1765
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegiac Reflections, wrote in the Vault of St. Nicholas Church, Newcastle.

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

Rev. John Brand


An imitation of Gray's Elegy in nineteen elegiac quatrains. Brand follows Gray more closely than many, amplifying his theme by musing on the sad remains of men and women who were once of high status: "How dread lowr's Darkness o'er the low-brow'd Cell! | Where listless Silence unmolested reigns; | Save when slow-sounding from the echoed Bell, | Time knells his Hours in mournf'ly pleasing Strains" p. 7. This meditation among the tombs seems to have been composed as a companion piece to the ruins that precedes it. Brand was perpetual curate of St. Nicholas in Newcastle, and was patronized by the Duke of Northumberland.

Author's note: This Vault is said to have been the Place of Interment for the Percy Family, in past Ages, but without warrantable Authority, as the Shrine of Henry Earl of Northumberland, who was tumultuously massacred at Cockslodge, near York, in the 4th Year of the Reign of Henry VII. is asserted to have been in the North-East Corner, where the beautiful and magnificent Tomb of Sir George Selby lately stood. However, from a Parity of Circumstances, it must undoubtedly have been the Receptacle of some ancient and illustrious Family" 6n.



Here, CONTEMPLATION! to thy Vot'ry's Aid,
Propitious, sooth the moralizing Soul;
While Melancholy, from the sacred Shade,
Bids mournf'ly slow, the sullen Moments roll.

As pensive thro' the scutcheon'd Iles I stray,
That high o'er-arch'd this hallow'd Temple bound,
Oft lead me on the long-untrodden Way,
Where sleeps fall'n Grandeur on the gloom-rapt Ground.

Pride's Look elated, and her lofty Mien,
That Sight shall sadden from th' exulting Soar;
And Envy soften'd o'er the solemn Scene,
Shall drop a Tear from plaintive Pity's Lore.

Pale Terror trembles thro' each curdling Vein,
While harshly opes the iron-bolted Door;
While timid Fancy from the teeming Brain,
Glides fear-form'd Phantoms 'long the letter'd Floor.

How dread lowr's Darkness o'er the low-brow'd Cell!
Where listless Silence unmolested reigns;
Save when slow-sounding from the echoed Bell,
Time knells his Hours in mournf'ly pleasing Strains.

Save Meditation! when thy moral Muse,
From the shrin'd Porches of St. Nicholas' Dome,
This Vault's illustrious Records would peruse,
And sigh her Speculations o'er the Tomb.

Here sable Solitude has fix'd her Seat,
Sequester'd from the social Scenes of Day;
And mild Humil'ty from this hoar Retreat,
Pours on the tear-thaw'd Soul her lev'ling Lay.

DEATH, vengef'ly trampling on the Neck of Pride,
Here grins terrific o'er his triumph'd Spoil;
And Horror guards, with dread-imposing Stride,
Th' unnotic'd Tenants of this lonely Soil.

Ah how unnotic'd! since the Pomp of Pow'r
No more shall wait them, on attendant Wing;
No more convey them to the scented Bow'r,
Where wantons Pleasure on the Lap of Spring.

Nor pamper'd LUXURY, Fiend of Hell!
That wilef'ly poisons as she pleasures Sense;
Nor Memry's Wail, nor wild-ey'd Sorrow's Yell,
Shall rouse the Lethe-drench'd Slumberers hence.

The moulder'd Bones this loos'ning Lead unbears,
Wore once, perhaps, the purple Robe of State;
E'er Time had silver'd o'er their honour'd Hairs,
Or weeping Elegy bemoan'd their Fate.

Or mov'd some softer Female's fair Machine,
Vibrated sweetly to the Springs of Thought;
Tho' low lies now that lofty-bearing Mien,
Vain Value once and prideful Passion taught.

Ah me! how fall'n thy vermeil-tinted Cheek,
Where Beauty bid her blushing Roses glow;
Where Joy in dimpled Smiles had learnt to speak,
Or salt Tears trickled to the Plaint of Woe.

E'en back retorted from the crumbling Clay,
To Silence now, and sullen Darkness doom'd:
Loath'd Vision shrinks, — nor heeds the blasted Spray,
Where vivid once soul-thrilling Charms have bloom'd.

Say, fashion'd Heav'n her featur'd Form in vain,
To sleep the Victim of eternal Death;
Or, settled on her Soul's etherial Train,
The short-liv'd Tenure of moment'ry Breath?

Not so Intuition, from th' unbias'd Mind
Shallows the Sapience of omniscient Love;
Nor e'er rapt Revelation thus confin'd
Th' illimitable Bounty from above.

His; — who, from Chaos and the Climes of Night,
Where crude Confusion's jarring Atoms howl'd,
Hail'd new-born Beauty to the radiant Light,
That glitter'd from the bright Sun's beamy Gold.

Whose cloud-rapt Ways, unsearchably secure,
None may unfold, or cast a Glance so high;
Nor pierce th' unbounded Prospect of his Pow'r,
Save rapturing FAITH'S perspicient Eye.

What then avails vain Sophistry's Debate,
That proudly soars 'bove boasted Reason's Ken;
That impiously intrudes the Realms of Fate,
To pour Deception on the SONS OF MEN.

[pp. 6-9]