1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Robinson

Atholin, "Epitaph for the Year 1851. Inscribed to the Memory of Laura Maria" The Diary, or Woodfall's Register (1 September 1791).



Pass lightly o'er this sod of verdant hue,
O thou! whose lonely path pursues the way:
Perchance the gloom thy wearied footstep drew,
To shun the sultry heat of garish day.

If contemplation to thy soul is dear,
And sympathy e'er glisters in thine eye,
Repose awhile — and o'er this once-lov'd bier,
Here, consecrate the tribute of a sigh.

For sure, the tarnish'd lustre of a name,
With infamy unqualified to mark,
May check the penitence that would reclaim,
Subduing more, repentant Virtue's spark.

If so may gentler worth thy bosom share,
For generous pity claims her own reward;
The blemish sacred honour scorns to spare,
Forbear to weigh with scrupulous regard.

Think how the giddy scenes of fashion stole,
And with beguiling witchcraft sought embrace;
While love and tenderness usurp'd her soul,
And mask'd the sad reverse of chill disgrace:

Think too how fair, how beautiful she shone
In blushing youth, to each admiring eye;
The emblem of a rose-bud newly blown,
To tempt the spoiler's hand — then fade and die!

'Tis not the pomp ambition would attain,
Nor ought indulgent wealth can e'er command,
Disarms the conscience of recurring pain,
Or wrests dire vengeance from th' eternal hand:

Nor e'en th' enriching charms that grace the mind,
Recal that peace which guilty joys affright;
Or, these had calm'd the breast by grief resign'd,
And dried those eyes, now closed in endless night.

Yet not in vain did Heaven the boon bestow—
When the misguiding transports sick'ning fled
It taught her resignation to the blow,
And spread contentment o'er the mourner's head.

Her artless lay in magic numbers stole,
Kindling each breast with sympathetic fire;
There, melting ev'ry feeling of the soul,
Compassion, taught to pity and admire.

Nor harshly censure, ye, whose happier fate,
Kind chance befriends, or stoic virtue shields;
Benevolence, with active joy elate,
To misery, her tend'rest influence yields.

What! tho' I saw her when the modest shade,
Of untried honour veil'd her youthful brow—
The ripen'd peach by ev'ry breeze betray'd,
Falls the devoted victim of her glow.

Here rest her sorrows in eternal sleep,
Her failings warn the follies of the age;
If mark'd in Fate's dread book with traces deep,
May some "recording Angel" blot the page!