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
96

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABAB CXCD EFEF GDGD HIHI JKJK LMLM NONO JPJP QJQJ XJXJ RXRX JKJK SDSD
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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