1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

W. W—y—, "Verses on seeing Dr. Johnson's Grave in Westminster Abbey" Public Advertiser (10 January 1785).



Here rest thy ashes; here, illustrious shade,
Be requiems sung, and holy rituals paid:
Here genius, all bespent with morning dew,
Each waning moon shall feel his griefs renew;
And science bending to the earth her eyes,
Forget awhile her commerce with the skies;
And sad religion with extinguish'd fires.

And thou, great spirit, whereso'er thy place,
Whether beyond the empty bounds of space,
Or in the empyrean fixt thy doom,
Or should an higher heav'n allow the room,
Look down with pity, and resent the pain
Of storm-tost vessels on life's surgy main.

See! how already, their great rival fled,
Each vice and folly rears anew her head!
See from the pulpit what corruption breaks,
Lives in the court, and from the female speaks;
Order and virtue both alike confounds,
And gives to Brookes' orgies deeper sounds!
The venal Commoner, the cringing Peer,
In Johnson's death forget awhile their fear,
And Dulness, who but now deplor'd her fate,
Lifts her bold head, and reigns among the Great.

Oh! sacred spirit, what can we bestow,
Worthy alike thy genius, and our woe?
Here all her choicest gifts let Sculpture bring,
Here Painting pour her tints, the Muses sing,
And all the great and good, a mournful band,
Pour forth their solemn dirges through the land!

Succeeding ages with auspicious eye
Shall mark the spot where thy cold ashes lie;
Nor inattention to thy deathless fame,
Shall bid their very children lisp thy name:
And beauteous maids, with garments unconfin'd,
Their glossy tresses floating on the wind,
Shall scatter flowers beneath the halcyon ray
That ushers in the lucid morn of May.

Enough my Muse! here let us cease to sing,
Dumb be the voice, and mute th' harmonious string!
To give to Johnson's ashes all their praise,
Requires his magic lyre, and loftier lays;
Enough for thee, that with an heartfelt tear
There scatt'rest fading chaplets o'er his bier;
See dusky night extends her sable wing,
Dumb be the voice, and mute th' harmonious string!