1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegy on the Ruins of Farley Castle, the antient Family Seat of the Hungerfords.

The Sun (17 October 1818).

A Lady


Fourteen elegiac quatrains in the manner of Gray "written by a deceased Lady." The elegy, with very little descriptive detail, draws the usual moral from the sight of the ruined castle: "Ye perishing remains of antient state! | Instructive teach, through all my theme preside; | Unfold your useful science to the great, | And paint the ignorance of human pride." Farley Castle near Bath had been one of the residences of the Hungerfords since the fourteenth century.

The chief interest in this poem, doubtless, is the anonymous poet, who the note informs us was an acquaintance of Thomas Gray, who died in 1771. The abstracted manner of this poem, which is long on moralizing and short on graphic description, may suggest a date of composition in the 1760s or 1770s, before the "ruin" series had taken shape. But we are also told that the poet's spouse was still alive in 1818.

Headnote: "The fair Author of these plaintive lines was acquainted with the celebrated Poet GRAY, and it is evident, from the pensive cast of these stanzas, that her mind was of a congenial nature. We are indebted to the surviving Widower for the Poem, and cannot but sympathize with him in the grief which must attend the loss of so accomplished a character."



My Muse nor dance, nor brilliant ball, inspires,
The gay resort of fashion she disdains,
From gaudy scenes she, unperceived, retires,
Where, wrapt in silence, Contemplation reigns.

No flattering object here attention leads,
In gladsome mirth to waste the tedious hour;
Reflection here her sober lesson reads,
And o'er the mind exerts her sov'reign power.

Ye perishing remains of antient state!
Instructive teach, through all my theme preside;
Unfold your useful science to the great,
And paint the ignorance of human pride.

In every mouldering heap, by time o'erthrown,
E'er yet the spacious mansion be begun,
Tell them its fate is by these reliques shown,
When a few years their circling course have run.

The bird of night, within her dusky bower,—
Unseemly guest! supplies man's vacant place;
She takes possession of the lonely tower,
And triumphs in the frailty of his race.

Pensive I listen to her evening lay,
Pleas'd to indulge the melancholy strain,
When the pale moon emits her sliver ray,
And lengthening shadows steal across the plain.

Where the devoted mortal lingering lies,
'Tis said, she wanders through the midnight gloom;
There fills the air with fearful prodigies,
And warms the wretch unconscious of his doom,

To leave at once the kind domestic sphere,
To break through every tender partial tie;
While Pity sheds the unavailing tear,
And Nature yields unwillingly to die.

The kindred tribe, asserting all their claim,
Hold back th' affections of the struggling heart;
Till Death, relentless, takes his final aim,
And strikes the blow that must for ever part.

What joys have been in former ages known,
Beneath this roof! What hours of social glee!
What maxims did the gen'rous patrons own!
What friendly warmth and hospitality!

Here once the inviting portal, opening wide,
Besought the weary traveller to rest;
Nor was the cordial bounty then denied
To him — with ills and poverty oppress'd.

The days have been when smiling plenty crown'd
The festive board; when, to the cheerful bowl,
The sprightly jest in laughing peals went round,
And burned to mirth was ev'ry social soul.

The morn of freedom waked the virgin band,
Where, love inspired, the swain avowed his truth;
Each took his blooming partner by the hand,
And pass'd the pleasing holiday of youth.

But Time, from whose dominion nought can save,
Has made succeeding sons his hapless prey,
Has laid each boasted honour in the grave,
And swept whole generations quite away.

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