Elegy On The Death Of Henry Lord Hastings
Poem by John Denham
Reader, preserve thy peace: those busy eyes
Will weep at their own sad discoveries,
When every line they add improves thy loss,
Till, having view'd the whole, they seem a cross,
Such as derides thy passions' best relief,
And scorns the succours of thy easy grief;
Yet lest thy ignorance betray thy name
Of man and pious, read and mourn; the shame
Of an exemption from just sense doth show
Irrational, beyond excess of woe.
Since reason, then, can privilege a tear,
Manhood, uncensured, pay that tribute here
Upon this noble urn. Here, here remains
Dust far more precious than in India's veins;
Within those cold embraces, ravish'd, lies
That which completes the age's tyrannies;
Who weak to such another ill appear,
For what destroys our hope secures our fear.
What sin, unexpiated in this land
Of groans, hath guided so severe a hand?
The late great victim that your altars knew,
Ye angry gods! might have excused this new
Oblation, and have spared one lofty light
Of virtue, to inform our steps aright;
By whose example good, condemned, we
Might have run on to kinder destiny.
But as the leader of the herd fell first
A sacrifice, to quench the raging thirst
Of inflamed vengeance for past crimes, so none
But this white, fatted youngling could atone,
By his untimely fate, that impious smoke,
That sullied earth, and did Heaven's pity choke.
Let it suffice for us that we have lost
In him more than the widow'd world can boast
In any lump of her remaining clay.
Fair as the gray-eyed morn he was; the day,
Youthful, and climbing upwards still, imparts
No haste like that of his increasing parts.
Like the meridian beam, his virtue's light
Was seen as full of comfort, and as bright.
Had his noon been as fixed, as clear--but he,
That only wanted immortality
To make him perfect, now submits to night,
In the black bosom of whose sable spite
He leaves a cloud of flesh behind, and flies,
Refined, all ray and glory, to the skies.
Great saint! shine there in an eternal sphere,
And tell those powers to whom thou now draw'st near,
That by our trembling sense, in Hastings dead,
Their anger and our ugly faults are read,
The short lines of whose life did to our eyes
Their love and majesty epitomise;
Tell them, whose stern decrees impose our laws;
The feasted grave may close her hollow jaws.
Though Sin search Nature, to provide her here
A second entertainment half so dear,
She'll never meet a plenty like this hearse,
Till Time present her with the universe!
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