Henry James Pye

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

Elegy V


Thee, sad Melpomene, I once again
Invoke, nor ask the idly plaintive verse:
Quit the light reed for sorrow's sober strain,
And hang thy flowerets on my Delia's herse.
Oft by yon silver fountain's sedgy side,
Or through the twilight shade I us'd to rove,
Have sung her beauties to the listening tide,
And fill'd with notes like these the echoing grove:
‘Ye fragrant roses, bow your blooming heads;
‘For can your sweetness with her breath compare?
‘Ye envious lilies, wither in your beds,
‘For is your boasted whiteness half so fair?’
Vain was the lay; for O! heart-breaking thought!
Those heavenly features ne'er again must charm,
That form divine, with each perfection fraught,
Is struck by Fate's inexorable arm.
Thus far, O Death, thy cruel reign extends!
Before thy sickle falls each blushing flower;
But Virtue on ethereal wings ascends,
And smiles disdainful on thy boasted power.
Guided by her—(for Virtue's sacred lore
Was ever dear to Delia's gentle breast)
She to the endless realms of peace shall soar,
The sacred mansions of eternal rest.
Nor these the wreaths that love and fancy twine
Around the tomb, where rests some flatter'd maid;
But honors, due to merit's hallow'd shrine,
By faithful truth with unfeign'd sorrow paid.
The smallest gleam of hope I ne'er could boast;
And raptur'd love in that dire moment fled,
Which shew'd my dearest wish for ever lost,
Which gave my Delia to a rival's bed.
Yet shall thy memory, dear departed shade,
In this sad breast a place for ever find;
For in thy form each beauty was display'd,
‘To charm the senses, and to fix the mind.’
O! were I skill'd the immortal note to raise,
And down the stream of time to wast thy name!
Then would I sing thy worth in matchless lays,
Bright as thine eyes, and spotless as thy fame.
But, though the Muse such arduous flights denies,
Nor bids with fire divine my fancy glow,
These plaintive numbers nobler truth supplies,
The artless voice of unaffected woe.

Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010

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