1809
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegiac Effusion on the Death of Major James Miles.

The Carolina Gazette (2 June 1809).

Edwin


Twenty-two quatrains signed "Edwin" in the manner of Gray's Elegy: "The frequent plaudit of th' enraptur'd croud, | The Roman virtue throbbing at the breast; | The noble deed, which, silent, speaks more loud | Than Thunder — cannot length of days impart." The poem memorializes James Miles, "Who fell from his Horse, and expired on the Evening of the 3d of April." The poet modifies the Gray's sentiments, lamenting an early death as opposed to an obscure death. The poem is presented as "For the Carolina Gazette," a Charleston, South Carolina newspaper.



Where yonder Pile its solemn front uprears,
Where yonder Cedars wave through the gloom,
Mourn'd by affection's fond regretting tears,
Is generous MILES'S consecrated tomb.

No marbled epitaph, with pompous line,
Attaches splendor to his fleeting name;
No incense cull'd from Flatt'ry's brazon shrine,
Lights the cold grave with mad Ambition's flame:

But the pale moon-beam lingers on the sod,
The dewy flow'rets o'er the green-sward weep,
Wild roses bloom around the dark abode,
Where Honor, Virtue, Patriotism sleep.

Alas! of what avail is Virtue's glow,
What Honor prompts, or Patriotism fires,
When fate relentless gives the deadly blow,
When live's dim, fev'rish, vap'rish lamp expires?

The syren Hope, who bids the future rise,
In long perspective to th' admiring eye,
At Death's approach, with magic swiftness flies,
And leaves her victim to despair and die.

The frequent plaudit of th' enraptur'd croud,
The Roman virtue throbbing at the breast;
The noble deed, which, silent, speaks more loud
Than Thunder — cannot length of days impart.

Then, what is life? — a transient ray of light,
A Bubble, bursting on the frothy wave,
A Pilgrim, wand'ring through the depths of night,
No eye to pity, and no arm to save!

When falt'ring age steals slowly to the tomb,
When ling'ring life, with solemn pace retires;
When fifty winters blast the roseate bloom,
And stricken genius weeps her languid birth!

Say, who would weep, till Sorrow's self were vain,
When the grey Sire sinks in placid sleep;
The mourner's loss, but his eternal gain,
When Nature calls him, who shall dare to weep!

No — doating memory will oft restore,
The fiery track which gave him to his God;
Comfort shall whisper, Sorrow weep no more,
And resignation, kneeling, kiss the rod!

But when the Man, with beaming virtues crown'd,
In health's full tide, dreams not destruction nigh,
While Summer prospects spread themselves around,
Is call'd, alas! too suddenly to die—

When the soft bond of matrimonial bliss,
In one sad moment is in sunder torn;
Without a tender sigh, a parting kiss,
His children orphan'd, and a wife forlorn!

Oh, who shall calm the widow's bursting grief,
Who still the tort'ring tumult of her soul?
What balm in Mecca can afford relief,
Or bid the gushing torrent cease to roll?

What stoic brow shall frown upon the child,
When low he bends him o'er a parent's bier?
Who teach him, with stern fate be reconcil'd,
And check the anguish of the filial tear?

Go hence, vain sophist! ope the icy door,
Where lies the form of dear, regretted MILES;
To the wan cheek the rosy blush restore,
Light the clos'd eye with soft and living smiles:

Then shall the mourner join the festive throng,
While vernal chaplets round her temples twine;
The vales shall gladden with the infant's song,
And sorrow all her black'ning weeds resign.

No more — alas! — Death will not loose his hold,
No vital ray can pierce the vaulted gloom;
Bloody and silent, comfortless and cold,
The husband, father, moulders in the tomb!

Unhappy MILES! how cruel was thy fate,
Some desperate spirit surely rul'd the hour!
Thy doom — severe! thy life — too short its date,
Chequer'd and ting'd by fell misfortune's power!

Around thy grave let gentlest zephyrs play,
And many a flower deck the grass green heap;
Let plaintive sounds be heard at close of day,
And guardian angels there a vigil keep.

Oh, far from thence let cautious Malice stray,
Let jaundiced Envy never haunt the grove;
But there let Friendship lengthen out her stay,
And in sad dirges own excessive love!

There too, while memory sits at eve reclin'd,
With streaming eyes thy virtues will she scan;
The generous heart — the free, unfetter'd mind,
Thy country's friend — the fervent friend of man!

The woe-fraught whip-poor-will shall there complain,
And utter wailings 'neath the midnight sky;
Pity shall listen to the solemn strain,
And fond Affection heave the plaintive sigh!

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