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Poem by William Whitehead


Elegy 3


To the Right Honourable George Simon Harcourt, Visc. Newnham. 
Written at ROME, 1756.

YES, noble Youth, 'tis true; the softer arts,
The sweetly-sounding string, and pencil's pow'r,
Have warm'd to rapture even heroic hearts,
And taught the rude to wonder, and adore.

For Beauty charms us, whether she appears
In blended colours; or to soothing sound
Attunes her voice; or fair proportion wears
In yonder swelling dome's harmonious round.

All, all she charms; but not alike to all
'Tis given to revel in her blissful bower;
Coercive ties, and Reason's powerful call
Bid some but taste the sweets, which some devour.

When Nature govern'd, and when Man was young,
Perhaps at will th' untutor'd Savage rov'd,
Where waters murmur'd, and where clusters hung
He fed, and slept beneath the shade he lov'd.

But since the Sage's more sagacious mind,
By Heaven's permission, or by Heaven's command,
To polish'd states has social laws assign'd,
And general good on partial duties plann'd,

Not for ourselves our vagrant steps we bend
As heedless Chance, or wanton Choice ordain;
On various stations various tasks attend,
And Men are born to trifle or to reign.

As chaunts the woodman whilst the Dryads weep,
And falling forests fear th' uplifted blow,
As chaunts the shepherd, while he tends his sheep,
Or weaves to pliant forms the osier bough,

To me 'tis given, whom Fortune loves to lead
Thro' humbler toils to life's sequester'd bowers,
To me 'tis given to wake th' amusive reed,
And sooth with song the solitary hours.

But Thee superior soberer toils demand,
Severer paths are thine of patriot fame;
Thy birth, thy friends, thy king, thy native land,
Have given thee honors, and have each their claim.

Then nerve with fortitude thy feeling breast
Each, wish to combat, and each pain to bear;
Spurn with disdain th' inglorious love of rest,
Nor let the syren Ease approach thine ear.

Beneath yon cypress shade's eternal green
See prostrate Rome her wond'rous story tell,
Mark how she rose the world's imperial queen,
And tremble at the prospect how she fell!

Not that my rigid precepts would require
A painful strugling with each adverse gale,
Forbid thee listen to th' enchanting Lyre,
Or turn thy steps from Fancy's flowery vale.

Whate'er of Greece in sculptur'd brass survives,
Whate'er of Rome in mould'ring arcs remains,
Whate'er of Genius on the canvass lives,
Or flows in polish'd verse, or airy strains,

Be these thy leisure; to the chosen few,
Who dare excel, thy fost'ring aid afford;
Their arts, their magic powers with honors due
Exalt; but be thyself what they record.



William Whitehead


William Whitehead's other poems:
  1. Nature to Dr. Hoadly
  2. To the Same [Charles Townsend], on the Death of a Relation
  3. To the Honourable [Charles Townsend]
  4. An Hymn to the Nymph of Bristol Spring
  5. To Mr. Mason


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