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Elegy XX. He Compares His Humble Fortune With the Distress of Others

William Shenstone 1714 (Halesowen) – 1763 (Halesowen)

Why droops this heart with fancied woes forlorn?
Why sinks my soul beneath this wintry sky?
What pensive crowds, by ceaseless labours worn,
What myriads, wish to be as blessed as I!

What though my roofs, devoid of pomp, arise,
Nor tempt the proud to quit his destined way?
Nor costly art my flowery dales disguise,
Where only simple friendship deigns to stray?

See the wild sons of Lapland's chill domain,
That scoop their couch beneath the drifted snows!
How void of hope they ken the frozen plain,
Where the sharp east for ever, ever blows!

Slave though I be, to Delia's eyes a slave,
My Delia's eyes endear the bands I wear;
The sigh she causes well becomes the brave,
The pang she causes 'tis even bliss to bear.

See the poor native quit the Libyan shores,
Ah! not in Love's delightful fetters bound!
No radiant smile his dying peace restores,
Nor love, nor fame, nor friendship, heals his wound.

Let vacant bards display their boasted woes;
Shall I the mockery of grief display?
No; let the Muse his piercing pangs disclose,
Who bleeds and weeps his sum of life away!

On the wild beach in mournful guise he stood,
Ere the shrill boatswain gave the hated sign;
He dropp'd a tear unseen into the flood;
He stole one secret moment, to repine.

Yet the Muse listen'd to the plaints he made,
Such moving plaints as Nature could inspire;
To me the Muse his tender plea convey'd,
But smooth'd and suited to the sounding lyre.

'Why am I ravish'd from my native strand?
What savage race protects this impious gain?
Shall foreign plagues infest this teeming land,
And more than seaborn monsters plough the main?

'Here the dire locusts' horrid swarms prevail;
Here the blue asps with livid poison swell;
Here the dry dipsa writhes his sinuous mail;
Can we not here secure from envy dwell?

'When the grim Lion urged his cruel chase,
When the stern Panther sought his midnight prey,
What fate reserved me for this Christian race?
A race more polish'd, more severe than they!

'Ye prowling Wolves! pursue my latest cries;
Thou hungry Tiger! leave thy reeking den;
Ye sandy Wastes! in rapid eddies rise;
Tear me from the whips and scorns of men!

'Yet in their face superior beauty glows;
Are smiles the mien of Rapine and of Wrong?
Yet from their lip the voice of mercy flows,
And even religion dwells upon their tongue.

'Of blissful haunts they tell, and brighter climes,
Where gentle maids, convey'd by Death, repair,
But stain'd with blood, and crimson'd o'er with crimes,
Say, shall they merit what they paint so fair?

'No; careless, hopeless of those fertile plains,
Rich by our toils, and by our sorrows gay,
They ply our labours, and enhance our pains,
And feign these distant regions to repay.

'For them our tusky elephant expires;
For them we drain the mine's embowell'd gold;
Where rove the brutal nation's wild desires?-
Our limbs are purchased, and our life is sold!

'Yet shores there are, bless'd shores for us remain,
And favour'd isles, with golden fruitage crown'd,
Where tufted flowerets paint the verdant plain,
Where every breeze shall med'cine every wound.

'There the stern tyrant that embitters life,
Shall, vainly suppliant, spread his asking hand;
There shall we view the billows' raging strife,
Aid the kind breast, and waft his boat to land.'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:57 min read
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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…

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