William Shenstone

1714 - 1763 / England

Elegy Vii. He Describes His Vision To An Acquaintance

Caetera per terras omnes animalia, &c. ~ Virg.


All animals beside, o'er all the earth, &c.
On distant heaths, beneath autumnal skies,
Pensive I saw the circling shade descend;
Weary and faint I heard the storm arise,
While the sun vanish'd, like a faithless friend.

No kind companion led my steps aright;
No friendly planet lent its glimmering ray;
Even the lone cot refused its wonted light,
Where Toil in peaceful slumber closed the day.

Then the dull bell had given a pleasing sound;
The village cur 'twere transport then to hear;
In dreadful silence all was hush'd around,
While the rude storm alone distress'd mine ear.

As led by Orwell's winding banks I stray'd,
Where towering Wolsey breathed his native air,
A sudden lustre chased the flitting shade,
The sounding winds were hush'd, and all was fair.

Instant a grateful form appear'd confest;
White were his locks, with awful scarlet crown'd,
And livelier far than Tyrian seem'd his vest,
That with the glowing purple tinged the ground.

'Stranger,' he said, 'amid this pealing rain,
Benighted, lonesome, whither wouldst thou stray?
Does wealth, or power, thy weary step constrain?
Reveal thy wish, and let me point the way.

'For know, I trod the trophied paths of power,
Felt every joy that fair Ambition brings,
And left the lonely roof of yonder bower
To stand beneath the canopies of kings.

'I bade low hinds the towering ardour share,
Nor meanly rose to bless myself alone;
I snatch'd the shepherd from his fleecy care,
And bade his wholesome dictate guard the throne.

'Low at my feet the suppliant peer I saw;
I saw proud empires my decision wait;
My will was duty, and my word was law,
My smile was transport, and my frown was fate.'

Ah me! said I, nor power I seek, nor gain;
Nor urged by hope of fame these toils endure;
A simple youth, that feels a lover's pain,
And from his friend's condolence hopes a cure.

He, the dear youth! to whose abodes I roam,
Nor can mine honours nor my fields extend;
Yet for his sake I leave my distant home,
Which oaks embosom, and which hills defend.

Beneath that home I scorn the wintry wind;
The Spring, to shade me, robes her fairest tree!
And if a friend my grass-grown threshold find,
O how my lonely cot resounds with glee!

Yet though averse to gold in heaps amass'd,
I wish to bless, I languish to bestow;
And though no friend to Fame's obstreperous blast,
Still to her dulcet murmurs not a foe.

Too proud with servile tone to deign address;
Too mean to think that honours are my due;
Yet should some patron yield my stores to bless,
I sure should deem my boundless thanks were few.

But tell me, thou! that like a meteor's fire
Shott'st blazing forth, disdaining dull degrees,
Should I to wealth, to fame, to power aspire,
Must I not pass more rugged paths than these?

Must I not groan beneath a guilty load-
Praise him I scorn, and him I love betray?
Does not felonious Envy bar the road?
Or Falsehood's treacherous foot beset the way?

Say, should I pass through Favour's crowded gate,
Must not fair Truth inglorious wait behind?
Whilst I approach the glittering scenes of state,
My best companion no admittance find?

Nursed in the shades by Freedom's lenient care,
Shall I the rigid sway of Fortune own?
Taught by the voice of pious Truth, prepare
To spurn an altar, and adore a throne?

And when proud Fortune's ebbing tide recedes,
And when it leaves me no unshaken friend,
Shall I not weep that e'er I left the meads,
Which oaks embosom, and which hills defend?

Oh! if these ills the price of power advance,
Check not my speed where social joys invite!
The troubled vision cast a mournful glance,
And, sighing, vanish'd in the shades of night.
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