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Henry James Pye

(20 February 1745 – 11 August 1813 / London, England)

Elegy I

O Happiness! thou wish of every mind,
Whose form, more subtle than the fleeting air,
Leaves all thy votaries wandering far behind,
Eludes their search, and mocks their anxious care
What distant region holds thy fair retreat,
Where no keen look thy footsteps may surprise?
In what lone desert hast thou fix'd thy seat,
Far from the curious search of mortal eyes?
Amid the jocund race, say, art thou found,
Who pass in mirth the dreary hours of night;
Or in the dance with pliant sinews bound,
Till fades the taper at Aurora's light?
Ah no! when Reason reassumes her sway,
And the tamed blood in calmer current flows,
These joys, like fairy visions, melt away,
And leave the bosom press'd with serious woes.
Or, dost Thou dwell with regal pomp and power,
Rever'd and honor'd by the wise and great?
Ten thousand cares on scepter'd splendor lower,
And bend the weary monarch with their weight.
Or, shall we seek Thee through the ranks of war,
Where bold Ambition leads her daring train;
While the shrill clarion, sounding from afar,
Calls the slow warrior to the purple plain?
Alas not there!—though conquest grace his sword,
Though proudly wave his banners in the air,
By legions guarded, the victorious Lord
Shall find no arms to shield his heart from care.
Dost Thou reside in the gay youth's fond breast,
Who bends obedient to the power of love;
Who, by the fair one he adores caress'd,
May all the joys of mutual transport prove?—
With passion fraught, though smiling now serene,
In soft endearments flow each tender hour;
Too soon, alas! must change the blissful scene,
When time's cold blast shall blow on beauty's flower.
And oft, amid the blooming days of youth,
Inconstancy asserts her fickle reign;
Or pale-ey'd Jealousy, with venom'd tooth,
Cankers the golden links of Hymen's chain.
All calm and safe the tide of love appears,
The youthful poet's ever darling theme;
The venturous pilot there no quicksands fears,
But launches boldly down the flattering stream,
Till on his bark the warring surges break,
And every billow seems to threaten fate:
The voice of Prudence then begins to speak,
But ah, the voice of Prudence speaks too late!
Is bliss sincere then no where to be found,
The vain creation of the Enthusiast's mind?
Or, if she deign to dwell on mortal ground,
Where may we hope her fair abode to find?
The sweets of pleasure, and the pomp of power,
In Luxury's enchanting semblance dress'd,
She slights with deepest scorn; nor will reside
But in the precincts of the virtuous breast.
The virtuous breast, in conscious honour bold,
Will want and pain and death itself despise:
Will from each trying woe, like heated gold,
With greater splendor, greater merit rise.
There she has ever fix'd her firmest throne;
There scorn'd the bolts by rage and malice hurl'd;
And, found by wisdom, and by worth alone,
Mock'd the vain labors of a vicious world.

Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010

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