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Poem by William Shenstone


Elegy. On Posthumous Reputation - To a Friend


O grief of griefs! that Envy's frantic ire
Should rob the living virtue of its praise;
O foolish Muses! that with zeal aspire
To deck the cold insensate shrine with bays.

When the free spirit quits her humble frame,
To tread the skies with radiant garlands crown'd;
Say, will she hear the distant voice of Fame?
Or, hearing, fancy sweetness in the sound?

Perhaps even Genius pours a slighted lay;
Perhaps even Friendship sheds a fruitless tear;
Even Lyttleton but vainly trims the bay,
And fondly graces Hammond's mournful bier.

Though weeping virgins haunt his favour'd urn,
Renew their chaplets, and repeat their sighs;
Though near his tomb Saböan odours burn,
The loit'ring fragrance will it reach the skies?

No; should his Delia votive wreaths prepare,
Delia might place the votive wreaths in vain:
Yet the dear hope of Delia's future care
Once crown'd his pleasures, and dispell'd his pain.

YesЧthe fair prospect of surviving praise
Can every sense of present joys excel;
For this, great Hadrian chose laborious days;
Through this, expiring, bade a gay farewell.

Shall then our youths, who Fame's bright fabric raise,
To life's precarious date confine their care?
O teach them you to spread the sacred base,
To plan a work through latest ages fair!

Is it small transport, as with curious eye
You trace the story of each Attic sage,
To think your blooming praise shall time defy?
Shall waft, like odours, through the pleasing page?

To mark the day when, through the bulky tome,
Around your name the varying style refines?
And readers call their lost attention home,
Led by that index where true genius shines?

Ah! let not Britons doubt their social aim,
Whose ardent bosoms catch this ancient fire;
Cold interest melts before the vivid flame,
And patriot ardours but with life expire.



William Shenstone


William Shenstone's other poems:
  1. Elegy. He Describes His Early Love of Poetry, and Its Consequences
  2. Elegy. He Describes His Disinterestedness to a Friend
  3. Nancy of the Vale
  4. The Landskip
  5. The Attribute of Venus


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