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Elegy XXIV. He Takes Occasion, From the Fate of Eleanor of Bretagne

William Shenstone 1714 (Halesowen) – 1763 (Halesowen)

He Takes Occasion, From the Fate of Eleanor of Bretagne, To Suggest the Imperfect Pleasures of a Solitary Life.

When Beauty mourns, by Fate's injurious doom,
Hid from the cheerful glance of human eye,
When Nature's pride inglorious waits the tomb,
Hard is that heart which checks the rising sigh.

Fair Eleonora! would no gallant mind,
The cause of Love, the cause of Justice, own?
Matchless thy charms, and was no life resign'd
To see them sparkle from their native throne?

Or had fair Freedom's hand unveil'd thy charms,
Well might such brows the regal gem resign;
Thy radiant mien might scorn the guilt of arms,
Yet Albion's awful empire yield to thine.

O shame of Britons! in one sullen tower
She wet with royal tears her daily cell;
She found keen anguish every rose devour;
They sprung, they shone, they faded, and they fell.

Through one dim lattice, fringed with ivy round,
Successive suns a languid radiance threw,
To paint how fierce her angry guardian frown'd,
To mark how fast her waning beauty flew.

This, age might bear; then sated Fancy palls,
Nor warmly hopes what splendour can supply;
Fond Youth incessant mourns if rigid walls
Restrain its listening ear, its curious eye.

Believe me -- the pretence is vain!
This boasted calm that smooths our early day;
For never yet could youthful mind restrain
The alternate pant for pleasure and for praise.

Even me, by shady oak or limpid spring,
Even me, the scenes of polish'd life allure!
Some genius whispers, 'Life is on the wing,
And hard his lot that languishes obscure.

'What though thy riper mind admire no more-
The shining cincture, and the broider'd fold,
Can pierce like lightning thorough the figured ore,
And melt to dross the radiant forms of gold.

'Furs, ermines, rods, may well attract thy scorn,
The futile presents of capricious Power!
But wit, but worth, the public sphere adorn,
And who but envies then the social hour?

'Can Virtue, careless of her pupil's meed,
Forget how -- sustains the shepherd's cause?
Content in shades to tune a lonely reed,
Nor join the sounding pæan of applause?

For public haunts, impell'd by Britain's weal,
See Grenville quit the Muse's favourite ease;
And shall not swains admire his noble zeal?
Admiring praise, admiring strive to please?

'Life,' says the sage, 'affords no bliss sincere,
And courts and cells in vain our hopes renew:
But, ah! where Grenvile charms the listening ear,
'Tis hard to think the cheerless maxim true.

'The groves may smile; the rivers gently glide;
Soft through the vale resound the lonesome lay;
Even thickets yield delight, if taste preside,
But can they please, when Lyttleton's away?

'Pure as the swain's the breast of -- glows;
Ah! were the shepherd's phrase, like his, refined!
But, how improved the generous dictate flows
Through the clear medium of a polish'd mind!

'Happy the youths who, warm with Britain's love,
Her inmost wish in -- periods hear!
Happy that in the radiant circle move,
Attendant orbs, where Lonsdale gilds the sphere!

'While rural faith, and every polish'd art,
Each friendly charm, in -- conspire,
From public scenes all pensive must you part;
All joyless to the greenest fields retire!

'Go, plaintive Youth! no more by fount or stream,
Like some lone halcyon, social pleasures shun;
Go, dare the light, enjoy its cheerful beam,
And hail the bright procession of the sun.

'Then, cover'd by thy ripen'd shades, resume
The silent walk, no more by passion tost;
Then seek thy rustic haunts, the dreary gloom,
Where every art, that colours life, is lost.'

In vain! the listening Muse attends in vain!
Restraints in hostile bands her motions wait-
Yet will I grieve, and sadden all my strain,
When injured Beauty mourns the Muse's fate.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:16 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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