Excerpts from Elegy in a Country Church-yard
By Thomas Gray, (1716-1771)

  • The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
  • The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
  • The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
  • And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
  • Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
  • And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
  • Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
  • And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:
  • Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
  • The moping owl does to the moon complain
  • Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
  • Molest her ancient solitary reign.
  • Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
  • Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
  • Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
  • The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
  • The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
  • The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
  • The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
  • No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
  • For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
  • Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
  • No children run to lisp their sire's return,
  • Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,
  • Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
  • Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
  • How jocund did they drive their team afield!
  • How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
  • Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
  • Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
  • Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
  • The short and simple annals of the Poor.
  • Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
  • Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
  • Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
  • They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.
  • Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
  • The place of fame and elegy supply:
  • And many a holy text around she strews,
  • That teach the rustic moralist to die.
  • Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
  • Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
  • Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
  • To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;
  • 'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
  • That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
  • His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
  • And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
  • 'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
  • Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
  • Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
  • Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
  • 'The next with dirges due in sad array
  • Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
  • Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
  • Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'
  • The Epitaph
  • Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
  • A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
  • Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
  • And Melacholy marked him for her own.
  • Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
  • Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
  • He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
  • He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.
  • No farther seek his merits to disclose,
  • Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
  • (There they alike in trembling hope repose),
  • The bosom of his Father and his God.
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