Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Folly

Beneath the rugged elms, that 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 Family sleep.

The breezy call of desert-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the pine-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewives ply their 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 bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of our poor.

I see you Proud, those now who bear the fault,
The Memory o'er their tombs great trophies raise,
Where o'er the mountains and the shadowed vault--
Your apron bears the venal badge of Praise.

Ye Watchers in your Ivy Towers hide,
You quench with blushes of ingenuous shame,
And heap the pile of Luxury and Pride
With dousing mist aimed at the Muse's flame.

Your boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all their wealth e'er gave,
Cannot avoid the quick and coming hour.
Your paths of glory lead but to the grave.

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?

Surely in the hallowed spot is laid
Some hearts once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of iron might have stayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Curses blocked their dances on this stage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Their lot forbade: not circumscribed alone
With growing virtues. But their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade from folly to a throne,
Thus shut the gates of mercy on mankind.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never fly astray;
Beyond the cool sequestered veil of life
They keep the humble tenor of their way.

Many a gem of purest ray serene,
In dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Yea, many a limpid flower calls, e’er unseen,
And wastes her sweetness on the desert air.

Their name, their years, hailed by the fearless muse,
The place of fame and elegy to bring:
And holy text around her call she strews,
That teach the gentile masses how to sing.

On some third son a parted soul relies,
An atoning act the stated vow requires;
And from the tomb an outcast father cries,
To quench the fever of his wonted fires.

And now I seek his merits to disclose,
To draw his frailties from their dread abode,
And in his strength recovered hope propose.
I claim the kin of promises bestowed!

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