1783
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegy on a Family-Tomb.

An Elegy on a Family-Tomb, by J. J. B.

Rev. John Jelliand Brundish


Twenty-one elegiac quatrains, in which by John Jelliand Brundish (1750-1786) laments the sudden passing of his father, sister, and brother. He resolves to abandon his ambitions and live in retirement: "How vain all promise of delight! — No more | Shall hope seduce me with betraying smile; | Content's calm ray shall gild the present hour, | Nor distant bliss my easy faith beguile. In the event, the poet himself did not have long to live. The poem is not a formal imitation of Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard.

Headnote in New Monthly Magazine: "I send you some verses written about 35 years ago by the late Mr. Brundish of Caius College, on the Death of his Father, Sister, and Brother, who was a Fellow of the same College; they all died within a very short space of time; and Mr. Brundish himself did not survive them above two or three years" NS 6 (July 1817) 522.

A translation into Italian "by a friend of the author" was published at Cambridge in 1783.



Thou dome of death! by lonely musings led,
I seek at ev'ning's close thy hallow'd shrine,
And as I fondly trace the kindred dead
In pious accents breathe the mournful line!

What, though no titled lineage I disclose,
No proud parade of ancestry or birth!
Yet in these veins a stream unsullied flows,
Deriv'd from genuine purity and worth.

Yes, honor'd race, with holy wisdom fraught
Humbly the path of piety ye trod!
Your lives adorn'd the faith your precepts taught—
Servants of truth! and ministers of God!

Peace to your manes! — This due incense paid,
I frame to sadder themes the pensive lay;
And e'en 'till mem'ry's faintest traces fade,
My heart shall bleed through many a distant day.

Scarce had I wept a tender parent's doom,
Scarce check'd the tear fond filial grief bestow'd,
Ere lost in earliest prime, relentless tomb,
A sister slept within thy dark abode.

Ah! lov'd Maria! not th' enchanting face
Where beauty reign'd, unconscious of its pow'r,
Nor meekest sense, nor mildest virgin grace,
Avail'd to save thee from the destin'd hour!

When, in the lustre of thine eye display'd,
Health seem'd her loveliest blessings to disclose,
Conceal'd alas! the canker sickness prey'd
Ere long to blast the sweetly-budded rose.

With deadly paleness or illusive bloom,
Noted by fear and hope, thy cheek was spread;
'Till slowly yielding to th' impending doom,
On gentle wing thy hov'ring spirit fled.

Nor ceas'd with thee my woes, lamented shade!
For more than by fraternal fondness dear,
With thee, in death's cold arms, Eugenio laid
To keener anguish wak'd the streaming tear.

Saunt'ring with careless step through childhood's maze
Together in sweet amity we grew:
In riper youth and manhood's op'ning days
No sep'rate joys, no unshar'd griefs we knew.

As musing in the academic grove,
Studious he scann'd the Aesculapian page,
Vigor, and health, and temp'rance vainly strove
To quell th' insatiate tyrant's burning rage.

Whilst riot safely runs his wild career,
And danger's shaft aloof from folly flies,
Why thus untimely on the ruthless bier
Lamented lie the temp'rate and the wise?

Thus sad regret her fond complainings pours,
Deny'd th' unerring laws of heav'n to see;
With trembling confidence her God adores,
And mourns, yet venerates, the stern decree.

His heart affection, virtue, truth possest;
His sober judgement liveliest sense refin'd;
With gentlest manners, fancy, science blest,
He knew to mend or captivate the mind.

Deem not I boast an unattested praise,
By partial prejudice alone approv'd;
A bard erewhile, in sweet descriptive lays,
Sung to no common lyre the worth he lov'd:

And friendship still, in many a wounded breast,
Her weeping tribute to his ashes gives;
Whilst in soft pity's shadowy tints exprest
His image, cherish'd by remembrance, lives:

And long, Eliza, shall thy sorrows flow,
Nor sternest fortitude the pang reprove,
Doom'd to lament with unavailing woe
Lost years of promis'd happiness and love:

Thy truth his tender sympathy return'd;
His faithful bosom nurs'd the mutual flame;
Ardent in life's last hours his passion burn'd,
On his pale lip linger'd thy trembling name.

How vain all promise of delight! — No more
Shall hope seduce me with betraying smile;
Content's calm ray shall gild the present hour,
Nor distant bliss my easy faith beguile.

Ambition, wont my youthful blood to fire,
Shall prompt no more th' involuntary sigh;
Retirement's vale I view with fix'd desire,
Nor loathing life, nor unprepar'd to die:

There may I taste domestic joys serene,
In Arria's virtues not ignobly blest!
In silence quit at length the shifting scene,
Consign'd with kindred shades in peace to rest!

[pp. 3-8]