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Grave, The (excerpt)

Robert Blair 1699 (Edinburgh) – 1746 (Athelstaneford)

While some affect the sun, and some the shade.
  Some flee the city, some the hermitage;
  Their aims as various, as the roads they take
  In journeying thro' life;--the task be mine,
  To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb;
  Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
  These travellers meet.--Thy succours I implore,
  Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
  The keys of Hell and Death.--The Grave, dread thing!
  Men shiver when thou'rt named: Nature appall'd
  Shakes off her wonted firmness.--Ah ! how dark
  The long-extended realms, and rueful wastes!
  Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
  Dark as was chaos, ere the infant Sun
  Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
  Athwart the gloom profound.--The sickly taper,
  By glimm'ring thro' thy low-brow'd misty vaults,
  (Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime)
  Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
  And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
  Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,
  Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
  'Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
  Where light-heel'd ghosts, and visionary shades,
  Beneath the wan, cold moon (as fame reports)
  Embodied thick, perform their mystic rounds,
  No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.

  See yonder hallow'd fane;--the pious work
  Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
  And buried midst the wreck of things which were;
  There lie interr'd the more illustrious dead.
  The wind is up:--hark! how it howls!--Methinks,
  'Till now, I never heard a sound so dreary:
  Doors creak, and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
  Rook'd in the spire, screams loud; the gloomy aisles
  Black plaster'd, and hung round with shreds of 'scutcheons,
  And tatter'd coats of arms, send back the sound,
  Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
  The mansions of the dead.--Rous'd from their slumbers,
  In grim array the grisly spectres rise,
  Grin horrible, and, obstinately sullen,
  Pass and repass, hush'd as the foot of night.
  Again the screech-owl shrieks--ungracious sound!
  I'll hear no more; it makes one's blood run chill.

  Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
  (Coeval near with that) all ragged show,
  Long lash'd by the rude winds. Some rift half down
  Their branchless trunks; others so thin at top,
  That scarce two crows can lodge in the same tree.
  Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here;
  Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs;
  Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;
  And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.
  (Such tales their cheer at wake or gossipping,
  When it draws near to witching time of night.)

  Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
  By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
  The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
  Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
  And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
  (With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
  That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
  Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,
  The sound of something purring at his heels;
  Full fast he flies, and dare not look behind him,
  'Till, out of breath, he overtakes his fellows,
  Who gather round and wonder at the tale
  Of horrid apparition tall and ghastly,
  That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
  O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
  Evanishes at crowing of the cock.

  The new-made widow, too, I've sometimes 'spy'd,
  Sad sight! slow moving o'er the prostrate dead:
  Listless, she crawls along in doleful black,
  While bursts of sorrow gush from either eye,
  Fast falling down her now untasted cheek,
  Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
  She drops; while busy meddling memory,
  In barbarous succession, musters up
  The past endearments of their softer hours,
  Tenacious of its theme. Still, still she thinks
  She sees him, and indulging the fond thought,
  Clings yet more closely to the senseless turf,
  Nor heeds the passenger who looks that way.

  Invidious Grave!--how dost thou rend in sunder
  Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one?
  A tie more stubborn far than Nature's band.
  Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul,
  Sweet'ner of life, and solder of society,
  I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
  Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
  Oft have I prov'd the labours of thy love,<
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Robert Blair

Robert Blair was an English-born judge and politician in Nova Scotia. more…

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