1765
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegy on a Pile of Sacred Ruins.

A Collection of Poetical Essays. By J. B. of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Rev. John Brand


Contempations among the ruins in 27 elegiac quatrains in the manner of Gray's Elegy: ""Vain are the Trophies of a Fun'ral Pile; | The motto'd Monument, or gilded Bust: | Fame's flatt'ring Tale, deep grav'd in golden Stile, | Time shall erase, and moulder into Dust" p. 4. This early contribution to the series of Gray imitations moralizing ruins is more conventionally pious than many of the more aesthetic poems to follow. The title-page describes the poem as "imitating the manner of Mr. Cunningham's celebrated Elegy," that is, John Cunningham's Elegy on a Pile of Ruins (1761). Cunningham was a Newcastle poet, as was John Brand, who afterwards took orders and became a notable antiquary. The Poetical Essays were printed in folio by the Newcastle poet and printer Isaac Thompson.

Argument: "Elegy may be termed, with metaphorical Propriety, the eldest Daughter of Meditation, and highly merits the Veneration of the Learned and Benevolent, as being a Species of the greatly diversified Science of Poetry, every Way adapted to the serious Taste, or solemn Temper of the human Soul. When her Theme contemplates the short Duration of all earthly Grandeur in the awful Ruins of Temples, Towers, and other superb Edifices, become a Prey to Time, we are naturally led by her to a Reflection on the empty Efforts of ambitious Art, the Imbecility of mortal Power, and the changing Inconstancy and Vicissitude of all sublunary Things. The public Candour is here more particularly requested, as the following Essays are the first Offspring of a Juvenile Muse, and, on many Accounts of Time, Person, and Circumstance, have been liable to Hinderance and unavoidable Difficulties. If the Ateempt merits the least Shadow of Approbation, let the censorious Criticisms of the Injudicious be its Encomium" iv.



In a lone VILLA, the once-lov'd Retreat,
Where, cloy'd with Crouds, Wealth sought the silvan Shade;
Near the fall'n Rubbish of some rural Seat,
A ruin'd TEMPLE tow'rs its tott'ring Head.

The Moss-grown Walls, high pil'd in Gothic Pride,
Stand, Time-defac'd with many a wide-rent Flaw;
Nor fails the Prospect view'd on every Side,
T' imprint the musing Mind with solemn Awe.

Sadly sequester'd, 'mid the dreary Waste,
A Row of blasted Yew Trees gloom around;
Redoubling Terror, and the Peasant's Haste,
That treads perforce the long-untrodden Ground.

Soon as cool Ev'ning clos'd the Sun-scorch'd Day,
I left the laughing Throng in thoughtful Mood;
And, where the sacred Scene before me lay,
Thus sigh'd, in aw'd Attention as I stood:

"Ah me! that hoary Time's all-changing Pow'r,
Should this proud Dome, with stealing Pace, pervade;
Where erst Devotion, at th' inraptur'd Hour,
Thro' Faith's fix'd Glass her promis'd Bliss survey'd.

"Ah pitying Change! the swift-wing'd Hours have brought,
To blast the Beauty of devoted Stones;
Which once industrious the first Founder wrought;
A shrin'd Sepulchre to his honour'd Bones!

"Hence now no more shall pious Pray'r ascend,
Nor Sigh repentant from the guilt-gnaw'd Breast;
RELIGION here her solemn Rites shall end,
Nor more th' intruding Spade this Mould molest.

"Hence now no more the sadd'ning Death-Bell's Note,
Shall knell th' Alarum from this shatter'd Spite;
Nor Song harmonious swell the thrilling Throat,
With praiseful Tribute from th' adoring Choir.

"Where warbled Melody, harsh Ravens brood,
And dusky Bats, that shun the lengthen'd Light;
And Eloquence, whence the rais'd Rostrum stood,
Has ceas'd her Charms, and soar'd her banish'd Flight.

