1771
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas: occasioned, by a visit among some Tombs in a Country Church.

Miscellaneous Poems: on various Subjects, and Occasions. Revised and corrected by the late Mr. William Shenstone.

Joseph Giles


Eleven octosyllabic quatrains, after Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard: "The curious, marble, sculptur'd bust, | The herald's pomp, and flatt'ring stile, | Old Time will crumble all to dust; | Destroy the fabric's lofty pile." This imitation, by an obscure acquaintance of Wiliam Shenstone, in notable chiefly for omitting any topographic description. "Yonder tomb" is glossed, "An old antique tomb in ruins, supposed to have lain above two hundred years" 29n.

John Langhorne: "The Author of these poems is said to be Mr. Joseph Giles, who some time since resided at Birmingham, was intimately acquainted with Mr. Shenstone, and wrote some pleasing poems in Dodsley's Miscellanies. However the last circumstances may seem to speak in his favour, the poetry here presented to us is far beneath mediocrity. We presume not to say what the late ingenious Mr. Shenstone might be induced to do from motives of private friendship or benevolence. We are sensible that with him those virtues had no narrow limits: but these poems were every way unworthy of his attention, and in truth we can see no traces of that attention in them" Monthly Review 44 (April 1771) 343.



What is this world with all its charms,
Of noisy pomp and glittering show?
When death displays his dread alarms,
Its vain delights we then forego.

Be gone! ye false, deceitful joys!
Mix'd with the dregs of care and strife,
Your fairest promises are toys,
Which spoil the choicest hours of life.

For here, we see, and clearly learn,
Thy glory fades, and drops its bloom;
Our great, important, last concern,
We read inscrib'd on ev'ry tomb.

The curious, marble, sculptur'd bust,
The herald's pomp, and flatt'ring stile,
Old Time will crumble all to dust;
Destroy the fabric's lofty pile.

See! yonder tomb, his rage displays,
(Whose ancient date his hand has spoil'd)
That sleeping dust in former days,
Like us with joy or sorrow toil'd.

So we, that tread this mortal stage,
Our fleeting sands too swiftly fall;—
"Act well your part, from youth to age,"
I hear grave wisdom loudly call.

And while we trace this solemn scene,
The trophy'd mansions of the dead
Inspire, the soul with joy serene,
Where e'er we gaze, or slowly tread.

Here silence holds her gloomy reign,
Which strikes the mind with serious awe;
To see all worldly pow'r and gain,
Submit to death's impartial law.

The monarch crown'd, the rev'rend sage,
The gay, the fair, the young, the wise;
The soldier, here suspends his rage,
And by the humble shepherd lies.

Death breaks the bonds of mortals pow'r,
Throws all their vain distinctions down;
Virtue, is here the richest dow'r,
Rewards the beggar with a crown.

But time, and death, must fall and die,
And cease to triumph o'er this clay:
Their ruin'd heaps, where e'er they lie
Shall smile beneath eternal day.

[pp. 28-30]