1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

William Lipscomb, "Elegy on the Death of George Lord Lyttelton" Poems (1773) 16-19.



If virtue bids us kindred worth deplore
And drop a tear of sorrow o'er the dead,
Here let our grief in kindred torrents pour
O'er the sad grave, where Lyttelton is laid;

E'erwhile was he with very virtue blest,
Blest with each grace, adorn'd with every art,
Of all indulgent Heaven could give possest,
The brightest genius of the purest heart.

But Oh! ye nymphs of Hagley's laurell'd shades!
Who shall again your ravish'd joys restore?
Fade all your charms, your boasted beauties fade
For he your friend and guardian is no more:

He whom ye whilom lov'd so well to hear,
No more shall joy and gay delight inspire;
Mute is that tongue which charm'd the listening ear,
Cold are the hands that swept the living lyre.

Then come, Melpomene! with tearful eye
Weep o'er a hapless swain you once caress'd!
'Twas you e'erwhile, who taught him how to sigh,
And sooth'd the sorrows of his labouring breast.

And sure there never yet was luckless swain
Whose harp so sadly-sweet before was strung;
What heart but bled to hear his woful strain,
What eye but stream'd with pity as he sung?

Yet not on merits such as these alone
Shall the fond Muse his nobler trophies plan.
Yet shall not she her partial loss bemoan,
And while she weeps the Bard, forget the Man;

For who, like him, in life's domestic sphere
Did e'er so tender and so constant prove?
Was ever honest heart like his sincere?
So firm in friendship, and so fond in love?

Humane to all, his sympathetic tear
E'en for the stranger's sorrows lov'd to flow:
Ne'er did he scorn Affliction's humble prayer,
Or turn unpitying from the tale of woe.

Yet tho' with Pity heav'd his melting breast,
And felt each gentler virtue's soft controul,
One boldly glow'd superior o'er the rest
And rais'd to joys sublime his kindling soul,

His Country's love — at that all powerful name
In quicker transports leap'd his generous blood,
Check'd was each nearer thought, each partial claim,
And this his law supreme — the Public Good.

Him ne'er did Avarice sordid wiles enslave,
No transient gleam of patriot ardour fir'd
But virtue fed the flame that nature gave,
And kindly cherish'd what she first inspir'd.

But ah! he's sunk in death's o'ershadowing vale,
Nor sighs could rescue him, nor tears could save;
Not all his virtues, all his worth prevail
To snatch the destin'd victim from the grave.

Yet from the grave the voice of honest Fame
To high deserts and virtuous merits just,
To latest times shall sound his deathless name
And raise his memory form the silent dust;

The Muse, that sweet harmonious maid he lov'd
Shall oft to future ages fondly tell,
"This was the favourite swain I most approv'd,
'Twas he who tun'd so sweet my magic shell;

"Ye youths, like him to highest deeds aspire!
By arts like these to glory's summit rise!
Oh! may your souls his bright example fire!
Like him be virtuous, and like him be wise!"