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ALEXANDER POPE

1688-1744

451                                  On a certain Lady at Court

I KNOW a thing thats most uncommon;
   (Envy, be silent and attend!)
I know a reasonable woman,
   Handsome and witty, yet a friend.
Not warpd by passion, awed by rumour;
   Not grave through pride, nor gay through folly,
An equal mixture of good-humour
   And sensible soft melancholy.
Has she no faults then (Envy says), Sir?
   Yes, she has one, I must aver:
When all the world conspires to praise her,
   The womans deaf, and does not hear.

452                               Elegy to the Memory of an
                                             Unfortunate Lady

   WHAT beckning ghost, along the moonlight shade
   Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
Tis she!but why that bleeding bosom gored,
Why dimly gleams the visionary sword?
O, ever beauteous, ever friendly! tell,
Is it, in Heavn, a crime to love too well?
To bear too tender or too firm a heart,
To act a lovers or a Romans part?
Is there no bright reversion in the sky
For those who greatly think, or bravely die?
Why bade ye else, ye Powrs! her soul aspire
Above the vulgar flight of low desire?
Ambition first sprung from your blest abodes;
The glorious fault of angels and of gods;
Thence to their images on earth it flows,
And in the breasts of kings and heroes glows.
Most souls, tis true, but peep out once an age,
Dull sullen prisners in the bodys cage:
Dim lights of life, that burn a length of years,
Useless, unseen, as lamps in sepulchres;
Like Eastern kings a lazy state they keep,
And close confined to their own palace, sleep.
   From these perhaps (ere Nature bade her die)
Fate snatchd her early to the pitying sky.
As into air the purer spirits flow,
And seprate from their kindred dregs below,
So flew the soul to its congenial place,
Nor left one virtue to redeem her race.
   But thou, false guardian of a charge too good!
Thou, mean deserter of thy brothers blood!
See on these ruby lips the trembling breath,
These cheeks now fading at the blast of Death:
Cold is that breast which warmd the world before,
And those love-darting eyes must roll no more.
Thus, if eternal Justice rules the ball,
Thus shall your wives, and thus your children fall;
On all the line a sudden vengeance waits,
And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.
There passengers shall stand, and pointing say
(While the long funrals blacken all the way),
Lo! these were they whose souls the Furies steeld
And cursed with hearts unknowing how to yield.
Thus unlamented pass the proud away,
The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day!
So perish all whose breast neer learnd to glow
For others good, or melt at others woe!
   What can atone (O ever-injured shade!)
Thy fate unpitied, and thy rites unpaid?
No friends complaint, no kind domestic tear
Pleased thy pale ghost, or graced thy mournful bier
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed,
By foreign hands thy humble grave adornd,
By strangers honourd, and by strangers mournd!
What tho no friends in sable weeds appear,
Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year,
And bear about the mockery of woe
To midnight dances, and the public show?
What tho no weeping Loves thy ashes grace,
Nor polishd marble emulate thy face?
What tho no sacred earth allow thee room,
Nor hallowd dirge be mutterd oer thy tomb?
Yet shall thy grave with rising flowrs be drest,
And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast:
There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
There the first roses of the year shall blow;
While angels with their silver wings oershade
The ground now sacred by thy reliques made.
   So peaceful rests, without a stone, a name,
What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame.
How loved, how honourd once, avails thee not,
To whom related, or by whom begot;
A heap of dust alone remains of thee,
Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be!
   Poets themselves must fall, like those they sung,
Deaf the praised ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.
Evn he, whose soul now melts in mournful lays,
Shall shortly want the genrous tear he pays;
Then from his closing eyes thy form shall part,
And the last pang shall tear thee from his heart;
Lifes idle business at one gasp be oer,
The Muse forgot, and thou beloved no more!

453                                   The Dying Christian to his Soul

   VITAL spark of heavnly flame!
   Quit, O quit this mortal frame:
   Trembling, hoping, lingring, flying,
   O the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.
   Hark! they whisper; angels say,
   Sister Spirit, come away!
   What is this absorbs me quite?
   Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirits, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?

The world recedes; it disappears!
Heavn opens on my eyes! my ears
   With sounds seraphic ring!
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
   O Death! where is thy sting?

 

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