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Elegy XIX. - Written in Spring, 1743

William Shenstone 1714 (Halesowen) – 1763 (Halesowen)

Again the labouring hind inverts the soil;
Again the merchant ploughs the tumid wave;
Another spring renews the soldier's toil,
And finds me vacant in the rural cave.

As the soft lyre display'd my wonted loves,
The pensive pleasure and the tender pain,
The sordid Alpheus hurried through my groves,
Yet stopp'd to vent the dictates of disdain.

He glanced contemptuous o'er my ruin'd fold;
He blamed the graces of my favourite bower;
My breast, unsullied by the lust of gold;
My time, unlavish'd in pursuit of power.

Yes, Alpheus! fly the purer paths of Fate;
Abjure these scenes, from venal passions free;
Know, in this grove, I vow'd perpetual hate,
War, endless war, with lucre and with thee.

Here, nobly zealous, in my youthful hours,
I dress'd an altar to Thalia's name:
Here, as I crown'd the verdant shrine with flowers,
Soft on my labours stole the smiling dame.

'Damon,' she cried, 'if, pleased with honest praise,
Thou court success by virtue or by song,
Fly the false dictates of the venal race;
Fly the gross accents of the venal tongue.

'Swear that no lucre shall thy zeal betray;
Swerve not thy foot with fortune's votaries more;
Brand thou their lives, and brand their lifeless day-'
The winning phantom urged me, and I swore.

Forth from the rustic altar swift I stray'd;
'Aid my firm purpose, ye celestial Powers!
Aid me to quell the sordid breast,' I said;
And threw my javelin towards their hostile towers.

Think not regretful I survey the deed,
Or added years no more the zeal allow;
Still, still observant, to the grove I speed,
The shrine embellish, and repeat the vow.

Sworn from his cradle Rome's relentless foe,
Such generous hate the Punic champion bore;
Thy lake, O Thrasimene! beheld it glow,
And Cannae's walls and Trebia's crimson shore.

But let grave annals paint the warrior's fame;
Fair shine his arms in history enroll'd;
Whilst humbler lyres his civil worth proclaim,
His nobler hate of avarice and gold.

Now Punic pride its final eve survey'd;
Its hosts exhausted, and its fleets on fire:
Patient the victor's lucid frown obey'd,
And saw th' unwilling elephants retire.

But when their gold depress'd the yielding scale,
Their gold in pyramidic plenty piled,
He saw the unutterable grief prevail;
He saw their tears, and in his fury smiled.

'Think not,' he cried, 'ye view the smiles of ease,
Or this firm breast disclaims a patriot's pain;
I smile, but from a soul estranged to peace,
Frantic with grief, delirious with disdain.

'But were it cordial, this detested smile,
Seems it less timely than the grief ye show?
O Sons of Carthage! grant me to revile
The sordid source of your indecent woe.

'Why weep ye now? ye saw with tearless eye
When your fleet perish'd on the Punic wave:
Where lurk'd the coward tear, the lazy sigh,
When Tyre's imperial state commenced a slave?

''Tis past-O Carthage! vanquish'd, honour'd shade!
Go, the mean sorrows of thy sons deplore;
Had freedom shared the vow to Fortune paid,
She ne'er, like Fortune, had forsook thy shore.'

He ceased-abash'd the conscious audience hear,
Their pallid cheeks a crimson blush unfold,
Yet o'er that virtuous blush distreams a tear,
And falling, moistens their abandon'd gold.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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