1763 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Shenstone

Dr. S., "To the Memory of William Shenstone, Esq; an Elegy" Scots Magazine 25 (March 1763) 162.



Ye sacred pow'rs of Harmony! if such
E'er put the sable garb of mourning on;
Now, when no gen'rous eye can weep too much,
Now shed the plaintive tear, for SHENSTONE'S gone!

Nor fled a kindred spirit to the skies
Lamented more by all the tuneful train—
But him they vainly seek, with streaming eyes,
To animate his gentle form again.

Ah! not for this, Death, with officious grasp,
Seiz'd the strung lyre that trembled in his hand;
While to his breast his arms tenacious clasp,
And seraphs round but half-consenting stand!

Ah! not for this, the early sudden call
Some radiant spirit's golden harp to tune;
While humbly he his own on earth let fall,
But, oh! Humanity still thinks too soon!

For SHENSTONE gone, while Silence muses round,
Hear the sad Genius of each grove bewail!
Villas return the melancholy sound,
And Echoes dwell upon the mournful tale!

Sad murmurs waft it down the gurgling brook!
Sad zephyrs sigh it thro' the conscious shade!
To heav'n when he his blissful journey took,
Few pow'rs of song behind their SHENSTONE staid.

SHENSTONE! with what inchanting voice he sung!
How smooth, how chaste, how soft, his numbers flow!
How on each note the ravish'd shepherds hung!
How did their hearts dilate! their bosoms glow!

For oft he fond deceiv'd the lengthen'd hours
To copy Nature, made immortal hence.—
How delicately Love's all-gentle pow'rs
Touch'd into life his nicely-feeling sense!

How few, O Nature, happily excel
In thy prime gifts, simplicity and ease?
Thy careless elegance becomes us well,
Thy ev'ry artless grace, if we would please.

Say, why the labour'd strains neglected flow,
Tho' haughty Learning boasts each splendid line?
Hence, would the self-proud critic deign to know,
Beyond thy test, O Nature! we refine.

How little Art imparts, when all she gives,
Vainly to rival him by thee inspir'd,
Let SHENSTONE tell — but, ah! no SHENSTONE lives!
Else angels mourn a bard from heav'n retir'd.

Heav'n claims its bards, a laurel-circled throng,
Some few revolving signs to mortals lent;
If, fond of man, they tarry here too long,
To call them hence Death's on kind message sent.

Thus he, who grew immortal as he sung
The blissful pair in Eden's happy clime,
Rehearses now, with raptures on his tongue,
To gods the wonders of his throne sublime.

Thus the remembrance all our grief renews,
While we a POPE or ADDISON deplore!
Thus mourns, in elegiac strain, the muse
SHENSTONE, among the first of bards, no more!

But Nature means no triumph o'er her son,
For not unkind she earth of him deprives.—
Let then no more our tears officious run,
SHENSTONE still lives, while she herself survives.