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AN ELEGY WRITTEN AMONG THE RUINS OF AN ABBEY.

1 WHERE sighs the zephyr to you lonely tree,
2 A solemn grove its leafy mantle spread:
3 Where bend you mouldering turrets o'er the sea,
4 A venerable dome once rear'd its head.
5 The solemn grove, the venerable dome,
6 Were erst frequented by a numerous train,
7 Ev'n chaste as they who Dian's mountain roam,
8 But not subjected to her gentle reign:
9 Far other Goddess did this train obey,
10 Far other temples, other altars rais'd,
11 Far other meaning breath'd their choral lay,
12 Far other incense on their altars blaz'd:
13 Veil'd Superstition wak'd her magic sound,
14 Bad Albion's sons sorsake the splendid court,
15 Forsake Amusement's variegated round,
16 And to her sable standard here resort:
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17 Alas! obsequious to her stern command,
18 A sullen-pensive brotherhood they came,
19 Refus'd to trace the paths by Nature plann'd,
20 And raz'd from Glory's page their ancient name.
21 Nor these alone were found incloister'd here,
22 Here also dwelt the simple-minded swain,
23 Who, wrapt in sloth, dream'd out the lazy year,
24 While Industry sat weeping on the plain!
25 The many temples rising fair to view,
26 Which towering Superstition call'd her own,
27 With hand unerring radiant Truth o'erthrew,
28 And snatch'd th' impostor from her tinsell'd throne.
29 On yon dust-levell'd spire the crafty maid,
30 With indignation brooding in her breast,
31 Sits gloomily. Her votaries all are fled,
32 Her lamps extinguish'd, and her rites suppress'd:
33 Within her hand a vacant string she holds,
34 That once connected many a hallow'd bead:
35 The blotted scroll the other hand unfolds,
36 Contain'd the maxims of her slighted creed.
37 Couch'd at her feet, behold a mouldering shrine,
38 (Of various relics once the dread abode)
39 Where runs the spider o'er his treacherous line,
40 Where lurks the beetle, and the loathso me toad:
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41 On Darkness' wing now sails the midnight hour,
42 When for the grateful sound of choral prayer,
43 The shrieking owl from you disparted tower,
44 With notes of horror wakes her trembling ear.
45 Of human grandeur mark the fleeting day,
46 How frail each purpose, and each wish how vain!
47 The strong-built domes, the cloister'd fanes decay,
48 And ruin hovers round the desert scene.
49 The path that leads to yonder shatter'd pile
50 Is now perplex'd with many a sordid brier:
51 No crowd is seen within the sacred isle,
52 The Sabbath mourns its long-deserted choir.
53 The golden crozier blended with the dust
54 In horrid folds the serpent clasps around:
55 The powerful image, and the sainted bust,
56 Desam'd, unhallow'd, press the weedy ground.
57 Not distant far, her gold encircled tower
58 Th' inviolable dame majestic rear'd,
59 On whose dread altar breath'd some hidden power,
60 By Terror guarded, and by kings rever'd:
61 To which asylum ev'n th' assassin came,
62 (His hand audacious still imbru'd with gore)
63 The boon of full impunity to claim,
64 While feeble Justice wept her baffled lore.
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65 So Truth at once dissolv'd the mental chain,
66 And banish'd Error from th' enlighten'd shore;
67 So clos'd at length the busy-acted scene,
68 The curtain dropp'd, and Folly's mask was o'er.
69 The gladsome Ceres rais'd her drooping head,
70 (While yellow harvests gilt the smiling plain)
71 Beheld a youthful band around her spread,
72 With sickles arm'd to reap the bearded grain.
73 The warrior then beneath the trailing vest,
74 The peaceful cessock, or the drowsy cowl,
75 No longer quench'd the flame within his breast,
76 Or lull'd the purpose of his daring soul:
77 But rush'd undaunted to the doubtful war,
78 Pursu'd where Glory led the radiant way,
79 Till Neptune rising on his coral car,
80 Resign'd his watry world to Britain's sway.
81 The virgin fair by venal guardians doom'd,
82 By error prompted, or subdu'd by force,
83 No more in cloisters drear their days consum'd:
84 Like flow'rets strew'd around the senseless corse.
85 Triumphant Hymen hail'd the blissful hour,
86 And saw a white-rob'd social train approach,
87 For whom the Pleasures dress'd the happy bower,
88 And scatter'd roses o'er the destin'd couch.
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89 Still other blessings from this change appear'd;
90 No injur'd family did then behold
91 On loitering monks its native wealth conferr'd,
92 Nor spacious altars cover'd with its gold.
93 Full many trod that crooked path to Fame,
94 Yet from her hand receiv'd no lasting meed,
95 She from her annals rends their fading name,
96 And gives to Infamy the worthless deed:
97 But Vengeance some pursu'd with dire disgrace,
98 Pursu'd beyond the circle of its sphere,
99 Even to the cementery's dark recess,
100 Nor spar'd them sleeping on the peaceful bier.
101 Beside the spreading of that sombrous yew,
102 Where yawns with hideous chasm the vaulted cave,
103 Presenting to the fix'd astonish'd view
104 The profanation of a rifled grave:
105 The large-endowing Rufus lay inurn'd,
106 With many a sculputur'd image on his shrine,
107 That smit with sorrow o'er his ashes mourn'd,
108 The Sister-Graces, and the tuneful Nine.
109 Imprinted on Tradition's storied leaf
110 Is found (to this sepulchral spot confin'd)
111 A terror-breathing tale that wins belief,
112 And oft repeated by the neighb'ring hind!
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113 From where yon mountain shades the dreary plain,
114 Attracted by the scent of human blood,
115 A troop of wolves voracious scour'd amain,
116 And at this charnel-vault requir'd their food.
117 When, horrid to relate! they burst the tomb,
118 And swift descending to the deepest shade,
119 Up-tore the shrowded tenant from its womb,
120 And o'er the mangled corse relentless prey'd.
121 The paly stars with dim reluctant light,
122 Like tapers glimmer'd on their orgies foul,
123 While gliding spectres scream'd with wild affright,
124 Re-echo'd loud by their tremendous howl!
125 Ah! what avail'd the solemn-moving hearse?
126 The sable mantled cars, the funeral throng?
127 Grav'd on his monument the soothing verse?
128 The priests, the torches, and the choral song?
129 Misjudging wretch! while thou with hand profuse
130 Thy treasures on this mansion didst entail,
131 And pour down riches on the vow'd recluse,
132 Thine orphan babes partook a scanty meal.
133 Thy widow'd fair, her cheek bedew'd with tears,
134 Approach'd with suppliant knee the cloister-gate,
135 There ost disclos'd in vain her poignant cares,
136 Returning still to weep her hapless fate.

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): AN ELEGY WRITTEN AMONG THE RUINS OF AN ABBEY.
Themes: grief; sadness; melancholy
Genres: elegy; graveyard school
References: DMI 32501

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Source edition

A collection of poems in four volumes. By several hands. Vol. II. [The second edition]. London: printed for G. Pearch, 1770, pp. 117-122. 4v. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T116245; DMI 1135)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.