1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Gibbons

K. T., "A Monumental Ode, to the Memory of the Reverend Thomas Gibbons, D.D." Gentleman's Magazine 55 (May 1785) 387.



Ah! what avails the pall of crimson dye,
The proud escutcheons wrought by empty fame!
Alas! in vain the Sculptor's art would try
To grace Ambition with a lasting name.

Lo! Darkness shrines the form that grasp'd at power,
And to Oblivion would his deeds consign:
Tho' Vanity preserve them for an hour,
Time's ruthless hand shall rase each flattering line.

But sacred Virtue asks no Parian stone,
No long drawn Dirge — the mimickry of woe:
Her worth a race unborn shall fondly own,
For her the Muses' sorrowing numbers flow.

Yes! o'er the good Fidelio's urn
Sad Grief shall pious Friendship pay,
There soft Humanity shall mourn,
And pour a plaintive lay.
For ever clos'd his eye
That drop'd Compassion's tear:
Lifeless the hand, that stretch'd to each
Dejected worth's persuasive sigh;
And e'en to guilt distress'd was ever near:
Silent the tongue, whose happy art
Now rais'd the soul absorb'd in earth
To meditate her heav'nly birth,
Now brought sweet comfort to the wounded heart:

From youth to age — of Virtue's train,
He taught her purest laws;
Nor ever to attain
A mortal's vain applause,
Would holy truth conceal:
Nor with a bigot's phrase
Would meanly seek to raise
The flames of party-zeal;
But still in Scripture style he trac'd the wond'rous plan
Of heaven's high glory and the bliss of man.

And oft along the walks he'd rove
Where Science sweetly musing fair,
Beguiles the load of human care,
And gives her vot'ry all her joys to prove:
Yet chief, Religion, radiant power!
With graces smiling and serene,
'Twas thine to mitigate th' afflicted hour,
T' adorn the social and the private scene:
Ah! could thy charms the deadly dart assuage,
His years had stretch'd beyond a patriarch's age.

But since the mortal crime
That ravag'd Eden's favour'd land,
The good of ev'ry clime
Have felt the restless tyrant's hand;
The philosophic sage,
With all his studious lore,
And they who could explore
The moralizing page;
E'en He has felt, for sacred gifts admir'd,
Whose life and language taught what heav'n inspir'd.

And there, alas! must holy virtue lie
Sunk in the Mortal's doom?
A soul, that oft would seek her native sky,
Immur'd in yon impenetrable tomb?
Ah — hapless ignorance of Greece and Rome!
To Life's sad vanity confin'd their view,
In sweetly-plaintive notes they sang
The frailty of the mortal man,
For dust and shade was all that Nature's Pupil knew.

The Christian's fairer prospects rise
To radiant seats beyond the shores of time,
Where, beneath unchanged skies,
All-perfect pleasures gild the graceful clime
Where the rapt Seraphs join
With earth's redeeming throng,
To raise the wond'rous song
Of clemency divine:
To echo o'er th' etherial plains
How He who bow'd to death for ever reigns.

E'en now, while young Affection lays
This tribute on Fidelio's urn,
While mourning Friendship fondly says,
"He never shall return!"
The free'd Immoral roves
Through shades that far excel
All that the Heav'n-enraptur'd Bard could tell,
Or our first Father know — of Eden's happy groves;
Now with his Watts he tunes th' ecstatic song,
Or casts his crown before th' eternal throne.

And when the last loud trumpet's sound
Shall break the silence of the tomb,
Pervade the sea, and rend the ground,
And usher Nature's final doom:
When Fame's proud trophies all in ruin lie,
And Desolation mingles earth and sky:
Then shall the once-encumb'ring clay,
That check'd the Spirit's ardent fire,
Which would to sacred themes aspire,
And sunk in weakness and decay,
Arise, in Heaven's unfading beauties drest,
And soar and triumph with th' adoring bless'd.