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Poem by William Shenstone
Elegy. He Suggests the Advantage of Birth to a Person of Merit
HE SUGGESTS THE ADVANTAGE OF BIRTH TO A PERSON OF MERIT; AND THE FOLLY OF A SUPERCILIOUSNESS THAT IS BUILT UPON THAT SOLE FOUNDATION.
When genius, graced with lineal splendour, glows, When title shines, with ambient virtues crown'd, Like some fair almond's flowery pomp it shows, The pride, the perfume, of the regions round. Then learn, ye Fair! to soften splendour's ray; Endure the swain, the youth of low degree; Let meekness join'd its temperate beam display; 'Tis the mild verdure that endears the tree. Pity the sandall'd swain, the shepherd's boy; He sighs to brighten a neglected name; Foe to the dull applause of vulgar joy, He mourns his lot; he wishes, merits fame. In vain to groves and pathless vales we fly; Ambition there the bowery haunt invades; Fame's awful rays fatigue the courtier's eye, But gleam still lovely through the chequer'd shades. Vainly, to guard from Love's unequal chain, Has Fortune rear'd us in the rural grove; Should ——'s eyes illume the desert plain, Even I may wonder, and even I must love. Not unregarded sighs the lowly hind; Though you contemn, the gods respect his vow; Vindictive rage awaits the scornful mind, And vengeance, too severe! the gods allow. On Sarum's plain I met a wandering fair; The look of sorrow, lovely still, she bore; Loose flow'd the soft redundance of her hair, And on her brow a flowery wreath she wore. Oft stooping as she stray'd, she cull'd the pride Of every plain; she pillaged every grove! The fading chaplet daily she supplied, And still her hand some various garland wove. Erroneous Fancy shaped her wild attire: From Bethlem's walls the poor lymphatic stray'd; Seem'd with her air, her accent, to conspire, When, as wild Fancy taught her, thus she said: "Hear me, dear Youth! oh, bear an hapless maid, Sprung from the scepter'd line of ancient kings! Scorn'd by the world, I ask thy tender aid; Thy gentle voice shall whisper kinder things. "The world is frantic—fly the race profane—. Nor I, nor you, shall its compassion move: Come, friendly let us wander and complain; And tell me, Shepherd! hast thou seen my love? "My love is young—but other loves are young; And other loves are fair, and so is mine; An air divine discloses whence he sprung; He is my love, who boasts that air divine. "No vulgar Damon robs me of my rest; Ianthe listens to no vulgar vow; A prince, from gods descended, fires her breast; A brilliant crown distinguishes his brow. "What! shall I stain the glories of my race, More clear, more lovely bright, than Hesper's beam? The porcelain pure with vulgar dirt debase? Or mix with puddle the pellucid stream? "See through these veins the sapphire current shine! 'Twas Jove's own nectar gave th' ethereal hue: Can base plebeian forms contend with mine, Display the lovely white, or match the blue? "The painter strove to trace its azure ray; He changed his colours, and in vain he strove: He frown'd—I, smiling, view'd the faint essay: Poor youth! he little knew it flow'd from Jove. "Pitying his toil, the wondrous truth I told, How amorous Jove trepann'd a mortal fair; How through the race the generous current roll'd, And mocks the poet's art and painter's care. "Yes, from the gods, from earliest Saturn, sprung Our sacred race, through demi-gods convey'd, And he, allied to PhÅ“bus, ever young, My godlike boy! must wed their duteous maid. "Oft, when a mortal vow profanes my ear, My sire's dread fury murmurs through the sky; And should I yield—his instant rage appears; He darts th' uplifted vengeance—and I die. "Have you not heard unwonted thunders roll? Have you not seen more horrid lightnings glare? 'Twas then a vulgar love ensnared my soul; 'Twas then—I hardly 'scaped the fatal snare. "'Twas then a peasant pour'd his amorous vow, All as I listen'd to his vulgar strain;— Yet such his beauty—would my birth allow, Dear were the youth, and blissful were the plain. "But, oh, I faint! why wastes my vernal bloom, In fruitless searches ever doom'd to rove? My nightly dreams the toilsome path resume, And I shall die—before I find my love. "When last I slept, methought my ravish'd eye On distant heaths his radiant form survey'd; Though night's thick clouds encompass'd all the sky, The gems that bound his brow dispell'd the shade. "O how this bosom kindled at the sight! Led by their beams I urged the pleasing chase, Till, on a sudden, these withheld their light— All, all things envy the sublime embrace. "But now no more—Behind the distant grove Wanders my destined youth, and chides my stay: See, see! he grasps the steel—Forbear, my Love— Ianthe comes; thy princess hastes away." Scornful she spoke, and, heedless of reply, The lovely maniac bounded o'er the plain, The piteous victim of an angry sky! Ah me! the victim of her proud disdain.
William Shenstone's other poems:
English Poetry. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org