Written In A Churchyard, On Seeing Cattle Grazing In It

Be still my heart, and let this moving sight
Whisper a moral to each future lay;
Let this convince how like the lightning's flight
Is earthly pageantry's precarious stay.
Within this place of consecrated trust
The neighbouring herds their daily pasture find;
And idly bounding o'er each hallow'd bust,
Form a sad prospect to the pensive mind.
Whilst o'er the graves thus carelessly they tread,
Allur'd by hunger to the deed profane,
They crop the verdure rising from the bed
Of some fond parent, or some love--sick swain.
No more does vengeance to revenge the deed
Lodge in their breasts, or vigour aid the blow;
The power to make the sad offenders bleed
The prostrate image ne'er again shall know.
Nor can the time--worn epitaph rehearse
The name or titles which its owner bore;
No more the sorrow lives within the verse,
For memory paints the moving scene no more.
Perhaps 'tis one whose noble deeds attain'd
Honour and fame in time of hostile war;--
Whose arm the Captive's liberty regain'd,
And stamp'd his valour with a glorious scar.
Alas! his widow might attend him here,
And children, too, the slow procession join,
And his fond friends indulge the trickling tear
O'er his last honours at the awful shrine.
Perhaps some orphan here might see inurn'd
The only guardian of her orphan years;
And, on the precipice of errors turn'd,
Become reclaim'd by sweet repentant tears.
The lover, too, might strain an eager look,
Once more attempting to survey the fair
Who, for his sake, her early friends forsook,
With him her days of joy or grief to share.
What beauty or what charms adorn'd the frame
Of this cold image, now to earth consign'd;
Or what just praise the heart's high worth might claim,
The time--worn letters now no more remind.
Then what is honour?--what is wealth or fame?
Since the possessor waits the common doom!
As much rever'd we find the peasant's name
As the rich lord's, when in the levelling tomb.
To both alike this tribute we may send,
The heart--swollen sigh, or the lamenting tear;
And without difference o'er their ashes bend,
For all distinctions find a level here.
For nought avails the marble o'er each head,
Nor all the art which sculpture can bestow,
To save the memory of the honour'd dead,
Or strike the living with their wonted awe.
Then come, ye vain, whom Fortune deigns to bless,
This scene at once shall all her frauds expose;
And ye who Beauty's loveliest charms possess
From this may find a moral in the rose.
For soon infirmity shall fix her seat,
And dissolution lastly close the scene;
No more shall youth your jocund acts repeat,
Or age relate what graver years have been.
Yet think not death awaits the course of years,
He comes whilst youth her shield of health supports;
In every place the potent king appears,
To youth, to age, to every scene resorts.
But why, my heart, that palpitating beat!
Can death's idea cause that pensive gloom?
Since in the world such thorny cares we meet,
And since 'tis peace within the silent tomb.
Yet still the thought of nature's sad decay,
And the reception in the world unknown,
Must cast a cloud o'er hope's celestial ray,
If not dispell'd by conscious worth alone:
May this support me in the awful hour
When earthly prospects fade before my view;
O! then, my friends, into my bosom pour
Some soothing balsam at the last adieu.
Say, in Elysium we shall meet again,
Nor there shall error hold th' enchanting rod;
But freed from earth at once we'll break the chain,
And thus releas'd shall ne'er offend our God.
Then hence aversion to the body's doom,
Nor let this scene a pensive murmur raise,
Nor let thought grieve when pondering o'er the tomb,
Though on my grave the senseless herd should graze.