1815
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegy, written in a Country Church Yard.

The Deserted Village Restored; The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, in three Cantos: Pastorals, &c.

Arthur Parsey


33 quatrains: paraphrase of Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard. While nothing seems to be recorded of Arthur Parsey, he seems, to judge from the peculiarities of his style, to have been a self-taught poet. Their effect is to suggest a kind of simplicity that is perhaps not ineffectual in this curious imitation of Gray's reflections on the education of humble people: "If here less learn'd, less artful they may rest; | Their viles more humble, as their lives were poor; | As the small hamlets e'er affords the breast, | But few diversities of crafty lore" p. 194. Certainly Parsey desired to be remembered, as the preface to his self-published collection of poems makes clear. The two reviews that deigned to notice it were not flattering.

Author's note: "In the country church-yards the graves are kept moulded up (without tomb-stones), which, as long as they are kept in preservation, prevents the interment of another corpse on that spot; and the countryman can point out the graves of his father, grandfather, &c. for many generations" p. 155n.

Monthly Review: "The titles of these poems are unfortunately chosen, since The Deserted Village, The Country Church-Yard, The Hermit, &c. recall certain productions concerning which we should rather address the reader of this volume in the words of Mrs. Quickly, and 'to comfort him, bid him that he should not think of those things.' The present writer has a most curious acrostic, in which nearly every line begins with a consonant; and in his pastorals, &c. may be found 'garrulous geese and hens,' 'blushing clouds,' and 'blushing hills set on a blaze,' 'pinky cheeks,' and 'sweet creamy turtle doves:' but we perceive no resemblance to his models, except in those lines which are borrowed from them" NS 79 (February 1816) 211.



Now beams the sun, an animated blush,
And eve deck'd out, assumes her placid reign;
And, toil relaxing, gives the world the hush,
Yet bids the great to cease their toils in vain.

Yon gleamy distances assume a shade,
To darkness verging with a still serene;
And here in rest (heav'n knows the kind) are laid,
The jocund rustics of the neighbouring green.

A pleasing stillness, cool ethereal glow,
Reigns o'er the world, and gives its calm to me,
With scarce a sound; but, when the zephyrs blow,
Or lowing herds which graze upon the lea.

Tell envy once to take her station here,
To see how Nature makes her gradual way;
How cheerful day forsakes his joyous sphere,
Unenvied eve supplants the parting day.

Here, let them see how serenities come,
And bid them cease to envy and to rave:
Look down beneath my feet and see their doom,
Says, life must be supported by the grave.

Respected, still the turf-bound grave is kept
By long successors with a hand of care;
O'er which, long since ('tis not unlike) there wept,
A village Plutarch or a Laura fair.

Indispensable are the lordly great,
These humble men are as completely so;
Heav'n made the rich, who made the poor? was't fate,
Is fate to be despis'd, will God forego;

How sorry would the rich man's table stand,
If these forego to tend the lowing herd,
The dairy maid forsake concretions bland,
And lands neglected, turn a weedy sward.

Here lies the strength of ev'ry weals renown,
From hence are led our armies o'er the globe;
Our public good, our private worth, a crown
To deck our head, and all our pomp enrobe.

Besides they're men, and what are men though here,
Dumb, cold, and stiff, they live beneath the clay;
This chill deposit notifies the sphere
From whence the soul ascends to endless day.

If here less learn'd, less artful they may rest;
Their viles more humble, as their lives were poor;
As the small hamlets e'er affords the breast,
But few diversities of crafty lore.

One sphere of action governs all the train,
The hardy culture of the stubborn soil;
A genuine love, and known to ev'ry swain,
Dismantled age, which gives the trembling smile.

Fountains are but artificial springs;
But springs are native, innocent, and plain:
The rustic heart fair science seldom wings,
Yet is there science dormant in the swain.

Perhaps if cities had been rais'd on high
Where now but cot and meadow varied lies,
From ploughmen, Caesars might have rent the sky;
But, who can soar 'gainst opportunities.

Round scatter'd graves and epitaphs are read,
Some newly laid, and some which cent'ries know;
And I, one more, to magnify the dead,
Must die, and seek this gate to bliss or woe.

Then nor despise nor underrate their worth,
Who, when they cease, may rise as good as you;
Foul water filter'd, sparkles at the birth,
And death may purge them to a crystal hue.

Birth gives us station, and a chance may throw,
The prince, a curly headed peasant's boy;
And take each birth, and death, I cannot know
What nice distinction critics can employ.

Monuments, alas! alone record,
The great (unseemly to be seen) are bone;
And, when once so, the peasant and the lord,
May meet as friends and equals, and as one.

And here some well-earn'd fame is rais'd to tell
How each man liv'd, and how resign'd he died;
Their birth and age, and parish where they dwell,
Sincerely mourn'd, not tears by int'rest plied.

These are the chilly mansions of the grave,
Friends, ah! court it not by thine own rash hand;
For moments intervene, a respite's gave
To grieve for life, when life's not at command.

Many a morn hath seen these clay cold men,
With buskin'd legs, and awkward plodding tread,
Bid yonder fallows, with a crop again,
And yet again assume a golden head.

Whose useful hands innur'd to piercing cold,
For unknown posterity and its good;
For the reward of doing well, not gold,
Rear'd yonder copses and yon stately wood.

But time, with hand both mutable and chill,
Takes one by one, and leads them to the grave;
Nor can the pleading voice of orphans fill
With pity time, or lover lover save.

Yet, o'er these bones can cherish'd mem'ry lay,
If not inspiring, yet a faithful scrowl;
Call past affection on the minds array,
And rouse the plastic tenderness of soul.

'Tis not in letters love and pity springs,
The rustic heart is capable of both;
Life gives the one, and death the other brings,
And tears reflow sincere — the due of worth.

"Scarce creeps the moss o'er yonder new-made grave,
The lay unsullied draws the stranger's eye
I saw the downcast train, which kindly gave
The mournful tribute, canst thou withhold a sigh?"

A swain thus held, the justness of his days,
Display'd with honest, and an artless tongue,
His smiling merits and his tongue would praise,
But kindness held the speech whence tears are sprung.

"Oft had he rose e'er day-light made its dawn,
Intent to give some rural science scope;
And modish use was of her stiffness shorn,
The friend of poverty, — the village hope.

"Yet, at his breast was something dormant laid,
Which mark'd its effects on his pale-grown cheek;
As though 'twere hope, or love untimely weigh'd,
'Twas at his breast and now he lies a wreck.

"His day's pass'd by, Death mark'd him for her own,
The painful dirge clos'd on his fairer day;
Grant but a moment to survey the stone,
Advance and read (for thou canst scan) the lay."

THE EPITAPH.
Here lies the man to fortune and to pride,
Alike unknown upon the lap of earth;
Though humble, yet was justice on his side,
And honest wisdom mark'd his docile birth.

His soul was kind, assimilate of Heav'n,
Woe ne'er applied t' ameliorate her pain;
But with a genial kindness it was giv'n,
And heav'n (his hope) ne'er pass'd his gifts in vain.

Forbear to ask, what mortal faults had he,
'Twere only such as mark this frail abode;
To man must frailties in this course e'er be,
And he relies on Mercy, Christ, and God.

[pp. 191-99]