1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

Junior, "Elegy, supposed to be written near Shenstone's Tomb" The Diary, or Woodfall's Register (31 July 1789).



Hail, gentle Shepherd, at whose artless song
Each wood-nymph wept and Naiad dropt a tear;
To whom simplicity and grace belong,
And all that charms and is to sorrow dear!

Soft Elegiast, mournful Shenstone, hail!
Accept the tear that dews thy sacred shrine,
Inspire my lay, and, if thy power prevail,
Glow in each thought and fill each flowing line.

Oft at the silent midnight hour, 'tis said
That restless ghosts in yawning church yards stray,
Or to some once much favour'd spot, the dead
With wand'ring steps pursue the well-known way.

Then, to yon distant dale or shady grove,
With hasty pace th' impatient lover hies,
On bended knees relates his hapless love,
In rapturous oaths, and vents his soul in sighs.

Then the 'rapt Poet quits his earthly bed;
For fond rememb'rance reassumes her sway,
While fancy twines fresh laurels round his head,
And rival warblers listen to his lay.

Perhaps thy shade, oh! Shenstone, then returns
To Leasowes groves, those seats of happier days,
Perhaps thy bosom with fresh ardour burns,
And thy heart pants to gain the well earned bays.

Shall then the Muse, whose tributary verse
Adorns the tomb where lifeless worth is laid,
Shall then the Muse neglect her Shepherd's herse,
And slight her once lov'd Shenstone's hallow'd shade?

No: while fair virtue awes the villain's heart,
Shall vice and envy crouch at Shenstone's name,
And his lov'd Muse, with verse devoid of art,
Shall praise his virtue and his worth proclaim.