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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


Churchill’s Grave

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

I STOOD beside the grave of him who blazed

The comet of a season, and I saw

The humblest of all sepulchres, and gazed

With not the less of sorrow and of awe

On that neglected turf and quiet stone,

With name no clearer than the names unknown

Which lay unread around it; and I asked

The gardener of that ground, why it might be

That for this plant strangers his memory tasked

Through the thick deaths of half a century?

And thus he answered: “Well, I do not know

Why frequent travellers turn to pilgrims so;

He died before my day of sextonship,

And I had not the digging of this grave.”

And is this all? I thought; and do we rip

The veil of immortality, and crave

I know not what of honor and of light

Through unborn ages, to endure this blight,

So soon, and so successless? As I said,

The Architect of all on which we tread—

For earth is but a tombstone—did essay

To extricate remembrance from the clay,

Whose minglings might confuse a Newton’s thought,

Were it not that all life must end in one,

Of which we are but dreamers. As he caught

As ’t were the twilight of a former sun,

Thus spoke he: “I believe the man of whom

You wot, who lies in this selected tomb,

Was a most famous writer in his day,

And therefore travellers step from out their way

To pay him honor,—and myself whate’er

Your honor pleases.” Then most pleased I shook

From out my pocket’s avaricious nook

Some certain coins of silver, which as ’t were

Perforce I gave this man, though I could spare

So much but inconveniently:—ye smile,

I see ye, ye profane ones! all the while

Because my homely phrase the truth would tell.

You are the fools, not I; for I did dwell

With a deep thought and with a softened eye

On that old sexton’s natural homily,

In which there was obscurity and fame,—

The glory and the nothing of a name.