The Funeral. An Elegy.

The London Chronicle (15 April 1766) 356.

Oliver Jaques

38 elegiac quatrains, signed "O. Jaques," after Thomas Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard. The poet was a regular contributor to the London Chronicle at this period.

Headnote: "Sir, though by the method I have taken in publishing a trifle or two, I stand a good chance of being buried very soon in oblivion, like a thousand other scribblers, yet there is one advantage which a News-paper Poet enjoys above those of a different stamp, who trade by the press, which is, that they are out of harms way; and if they get no fame, they cannot lose much, unless they are such fools as to point themselves out by a name. As my stars have ordered it my name is a fictitious one, which I can throw by for conveniency, as a patriot can his system of politics when it begins to grow unpopular. As to the poem, if it pleases as an imitation, the Author's design is completed; it must be looked upon wholly in the light of a juvenile performance, with more affectation and quaintness in it, perhaps, than poetry or pathos: However, be it as it may, the Author returns Mr. Grey thanks for the pleasure which he has received from his excellent elegy; and now, bidding adieu to Mr. Printer and this piece, begs leave to subscribe himself as usual, O. Jaques" p. 356.

The Muse, by melancholy evening led,
In plaintive song delights with Grey to mourn;
And loves to haunt these mansions of the dead,
When the pale spectre hovers round it's urn.

What Fear can raise, or magic spells create,
Still gives new pleasure to th' enchanted brain,
Nor aught that horror starts, the muse can hate,
As long as virtue shields the inward man.

Now thought steals slowly o'er the human mind,
Calm, serious thought, to sense and heav'n allied!
Now the free soul's no more by care confin'd,
Nor longer leagu'd with folly, noise or pride.

From yon high turret, silence reigning round,
Hark, the loud clanging of the noisy bell!
Through the pierc'd aether floats the trembling sound,
And distant villas hear its hollow knell.

How thick and friendly lie the mingled graves!
Distinguish'd only by some sculptur'd guide,
That serves to tell us, folly often saves
Her little all, to shew mechanic pride.

Here many a bustling tradesman crowds the soil,
Each now unheard, and laid in noiseless death!
No varying seasons once could check their toil,
Keen Winter's blast, or Summer's fervid breath.

Their busy hammers, plied with early care,
Perhaps are heard no more at break of day,
Each left neglected by the worthless heir,
Or sold, 'midst lumber, some vile debt to pay!

What lights are those? Hah — whence that dreary sound—
The notes in many a eccho roll along;
'Tis some new tenant of this haunted ground,
Who claims those torches, and that holy song.

I'll cross the glebe, to learn the mournful tale,
And join in anthem at the stranger's bier;
Perhaps my tears may sooth the woful wail
Of the lost wife of friend, whose hope lies there.

Lo! what an endless train attends the dead,
In silent sadness weeping out their woe,
Perhaps his graceful hand once shar'd the bread
Which heav'n denies, in equal lot, below!

Perhaps in him the weak bemoan their friend,
Who oft' has pluckt them from the tyrant's jaw;
Perhaps the Christian taught them once their end,
Or nobly freed them from the bonds of law!

'Tis soft-eyed pity wakes such doubts as these,
And shews me there some father of the poor,
Some earthly saint, now resting at his ease,
Who ne'er gave sorrow to his friends before!

But let me haste, I long to learn his fate
From one who lov'd him and whose grief is deep;
A friend's distress a friend can best relate,
Each case is made our own, when others weep.

Mix'd with the crowd, I'll view this hallow'd pile,
Whose folding gates give way to all alike;
The poor, forlorn, may fill the lengthening isle,
Whom sordid wretches dare neglect, dislike.

On the bare surface of the earth they kneel,
Nor are their voices heard aloud in pray'r;
Yet still their heav'n-bent eye betrays a zeal,
A real rev'rence for the God they fear.

But hark, my muse! the priest begins to read,
In gloomy tone, the prologue to the grave;
Sure 'tis the voice of Delphos o'er the dead!
Such rev'rend accents ring through all the nave.

