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Elegy X. To Fortune, Suggesting His Motive for Repining at Her Dispensations

William Shenstone 1714 (Halesowen) – 1763 (Halesowen)

Ask not the cause why this rebellious tongue
Loads with fresh curses thy detested sway!
Ask not, thus branded in my softest song,
Why stands the flatter'd name, which all obey!

'Tis not, that in my shed I lurk forlorn,
Nor see my roof on Parian columns rise;
That, on this breast, no mimic star is borne,
Revered, ah! more than those that light the skies.

'Tis not, that on the turf supinely laid,
I sing or pipe but to the flocks that graze;
And, all inglorious, in the lonesome shade
My finger stiffens, and my voice decays.

Not, that my fancy mourns thy stern command,
When many an embryo dome is lost in air;
While guardian Prudence checks my eager hand,
And, ere the turf is broken, cries, 'Forbear:

'Forbear, vain Youth! be cautious, weigh thy gold,
Nor let yon rising column more aspire:
Ah! better dwell in ruins, than behold
Thy fortunes mouldering, and thy domes entire.

'Honorio built, but dared my laws defy;
He planted, scornful of my sage commands;
The peach's vernal bud regaled his eye,
The fruitage ripen'd for more frugal hands.'

See the small stream, that pours its murmuring tide
O'er some rough rock, that would its wealth display;
Displays it aught but penury and pride?
Ah! construe wisely what such murmurs say.

How would some flood, with ampler treasures blest,
Disdainful view the scantling drops distil!
How must Velino shake his reedy crest!
How every cygnet mock the boastive rill!

Fortune! I yield; and see, I give the sign;
At noon the poor mechanic wanders home,
Collects the square, the level, and the line,
And, with retorted eye, forsakes the dome.

Yes, I can patient view the shadeless plains;
Can unrepining leave the rising wall;
Check the fond love of art that fired my veins,
And my warm hopes, in full pursuit, recall.

Descend, ye Storms! destroy my rising pile;
Loosed be the Whirlwind's unremitting sway;
Contented I, although the gazer smile
To see it scarce survive a winter's day.

Let some dull dotard bask in thy gay shrine,
As in the sun regales his wanton herd;
Guiltless of envy, why should I repine
That his rude voice, his grating reed's, preferr'd?

Let him exult, with boundless wealth supplied,
Mine and the swain's reluctant homage share;
But, ah! his tawdry shepherdess's pride,
Gods! must my Delia, must my Delia, bear?

Must Delia's softness, elegance, and ease,
Submit to Marian's dress? to Marian's gold?
Must Marian's robe from distant India please?
The simple fleece my Delia's limbs enfold?

'Yet sure on Delia seems the russet fair;
Ye glittering daughters of Disguise, adieu!'
So talk the wise, who judge of shape and air,
But will the rural thane decide so true?

Ah! what is native worth esteem'd of clowns?
'Tis thy false glare, O Fortune! thine they see:
'Tis for my Delia's sake I dread thy frowns,
And my last gasp shall curses breathe on thee.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:33 min read

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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    "Elegy X. To Fortune, Suggesting His Motive for Repining at Her Dispensations" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 19 Sep. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/41548/elegy-x.-to-fortune,-suggesting-his-motive-for-repining-at-her-dispensations>.

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