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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Thomas Gray

290. The Bard

Pindaric Ode

‘RUIN seize thee, ruthless King!

Confusion on thy banners wait!

Tho’ fann’d by Conquest’s crimson wing

They mock the air with idle state.

Helm, nor hauberk’s twisted mail

Nor e’en thy virtues, tyrant, shall avail

To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,

From Cambria’s curse, from Cambria’s tears!’

—Such were the sounds that o’er the crested pride

Of the first Edward scatter’d wild dismay,

As down the steep of Snowdon’s shaggy side

He wound with toilsome march his long array:—

Stout Glo’ster stood aghast in speechless trance;

‘To arms!’ cried Mortimer, and couch’d his quivering lance.

On a rock, whose haughty brow

Frowns o’er old Conway’s foaming flood,

Robed in the sable garb of woe

With haggard eyes the Poet stood;

(Loose his beard and hoary hair

Stream’d like a meteor to the troubled air)

And with a master’s hand and prophet’s fire

Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre:

‘Hark, how each giant-oak and desert-cave

Sighs to the torrent’s awful voice beneath!

O’er thee, O King! their hundred arms they wave

Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe;

Vocal no more, since Cambria’s fatal day,

To high-born Hoel’s harp, or soft Llewellyn’s lay.

‘Cold is Cadwallo’s tongue,

That hush’d the stormy main:

Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed:

Mountains, ye mourn in vain

Modred, whose magic song

Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topt head.

On dreary Arvon’s shore they lie

Smear’d with gore and ghastly pale:

Far, far aloof the affrighted ravens sail;

The famish’d eagle screams, and passes by.

Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,

Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,

Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,

Ye died amidst your dying country’s cries—

No more I weep; They do not sleep;

On yonder cliffs, a griesly band,

I see them sit; They linger yet,

Avengers of their native land:

With me in dreadful harmony they join,

And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.

Weave the warp and weave the woof

The winding sheet of Edward’s race:

Give ample room and verge enough

The characters of hell to trace.

Mark the year, and mark the night,

When Severn shall re-echo with affright

The shrieks of death thro’ Berkley’s roof that ring,

Shrieks of an agonizing king!

She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs

That tear’st the bowels of thy mangled mate,

From thee be born, who o’er thy country hangs

The scourge of Heaven! What terrors round him wait

Amazement in his van, with Flight combined,

And Sorrow’s faded form, and Solitude behind.

‘Mighty victor, mighty lord,

Low on his funeral couch he lies!

No pitying heart, no eye, afford

A tear to grace his obsequies.

Is the sable warrior fled?

Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead.

The swarm that in thy noon-tide beam were born?

—Gone to salute the rising morn.

Fair laughs the Morn, and soft the zephyr blows,

While proudly riding o’er the azure realm

In gallant trim the gilded Vessel goes:

Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm:

Regardless of the sweeping Whirlwind’s sway,

That hush’d in grim repose expects his evening prey.

‘Fill high the sparkling bowl,

The rich repast prepare;

Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast:

Close by the regal chair

Fell Thirst and Famine scowl

A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.

Heard ye the din of battle bray,

Lance to lance, and horse to horse?

Long years of havock urge their destined course,

And thro’ the kindred squadrons mow their way.

Ye towers of Julius, London’s lasting shame,

With many a foul and midnight murder fed,

Revere his Consort’s faith, his Father’s fame,

And spare the meek usurper’s holy head!

Above, below, the rose of snow,

Twined with her blushing foe, we spread:

The bristled boar in infant-gore

Wallows beneath the thorny shade.

Now, brothers, bending o’er the accurséd loom,

Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.

‘Edward, lo! to sudden fate

(Weave we the woof; The thread is spun;)

Half of thy heart we consecrate.

(The web is wove; The work is done.)

—Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn

Leave me unbless’d, unpitied, here to mourn:

In yon bright track that fires the western skies

They melt, they vanish from my eyes.

But O! what solemn scenes on Snowdon’s height

Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?

Visions of glory, spare my aching sight,

Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!

No more our long-lost Arthur we bewail:—

All hail, ye genuine kings! Britannia’s issue, hail!

‘Girt with many a baron bold

Sublime their starry fronts they rear;

And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old

In bearded majesty, appear.

In the midst a form divine!

Her eye proclaims her of the Briton-Line:

Her lion-port, her awe-commanding face

Attemper’d sweet to virgin-grace.

What strings symphonious tremble in the air,

What strains of vocal transport round her play?

Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;

They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.

Bright Rapture calls, and soaring as she sings,

Waves in the eye of Heaven her many-coloured wings.

‘The verse adorn again

Fierce War, and faithful Love,

And Truth severe, by fairy Fiction drest.

In buskin’d measures move

Pale Grief, and pleasing Pain,

With Horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast.

A voice as of the cherub-choir

Gales from blooming Eden bear,

And distant warblings lessen on my ear

That lost in long futurity expire.

Fond impious man, think’st thou yon sanguine cloud

Raised by thy breath, has quench’d the orb of day?

To-morrow he repairs the golden flood

And warms the nations with redoubled ray.

Enough for me: with joy I see

The different doom our fates assign:

Be thine Despair and sceptred Care,

To triumph and to die are mine.’

—He spoke, and headlong from the mountain’s height

Deep in the roaring tide he plunged to endless night.