Elegy III. On the Untimely Death of a Certain Learned Acquainance

William Shenstone 1714 (Halesowen) – 1763 (Halesowen)

If proud Pygmalion quit his cumbrous frame,
Funereal pomp the scanty tear supplies;
Whilst heralds loud, with venal voice, proclaim,
Lo! here the brave and the puissant lies.

When humbler Alcon leaves his drooping friends,
Pageant nor plume distinguish Alcon's bier;
The faithful Muse with votive song attends,
And blots the mournful numbers with a tear.

He little knew the sly penurious art;
That odious art which Fortune's favourites know:
Form'd to bestow, he felt the warmest heart,
But envious Fate forbade him to bestow.

He little knew to ward the secret wound;
He little knew that mortals could ensnare:
Virtue he knew; the noblest joy he found
To sing her glories, and to paint her fair.

Ill was he skill'd to guide his wandering sheep;
And unforeseen disaster thinn'd his fold;
Yet at another's loss the swain would weep;
And, for his friend, his very crook was sold.

Ye sons of Wealth! protect the Muses' train;
From winds protect them, and with food supply:
Ah! helpless they, to ward the threaten'd pain,
The meagre famine, and the wintry sky!

He loved a nymph; amidst his slender store
He dared to love, and Cynthia was his theme:
He breathed his plaints along the rocky shore;
They only echo'd o'er the winding stream!

His nymph was fair! the sweetest bud that blows
Revives less lovely from the recent shower;
So Philomel enamour'd eyes the rose
Sweet bird! enamour'd of the sweetest flower.

He loved the Muse; she taught him to complain;
He saw his timorous loves on her depend:
He loved the Muse, although she taught in vain;
He loved the Muse, for she was Virtue's friend.

She guides the foot that treads on Parian floors;
She wins the ear when formal pleas are vain;
She tempts Patricians from the fatal doors
Of Vice's brothel, forth to Virtue's fane.

He wish'd for wealth, for much he wish'd to give;
He grieved that virtue might not wealth obtain:
Piteous of woes, and hopeless to relieve,
The pensive prospect sadden'd all his strain.

I saw him faint! I saw him sink to rest!
Like one ordain'd to swell the vulgar throng;
As though the Virtues had not warm'd his breast,
As though the Muses not inspired his tongue.

I saw his bier ignobly cross the plain;
Saw peasant hands the pious rite supply:
The generous rustics mourn'd the friendly swain,
But Power and Wealth's unvarying cheek was dry!

Such Alcon fell; in meagre want forlorn!
Where were ye then, ye powerful Patrons, where?
Would ye the purple should your limbs adorn?
Go wash the conscious blemish with a tear.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:17 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 2,446
Words 438
Stanzas 14
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

William Shenstone

William Shenstone was an English poet and one of the earliest practitioners of landscape gardening through the development of his estate, The Leasowes. more…

All William Shenstone poems | William Shenstone Books

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