1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Philip Neve

Albert, "The Ghost of Milton. An Elegy" Public Advertiser (10 September 1790).



'Twas night, and buried in profound repose,
The numerous tribes of busy mortals lay,
My wakeful eyes alone forgot to close,
And thought succeeded to the cares of day:

'Till wearied nature sunk at last to rest:
But Fancy hovering still around my head,
Fancy, the sleepless tenant of the breast,
Its airy visions o'er my slumbers spread.

When to my view a grisly form appears,
Of mien majestic, but dejected hue,
Reverend, sunk deeply in the vale of years,
The Father of the English Song I knew.

"Hail," cried I, "Author of immortal lays!"
"My son," he said, "those titles now forbear,
No time remains to waste in useless praise,
A different subject now demands our care.

"Thou know'st, and oft hast mourn'd how hard my lot,
Of evil days and evil tongues the prey;
Dishonour'd, unrewarded and forgot,
I sunk, the unheeded victim of decay!

"Obscurely in a vault my corse was laid,
Fenc'd by no shelter from the common doom;
No voice of praise was heard to soothe my shade,
No pomp of funeral adorn'd my tomb.

"Yet saw I sons their fathers fault disclaim,
The tribute long withheld of honour pay,
My strains, victorious, fil'd the voice of Fame,
Nor griev'd I, tho' my corse unheeded lay.

"But ah! how shall I tell the dire disgrace?
With hands profane my tomb they now disclose,
My bones, torne rudely from their grave, deface,
And rob my ashes of their due repose.

"Was it for this, tho' quench'd my visual ray,
I woo'd the Muse to build the lofty rhyme,
To more than mortal themes I rais'd my lay,
And soar'd beyond the bounds of space and time?

"Is this the fame I hop'd from future days?
And these are then the honours they bestow!
With sacrilegious hands my corse to raise,
My bones expose a mercenary show!

"To brand the wretches, who the dead invade,
With shame and fell remorse, be thine the care:"
The cock was heard to crow — no more he said,
And the thin vision vanish'd into air.