Draw nigh, ye vain! who dance your hours away,
And think the lingering minute much too slow;
Step in awhile, and rest you from your play,
This house of mourning is no house of woe.

Let solemn pleasure fill the place of joy,
For once indulge the tear, the thought sublime,
Let the charm'd soul her noble pow'rs employ,
And steal one moment from the hour of time.

Lo! from his awful height the priest descends,
No more he charms us from the sacred page;
Strait to yon chancel move the mournful friends,
Where sons of grandeur sleep for many an age.

There rot, unnotic'd now, the slaves of pride,
Save that their trophies catch the curious eye,
Where, rear'd aloft with saints on either side,
The cold, smooth marble tells the polish'd lye.

Drunk o'er the grave the thoughtless sexton stands,
By custom harden'd to all sense of fear,
Two torches tremble in his palsied hands,
Skulls, spades and bones lye heap'd, confusd'ly, near.

And now, slow winding round the sacred verge,
The dead man's friends expose their doleful woe,
The widow, trembling at the last, sad dirge,
Weeps, rack'd and silent; o'er the corpse below!

What means this sudden tumult in my breast,
Some thrilling horror creeps through every vein,
I fear I know that beauteous face distress'd!
That alter'd mien, distracted thus with pain!

'Tis true, ye gods! I see the faithful hand,
Now sadly rais'd to hide each bursting tear,
Which lately gave Eugenio frank command
Of all he wanted, all he wish'd for here!

And is he then no more — How late I saw
(Oh! mem'ry will intrude each bitter thought)
That modest fair approach yon priest with awe,
And heard her own the gen'rous flame she caught!

Such transport glow'd in my Eugenio's eye,
When, with her hand, she blushing gave her heart,
That, lost in thought, he thank'd her — with a sigh,
And oh, to paint his bliss is not in art!

How soon dissolv'd the matrimonial vow!
How vanish'd every hope of human pride!
And who could prophecy, oh rigid blow!
The priest, that bless'd them, should so soon divide!

Let man, with caution, trust the flattering smile,
The snares of pleasure, laid in virtue's road!
Full oft' we stumble, or those snares beguile
The wretch to follow, and forget his God.

Hope was but lent to ease man's labours here,
His galling burden through the thorns of life;
And if this blessing did not balance fear,
Weak virtue would in vain contest the strife.

But fondly do we dream this hope design'd,
To fix eternal happiness below,
Nor can we nurse the thought, to rest resign'd,
'Till plung'd at once into the gulph of woe.

No more let wit intrude, or heedless mirth,
On the lone quiet of my future hours;
But let me visit oft' this spot of earth,
And, weeping, strew around it sweetest flow'rs!

Oft' let me wander, by these holy walls,
While frantic grief, or melancholy raves!
Oft' let me listen if Eugenio calls,
And nightly walk in sleep among the graves.

'Till every ghastly through of death be o'er,
And in my bosom fears no longer roll;
'Till Angels hail me from their happier shore,
And life's last tremble waft the shivering soul.

Then may some future friend, by faith allied!
Once that would rev'rence ev'n my lifeless clay!
See my cold bones plac'd near Eugenio's side,
And on my tomb engrav'd this funeral lay.

Here lies below a youth, once warm to feel
The mis'ries, seldom thought on, of the Poor;
When others pain he saw and could not heal,
He wept — And what could pity's self do more?

If vice decoy'd him from the paths of fame,
No friend was made to weep, or foe to curse,
No virgin felt his wrongs, in secret shame,
His life was still as harmless as his verse.

If any passion harbour'd in this breast,
His honest features could not give the lie;
Let those conceal their thoughts, who fear the test,
Should truth unfold them to the public eye.

For all his crimes and frailties here below,
His soul did penance, 'ere he met his end;
And, if his little worth you want to know,
Go, seek it in the bosom of a friend.

[p. 356]