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1 Thus, when the fatal stroke of Death's design'd,
2 On oozy banks th'expiring swan reclin'd,
3 Her own sad requiem sings in languid note,
4 While o'er the stream the dying echoes float.
5 But, ah! can youth dwell on the tragic part?
6 Can I describe the trembling, panting heart?
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7 In Fancy's frolic age can I relate
8 The pangs, the terrors of a dying state?
9 Yes tho' unskill'd, I'll the grim shade pursue,
10 And bring the distant terror to my view;
11 Dwell on the horrors of that gloomy hour;
12 Death, made familiar, loses half his power.
13 Peace then, ye passions of ungovern'd youth,
14 Foes to reflection, enemies to truth!
15 Let me, unruffled by your clamorous voice,
16 Make the drear regions of the tomb my choice;
17 And while sad Fancy paints the dismal scene,
18 Where restless ghosts by midnight moons are seen
19 Stalk o'er the gloomy grave, Muse! be it thine
20 To rouse the vain, the giddy, and supine,
21 Who Pleasure's rounds pursue; while young Desire
22 Wakes the gay dream, and feeds the dangerous fire:
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23 From these I fly and now, my pensive soul,
24 Mark the harsh scream of yon death-boding owl;
25 Perhaps she calls some lingering, tardy ghost
26 To smell the world, ere the dread hour be lost
27 That parts the night from morn. Come, restless souls,
28 Relax from torture; you whom Fate controuls
29 To purge your earthly crimes in liquid fire,
30 In anguish plung'd, till ages shall expire;
31 (This, Rome's grand tenet) sin thus wash'd away,
32 Pure, bright, and cleans'd, you'll wing to endless day.
33 Presumption, hold! Lo, o'er yon misty tomb
34 Leans a sad spectre, and bemoans the doom
35 Of never-erring Justice; heavenly power!
36 Support and guard me in this gloomy hour
37 Of dread inquiry! "Say, thou wretched soul,
38 O teach a young, rash, inexperienced fool,
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39 What 'tis to die, and where thou wing'dst thy way,
40 When turn'd a wanderer from thy house of clay?
41 Did'st tread soft lawns, or seek Elysian groves,
42 Where Poets feign the lover's spirit roves?
43 Or, on light pinions cut the closing air,
44 And to each planetary world repair?
45 Or, guideless, stray where dismal groans resound,
46 And forked lightnings quiver on the ground?
47 Or did sad fiends thy unhous'd spirit meet,
48 And with shrill yellings the poor trembler greet
49 To the dark world? Describe that scene of woe
50 Which thou hast felt, and may I never know!"
51 "Thou'lt know, indeed," it answers with a groan,
52 "The pangs of death too sure shall be thy own;
53 Pains yet unfelt must seize thy every part,
54 And Death's cold horrors hover round thy heart;
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55 Thy dying eyes fix'd on some darling friend,
56 While strong convulsions their wild orbs extend;
57 One gasp, and deep eternity in view,
58 The soul shoots forth, and groans a last adieu.
59 I dare no more but Oh! too curious maid,
60 Seek not to pierce th'impenetrable shade
61 Which wraps futurity; thou 'rt sure to die;
62 Rest there, nor farther search, nor question why;
63 Scan not Omnipotence of that beware;
64 Oft the too curious eye is dimm'd by blank despair."
65 Farewel, poor Ghost! ye horrors of the night,
66 Begone, nor more my shudd'ring soul affright;
67 The question unresolv'd I soon shall know,
68 Then let me haste from this sad scene of woe.
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69 Henceforth, vain Pleasure, I renounce thy joy,
70 Enchanting Fair, who tempt'st but to destroy;
71 Ye thoughtless maids who transient dreams pursue,
72 No more my moments must be lost with you;
73 No more my soul in empty mirth shall share,
74 Or fondly relish pleasures ting'd with care.
75 And thou, all-merciful! omniscient Power!
76 O teach me to redeem each mis-spent hour;
77 In youth the mind's best gifts most strongly shine,
78 Ah! let them not too suddenly decline!
79 In mercy add a few remaining years,
80 The grave shall lose its sting, my soul shall lose its fears.


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About this text

Themes: death
Genres: meditation

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Source edition

Yearsley, Ann, 1753-1806. Poems, on several occasions. By Ann Yearsley, a milkwoman of Bristol [poems only]. The second edition. London: printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1785, pp. 17-22. xxxii, 127p. (ESTC N22108)

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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.