Grave’.   Studies in Scottish Literature (1975): 270-281. Print.
  • Parisot, Eric. Disinterring The Grave: religious authority, poetic autonomy and Robert Blair's fideist poetics.   Scottish Studies Review 8(2) (2007): 24-35. Print.