Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

We present this work in honor of Palm Sunday.

Thomas Gray
English
1716 – 1771

 

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-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 housewife ply her 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 bow’d 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 the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Memory o’er their Tomb no Trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
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 Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.

Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their glowing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling’ring look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev’n in our Ashes live their wonted Fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th’ unhonour’d dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed Swain may say,
‘Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

‘The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn:’

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark’d him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav’n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,
He gain’d from Heav’n (‘twas all he wish’d) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.

In the Garden

Fitnat Hanim
Turkish
1725 – 1780

 

In the garden, the roses were all bewildered as they watched your cheek
Jealous of your lovelocks the hyacinths were all distraught

We deserved one attractive glance, but alas, what to do
Our bosom is constantly the target of eyelash-arrows

Oh you with rosebud lip, I imagined your crimson cheek
And it became the envy of every rose in the dwelling of my memory

You give savor to the party, oh lovely mine of salt,
For the cup of wine is but a salt-bowl reflecting your ruby lip

Oh Fitnat, when that sweet mouth begins to speak alluringly,
Blessed by abundant speech the world all becomes a field of sugarcane

An Hymn to Humanity

In honor of National Freedom Day, we present this work by a poet who had her freedom taken from her.

Phillis Wheatley
American
1753 – 1784

 

I

Lo! for this dark terrestrial ball
Forsakes his azure-paved hall
A prince of heav’nly birth!
Divine Humanity behold,
What wonders rise, what charms unfold
At his descent to earth!

II

The bosoms of the great and good
With wonder and delight he view’d,
And fix’d his empire there:
Him, close compressing to his breast,
The sire of gods and men address’d,
“My son, my heav’nly fair!

III

“Descend to earth, there place thy throne;
“To succour man’s afflicted son
“Each human heart inspire:
“To act in bounties unconfin’d
“Enlarge the close contracted mind,
“And fill it with thy fire.”

IV

Quick as the word, with swift career
He wings his course from star to star,
And leaves the bright abode.
The Virtue did his charms impart;
Their G—! then thy raptur’d heart
Perceiv’d the rushing God:

V

For when thy pitying eye did see
The languid muse in low degree,
Then, then at thy desire
Descended the celestial nine;
O’er me methought they deign’d to shine,
And deign’d to string my lyre.

VI

Can Afric’s muse forgetful prove?
Or can such friendship fail to move
A tender human heart?
Immortal Friendship laurel-crown’d
The smiling Graces all surround
With ev’ry heav’nly Art.

Auld Lang Syne

We present this work in honor of New Year’s Eve.

Robert Burns
Scots
1759 – 1796

 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us briad hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

A Receipt for Wooing

We present this work in honor of the 225th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Alison Cockburn
Scots
1712 – 1794

 

If your lass is coquettish and frisky,
Make up to her easy and briskly;
If she frown on ye, turn on your heel,
Make love to another, your heart to recover;
You’ll quickly discover she would keep you her lover,
Tho’ her heart be as hard as the steel.

She will try all her tricks to entice ye,
Sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes spicy;
Affect all these humours yourself,
See that ye vex her, be sure to perplex her,
Provoke her and coax her, roast her and toast her,
She’s as sure in your pouch as your pelf.

If your lassie is modest and shy,
Watch every cast of her eye;
If she blushes, she’s halflings your own;
Approach by degrees, her hand ye may seize,
And give it a squeeze, then down on your knees,
And prefer her to kings, or their crown.

If she answer you no way but flying,
Depend on’t she will be complying,
So follow as fast as you can.
But if coolly she stay, I’m afraid she’ll say nay,
Pray pack up your heart and be gone,
For ye may leave her to some other man.

Monument

We present this work in honor of the Russian holiday, National Unity Day.

Garvriil Derzhavin
Russian
1743 – 1816

 

I built myself a monument, eternal and miraculous,
It’s higher than the Pyramids, than metal it is harder;
Swift winds and thunder cannot knock it down
The flight of time cannot demolish it.

Thus I won’t really die! The part of me that’s largest
Will baffle death, and will escape decay,
My fame will grow, and never wither,
As long as Slavs are honored in this world.

And word of me shall spread from the White Sea to the Black,
Where Volga, Don, Neva and Ural rivers flow,
Each member of the countless tribes will know
How from obscurity I found my way to fame,

By daring first in lively Russian speech
To celebrate the virtues of Felitsa,
To talk of God with intimate simplicity,
And with a smile announce the truth to kings.

O Muse! take pride in your well-earned rewards,
Disdain all those who show disdain for you,
And with an easy and unhurried hand,
With dawn eternal crown your brow.

The Mermaid

Anne Bannerman
Scots
1765 – 1829

 

Blow on, ye death-fraught whirlwinds! blow,
Around the rocks, and rifted caves;
Ye demons of the gulf below!
I hear you, in the troubled waves.
High on this cliff, which darkness shrouds
In night’s impenetrable clouds,
My solitary watch I keep,
And listen, while the turbid deep
Groans to the raging tempests, as they roll
Their desolating force, to thunder at the pole.

Eternal world of waters, hail!
Within thy caves my Lover lies;
And day and night alike shall fail,
Ere slumber lock my streaming eyes.
Along this wild untrodden coast,
Heap’d by the gelid hand of frost;
Thro’ this unbdounded waste of seas,
Where never sigh’d the vernal breeze;
Mine was the choice, in this terrific form,
To brave the icy surge, to shiver in the storm.

