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Elegy XXIII. Reflections Suggested By His Situation

Born near the scene for Kenelm's fate renown'd,
I take my plaintive reed, and range the grove,
And raise my lay, and bid the rocks resound
The savage force of empire, and of love.

Fast by the centre of yon various wild,
Where spreading oaks embower a Gothic fane,
Kendria's arts a brother's youth beguiled;
There nature urged her tenderest pleas in vain.

Soft o'er his birth, and o'er his infant hours,
The ambitious maid could every care employ;
Then with assiduous fondness cropt the flowers,
To deck the cradle of the princely boy.

But soon the bosom's pleasing calm is flown;
Love fires her breast; the sultry passions rise;
A favour'd lover seeks the Mercian throne,
And views her Kenelm with a rival's eyes.

How kind were Fortune! ah, how just were Fate!
Would Fate or Fortune Mercia's heir remove!
How sweet to revel on the couch of state!
To crown at once her lover and her love!

See, garnish'd for the chase, the fraudful maid
To these lone hills direct his devious way;
The youth, all prone, the sister-guide obey'd;
Ill-fated youth! himself the destined prey!

But now, nor shaggy hill, nor pathless plain,
Forms the lone refuge of the sylvan game,
Since Lyttleton has crown'd the sweet domain
With softer pleasures, and with fairer fame.

Where the rough bowman urged his headlong steed,
Immortal bards, a polish'd race, retire;
And where hoarse scream'd the strepent horn, succeed
The melting graces of no vulgar lyre.

See Thomson, loitering near some limpid well,
For Britain's friend the verdant wreath prepare!
Or, studious of revolving seasons, tell
How peerless Lucia made all seasons fair!

See -- from civic garlands fly,
And in those groves indulge his tuneful vein!
Or from yon summit, with a guardian's eye,
Observe how Freedom's hand attires the plain!

Here Pope!-ah! never must that towering mind
To his loved haunts, or dearer friend return!
What art, what friendships! oh, what fame resign'd
-In yonder glade I trace his mournful urn.

Where is the breast can rage or hate retain,
And these glad streams and smiling lawns behold?
Where is the breast can hear the woodland strain,
And think fair Freedom well exchanged for gold?

Through these soft shades delighted let me stray,
While o'er my head forgotten suns descend!
Through these dear valleys bend my casual way,
Till setting life a total shade extend!

Here, far from courts, and void of pompous cares,
I'll muse how much I owe mine humbler fate,
Or shrink to find how much Ambition dares,
To shine in anguish, and to grieve in state!

Canst thou, O Sun! that spotless throne disclose,
Where her bold arm has left no sanguine stain?
Where, show me where, the lineal sceptre glows,
Pure as the simple crook that rules the plain!

Tremendous pomp! where hate, distrust, and fear,
In kindred bosoms solve the social tie;
There not the parent's smile is half sincere,
Nor void of art the consort's melting eye.

There, with the friendly wish, the kindly flame,
No face is brighten'd, and no bosoms beat;
Youth, manhood, age, avow one sordid aim,
And even the beardless lip essays deceit.

There coward Rumours walk their murderous round;
The glance, that more than rural blame instils;
Whispers that, tinged with friendship, doubly wound;
Pity that injures, and concern that kills.

There anger whets, but love can ne'er engage;
Caressing brothers part but to revile;
There all men smile, and Prudence warns the wise
To dread the fatal stroke of all that smile.

There all are rivals! sister, son, and sire,
With horrid purpose hug destructive arms;
There soft-eyed maids in murderous plots conspire,
And scorn the gentler mischief of their charms.

Let servile minds one endless watch endure;
Day, night, nor hour, their anxious guard resign;
But lay me, Fate! on flowery banks secure,
Though my whole soul be, like my limbs, supine.

Yes; may my tongue disdain a vassal's care;
My lyre resound no prostituted lay;
More warm to merit, more elate to wear
The cap of Freedom than the crown of bay.

Soothed by the murmurs of my pebbled flood,
I wish it not o'er golden sands to flow;
Cheer'd by the verdure of my spiral wood,
I scorn the quarry, where no shrub can grow.

No midnight pangs the shepherd's peace pursue;
His tongue, his hand, attempts no secret wound;
He sings his Delia, and, if she be true,
His love at once, and his ambition's crown'd.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:54 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,229
Words 749
Stanzas 24
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 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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