1811 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Thomas Percy

Henry Boyd, "Verses on the Death of the Right Rev. Thomas Percy" Gentleman's Magazine 81 (December 1811) 556-57.



O grief on grief! my sighs upon the gale
Were wafted long, and long my heart has bled!
How drear you death-sound rolls along the vale,
And sternly sings a noble spirit fled!

And from the dust a voice shall answer thee,
Stern sound! for lowly now the Muse is laid,
That us'd in numbers artless, wild, and free,
To chant at ease in Percy's laureate shade!

Her plumage on the ground is scatter'd wide,
And like yon withering leaves of Autumn lie,
On which she us'd the buoyant air to ride,
And catch its visions with enraptur'd eye.

Some from the mind, like morning dreams, are past,
Soon swallow'd up in Lethe's blood profound:
Some, while the mind survives, shall ever last
When busts of heroes fall, by time uncrown'd.

No airy fabrick, by poetic hands
Built on the fleeting rock, ensures their fame:
On an eternal base their temple stands,
And light empyreal crowns the lofty frame.

O could I from my bosom pluck awhile
The rankling point of long-consuming woe;
The noble subject might my cares beguile,
Though varied pains a sad relief bestow.

It will not be! — nor is it mine to sing
In faltering notes, and to a lyre unstrung,
Of Percy's worth; it asks a bolder wing,
And spirits to support no vulgar song.

And yet he rescued me! from dire alarms
He bore me, like a wounded man, away,
Thus the bold Greek amid the clash of arms
From Telamon repell'd the doomful day.

And when Sedition in a sullen pause
Waited again the baleful trump to blow;
When nightly Rapine scorn'd th' insulted Laws,
And banded Traitors call'd the hostile prow;

Safe in that holy guard whose cohort bright
Encamp'd around his walls, I pass'd my hours;
And long, for many an happy social night,
Saw his great mind expand its varied powers.

Together oft the sacred page we turn'd,
And sages deep of old and modern days,
Or conn'd some lofty lay, while Fancy burn'd
And Winter seem'd to bloom with fadeless bays.

Ev'n He, who with the prime of England's boast
For science, taste, and worth, had spent his years,
Names, far renown'd on every sea-beat coast,
Where Commerce o'er the wave her treasures steers:

Who still in that bright circle might have past
His tranquil days, and heard the distant storm;
Yet, like GOD'S SOLDIER, at the warning blast
He came, and boldly fac'd the grim alarm.

When others fled, he came at duty's call;
When others crouch'd, he stood, as well became
A PERCY'S dauntless heart, when Rome and Gaul
Arous'd the rebel horde with loud acclaim.

'Twas more than honour led him to his post,
'Twas more than danger from the brandish'd blade,
Or whistling ball; for, from the Stygian host
A Daemon Troop their sable flag display'd.

And many an imp, with dire, fallacious light,
Like wandering fires, their victims led afar
Through fatal snares, and shades of mental night,
Far from the guidance of Emmanuel's star.

As men they sunk, but rose like Demons soon
Baptis'd in Styx, yet kept their human form,
And dealt around the soul-degrading boon
That levels manhood with the trodden worm.

Not for Heaven's fire the reverend Warrior pray'd
To blast their bands, but sought a sacred ray
To light his lamp, and to their view display'd
That beam which shows the new and living way.

Such splendours issued from Ithuriel's lance
When to his shape the MASTER-FIEND return'd,
And, all astounded at the Seraph's glance,
With dread, and baffled rage, and envy burn'd.

He broke the snare of many a thoughtless soul
Which led them to the deadly gulf along;
He call'd, and, aided by the strong controul
Of grace, reclaim'd them from the captive throng.

But chief, those babes, whom else the cruel hands
Of Fiends had, with HERODIAN rage, destroy'd,
He rescu'd from the dark Tartarean hands
And heavenly arms, to foil their rage, supply'd.

His great forefather, when the moony shield
He rais'd, against the Hagarenes of old,
Ere gain'd such glory in the fighting field
When Jordan's streams with bloody billows roil'd.

No mortal Muse (tho' well he lov'd the Muse)
Could sing his triumphs in the fields of Faith.
Sad sisters! ye may sit with tresses loose,
Your garlands hang upon the house of Death.

A deeper glow than e'er your bosoms prov'd,
Long shall survive in many a grateful breast
For that good Pastor, loving and belov'd,
Ah never in his heart to be suppress'd.

No lifeless figures at his gate were seen,
But there his Almoner, with look humane,
Stood the pale ranks of Poverty between,
And fill'd those hands that ne'er were strech'd in vain.

Alas! the freezing current in my veins
Forbids me on thy varied worth to dwell,
Oft thy bland smile inspir'd my cheerful strains,
They're gone with thee! lamented friend, farewell.
Hilltown, co-Down, Ireland.