1798
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lines written impromptu on the Tolling of a Bell.

Gentleman's Magazine 68 (August 1798) 705.

Rev. David Rivers


Five quatrains after Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, signed "D. Rivers." Perhaps Gray's lines are so deeply engraved on the poet's mind that such stanzas can be reproduced "impromptu" "Say, can bright Beauty's magic powers save | Its lov'd possessor from the loathsome tomb? | Or, while Ambition's colours round us wave, | Can we escape th' inevitable doom?"

David Rivers, originally a watch-maker, was a dissenting clergyman and an acquaintance of Percival Stockdale and William Godwin. He published an autobiographical memoir in his Miscellanies (1795), though no copy of that work appears in the ESTC (December 2006).



A Pensive sadness overwhelms my soul,
And fills my mind with melancholy dread;
For, hark! I hear the dismal, aweful toll,
Which lends my thoughts to contemplate the dead.

Perhaps some gay Lothario now is laid
"In narrow cell," and freed from mortal care;
Perhaps some charming, artless, lovely maid,
Her sex's pride, the fairest of the fair.

Ah! what is beauty? what is elegance?
What is the radiance of the brightest eye?
When Death begins to lead the dreadful dance,
We turn to dust, and are but vanity!

Say, can bright Beauty's magic powers save
Its lov'd possessor from the loathsome tomb?
Or, while Ambition's colours round us wave,
Can we escape th' inevitable doom?

Nor wealth, nor honours, nor proud looks avail;
Inexorable Death no favour shews;
We all must travel thro' the gloomy vale
That leads to endless joys or endless owes.

[p. 705]