Yes! I am chang’d.—My heart, my soul,
Retain no more their former glow.
Hence, ere the black’ning tempests roll,
I watch the bark, in murmurs low,
(While darker low’rs the thick’ning gloom)
To lure the sailor to his doom;
Soft from some pile of frozen snow
I pour the syren-song of woe;
Like the sad mariner’s expiring cry,
As, faint and worn with toil, he lays him down to die.

Then, while the dark and angry deep
Hangs his huge billows high in air;
And the wild wind with awful sweep,
Howls in each fitful swell—beware!
Firm on the rent and crashing mast,
I lend new fury to the blast;
I mark each hardy cheek grow pale,
And the proud sons of courage fail;
Till the torn vessel drinks the surging waves,
Yawns the disparted main, and opes its shelving graves.

When Vengeance bears along the wave
The spell, which heav’n and earth appals;
Alone, by night, in darksome cave,
On me the gifted wizard calls.
Above the ocean’s boiling flood
Thro’ vapour glares the moon in blood:
Low sounds along the waters die,
And shrieks of anguish fill the sky;
Convulsive powers the solid rocks divide,
While, o’er the heaving surge, the embodied spirits glide.

Thrice welcome to my weary sight,
Avenging ministers of wrath!
Ye heard, amid the realms of night,
The spell that wakes the sleep of death.
Where Hecla’s flames the snows dissolve,
Or storms, the polar skies involve;
Where, o’er the tempest-beaten wreck,
The raging winds and billows break;
On the sad earth, and in the stormy sea,
All, all shall shudd’ring own your potent agency.

To aid your toils, to scatter death,
Swift, as the sheeted lightning’s force,
When the keen north-wind’s freezing breath
Spreads desolation in its course,
My soul within this icy sea,
Fulfils her fearful destiny.
Thro’ Time’s long ages I shall wait
To lead the victims to their fate;
With callous heart, to hidden rocks decoy,
And lure, in seraph-strains, unpitying, to destroy.

The Young Captive

We present this work in honor of the 225th anniversary of the poet’s death.

André Chénier
French
1762 – 1794

 

“The corn in peace fills out its golden ear;
Through the long summer days, the flowers without a fear
Drink in the strength of the noon.
And I, a flower like them, as young, as fair, as pure,
Though at the present hour some trouble I endure,
I would not die so soon!

“No, let the stoic heart call upon Death as kind!
For me, I weep and hope; before the bitter wind
I bend like some lithe palm.
If there be long, sad days, others are bright and fleet;
Alas! what honeyed draught holds nothing but the sweet?
What sea is ever calm?

“And still within my breast nestles illusion bright;
In vain these prison walls shut out the noonday light;
Fair Hope has lent me wings.
So from the fowler’s net, again set free to fly,
More swift, more joyous, through the summer sky,
Philomel soars and sings.

“Is it my lot to die? In peace I lay me down,
In peace awake again, a peace nor care doth drown,
Nor fell remorse destroy.
My welcome shines from every morning face,
And to these downcast souls my presence in this place
Almost restores their joy.

“The voyage of life is but begun for me,
And of the landmarks I must pass, I see
So few behind me stand.
At life’s long banquet, now before me set,
My lips have hardly touched the cup as yet
Still brimming in my hand.

“I only know the spring; I would see autumn brown;
Like the bright sun, that all the seasons crown,
I would round out my year.
A tender flower, the sunny garden’s boast,
I have but seen the fires of morning’s host;
Would eve might find me here!

“O Death, canst thou not wait? Depart from me, and go
To comfort those sad hearts whom pale despair, and woe,
And shame, perchance have wrung.
For me the woods still offer verdant ways,
The Loves their kisses, and the Muses praise:
I would not die so young!”

Thus, captive too, and sad, my lyre none the less
Woke at the plant of one who breathed its own distress,
Youth in a prison cell;
And throwing off the yoke that weighed upon me too,
I strove in all the sweet and tender words I knew
Her gentle grief to tell.

Melodious witness of my captive days,
These rhymes shall make some lover of my lays
Seek the maid I have sung.
Grace sits upon her brow, and all shall share,
Who see her charms, her grief and her despair:
They too “must die so young”!

Elysium

Friedrich Schiller
German
1759 – 1805

 

Past the despairing wail—
And the bright banquets of the Elysian vale
Melt every care away!
Delight, that breathes and moves forever,
Glides through sweet fields like some sweet river!
Elysian life survey!
There, fresh with youth, o’er jocund meads,
His merry west-winds blithely leads
The ever-blooming May!
Through gold-woven dreams goes the dance of the hours,
In space without bounds swell the soul and its powers,
And truth, with no veil, gives her face to the day.
And joy to-day and joy to-morrow,
But wafts the airy soul aloft;
The very name is lost to sorrow,
And pain is rapture tuned more exquisitely soft.

Here the pilgrim reposes the world-weary limb,
And forgets in the shadow, cool-breathing and dim,
The load he shall bear never more;
Here the mower, his sickle at rest, by the streams,
Lulled with harp-strings, reviews, in the calm of his dreams,
The fields, when the harvest is o’er.
Here, he, whose ears drank in the battle roar,
Whose banners streamed upon the startled wind
A thunder-storm,—before whose thunder tread
The mountains trembled,—in soft sleep reclined,
By the sweet brook that o’er its pebbly bed
In silver plays, and murmurs to the shore,
Hears the stern clangor of wild spears no more!
Here the true spouse the lost-beloved regains,
And on the enamelled couch of summer-plains
Mingles sweet kisses with the zephyr’s breath.
Here, crowned at last, love never knows decay,
Living through ages its one bridal day,
Safe from the stroke of death!