"Still Silence reigns where once the social Croud
Responsive chaunted to the lauding Lay;
Save when the solitary Owl screams loud,
Or thro' the dun Ile wings her flutter'd Way.

"This labour'd Font mov'd from its marble Base;
(Where once weak Nature lav'd her spotted Stain,)
Tho' lower now, still stands a needed Vase,
Whence chatt'ring Sparrows sip the roof-fall'n Rain,

"This high-arch'd Altar, from the rais'd Ascent,
Rears, awf'ly ruinous, its hallow'd Head;
Whence the swift Spider, on wish'd Prey intent,
Now sports her, salient, on the self-spun Thread.

"Th' Angelic Host, in glittering Gold array'd,
Fictitious colour'd on its pannel'd Oak,
Amid the Triumph ranc'rous Time has made,
'Scapes not the Tyrant's sacrilegious Stroke.

"This Iron Door, fast wedg'd with ranking Rust,
Scarce creaks an Entrance to the vaulted Cave:
Where, wrapt in Lead, the more ennobled Dust
Of MAMMON'S Vot'ries found a peaceful Grave.

"A shad'wy Pre-eminence yet remains
In this lone Mansion of illustrious Dead;
Tho' Death, regardless of their wide Demesnes,
Urg'd the shun'd Summons with impartial Dread.

"The mould'ring Pillar, on its sable Base,
Supports a Mon'ment of superior Art;
Time-unadorn'd from ev'ry finsih'd Grace,
Industrious Elegance had deign'd t' impart.

"Ah what avails it! though ambitious rear'd,
T' aggrandize some honour'd Heroe's Fame;
Where martial Weapons pompously appear'd,
And sculptur'd Sorrow wept the Warrior's Name.

"Like all the Pageantry of earth-born Pride,
Like Night-still'd Dew-drops at the solar Ray,
'T hath shrunk oblivious, and on ev'ry Side,
Nods totter'd Ruin from its pillar'd Stay.

"Vain are the Trophies of a Fun'ral Pile;
The motto'd Monument, or gilded Bust:
Fame's flatt'ring Tale, deep grav'd in golden Stile,
Time shall erase, and moulder into Dust.

"Devouring Time! thou immaterial Space!
That swall'west moving what thy Motion breeds;
Whate'er of visible the Eye can trace,
Or soon, or late, thy destin'd Prey succeeds.

"The fleecy Moments from thy fruitful Womb,
Tho' teem'd unnum'rous, short liv'd Victims fall;
Alike the rock-rear'd Tow'r, and trophied Tomb,
Meet Dissolution at thy crumbling Call.

"Thrice happy he! in calm Contentment's Dale,
Far from Ambition, and Pride's noxious Noise;
That peacef'lly journ'ying thro' Life's varied Vale,
Ne'er war'd thy Worth on empty air-blown Toys.

"Not the wish'd Wreath of popular Applause,
Nor all the Joys precarious Wealth e'er lent,
Afford so pleasing, so serene a Pause,
As one reflected Hour in VIRTUE spent.

"The tott'ring Rock, the Faggot's fiercest Rage;
Nor all the Engines CRUELTY can devise,
Are half so horr'ble as time-wasted Age,
When grim DEATH'S Terrors meet th' enfeebled Eyes.

"Thou Stage invisible! we all must tread;
Thy ever-varying Scenes anon shall end:
When, awf'ly rousing the long-slumber'd Dead,
Th' ALL-RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, GREAT JESU shall descend.

"Him comp'nying from the' empyreal Throne,
A Choir celestial shall in Pomp surround:
The Thoughts, secreted of all Hearts be known;
And Thou, in vast Eternity be drown'd.

"On that Day, joyous from their atom'd Tomb,
The once-fam'd Founders of this Dome shall rise;
Their dust-blent Bodies from Earth's teeming Womb,
Shall gain, re-animate the blissful Skies."

[pp. 1-5]