Henry James Pye

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

The War-Elegies Of Tyrtæus, Imitated: Elegy I. - Poem by Henry James Pye

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Not mine to sing the racer's rapid flight,
Or the athletic wrestler's sinewy force,
Not tho' his limbs are strung with giant might,
His active steps outstrip the whirlwind's course;
Her richest boons tho' lavish fortune shower,
His form tho' faultless, tho' divine his face,
Tho' deck'd in all the pride of regal power,
Tho' eloquence his every accent grace.
Not all the gifts of glory and of fame,
All genius, and all industry can yield,
If the firm bosom feel not valor's flame,
Can form the hero of the martial field.
If while he sees pale slaughter stalk around
And stain with purple gore the dewy plain,
He shrink inglorious from the threaten'd wound,
Nor in the radiant van of war remain.
This is true glory—this the noblest pride,
The brightest trophy blooming youth can wear;
This real merit in a people's eyes,
Before the rest the battle's rage to dare.
Disdaining even the thought of flight or fear,
His life, his soul, by steady valor steel'd,
He calls to glorious death the lagging rear;
Such is the hero of the martial field.
Now rushing on th'embattled foe amain
He turns his scatter'd ranks to shameful flight,
Now throws his eagle eye across the plain,
Guides the loud storm, and rules the waves of fight.
If in the battle's front he press the ground,
His friends, his parents, and his country's pride,
His manly bosom pierced with many a wound,
His snowy vest with purple glory dyed,
The mingled tear of youth and age is shed,
His funeral rites assembled senates grace,
The trophied banner o'er his tomb is spread,
And fame eternal waits his honor'd race.
Ne'er shall his glory fade, his name be lost,
(Tho' dead, his worth, his mem'ry, ne'er shall die,)
Who falls contending with the adverse host
For every public, every social tie.
But should he 'scape the long long sleep of death
What grateful crowds the godlike victor hail,
What strains of conquest sung with rapt'rous breath,
What shouts triumphant float on ev'ry gale.
Him every age and rank, alike revere,
Around his brows perennial laurels bloom,
'Till blest with ease thro' many a rolling year
He sink in silence to the peaceful tomb.
To guard, to grace the veteran, all contend,
Where e'er he goes his presence reverence draws,
To him warm youth, and firmer manhood bend,
And even the hoary senior bows applause.
Such is the fame that crowns th'heroic deed,
Such the reward of those who nobly dare;
Then snatch from glory's hand th'immortal meed,
Nor linger in the manly toil of war.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 27, 2010



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