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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Elegy Written in Spring

Michael Bruce (1746–1767)

’TIS past: the iron North has spent his rage;

Stern Winter now resigns the length’ning day;

The stormy howlings of the winds assuage,

And warm o’er ether western breezes play.

Of genial heat and cheerful light the source,

From southern climes, beneath another sky,

The sun, returning, wheels his golden course;

Before his beams all noxious vapours fly.

Far to the North grim Winter draws his train

To his own clime, to Zembla’s frozen shore,

Where, throned on ice, he holds eternal reign,

Where whirlwinds madden, and where tempests roar.

Loosed from the bands of frost, the verdant ground

Again puts on her robe of cheerful green,

Again puts on her flowers; and all around,

Smiling, the cheerful face of Spring is seen.

Behold, the trees new deck their withered boughs;

Their ample leaves the hospitable plane,

The taper elm, and lofty ash, disclose;

The blooming hawthorn variegates the scene.

The lily of the vale, of flowers the queen,

Puts on the robe she neither sewed nor spun;

The birds on ground or on the branches green,

Hop to and fro, and glitter in the sun.

Soon as o’er eastern hills the morning peers,

From her low nest the tufted lark upsprings,

And, cheerful singing, up the air she steers;

Still high she mounts, still loud and sweet she sings.

On the green furze, clothed o’er with golden blooms,

That fill the air with fragrance all around,

The linnet sits, and tricks his glossy plumes,

While o’er the wild his broken notes resound.

While the sun journeys down the western sky,

Along the greensward, marked with Roman mound,

Beneath the blithesome shepherd’s watchful eye,

The cheerful lambkins dance and frisk around.

Now is the time for those who wisdom love,

Who love to walk in Virtue’s flowery road,

Along the lovely paths of Spring to rove,

And follow Nature up to Nature’s God.

Thus Zoroaster studied Nature’s laws;

Thus Socrates, the wisest of mankind;

Thus heaven-taught Plato traced th’ almighty Cause,

And left the wond’ring multitude behind.

Thus Ashley gathered academic bays,

Thus gentle Thomson, as the seasons roll,

Taught them to sing the great Creator’s praise,

And bear their poet’s name from pole to pole.

Thus have I walked along the dewy lawn,

My frequent foot the blooming wild hath worn,

Before the lark I’ve sung the beauteous dawn,

And gathered health from all the gales of morn.

And even when Winter chilled the agèd year,

I wandered lonely o’er the hoary plain;

Though frosty Boreas warned me to forbear,

Boreas, with all his tempests, warned in vain.

Then, sleep my nights, and quiet blessed my days;

I feared no loss, my mind was all my store;

No anxious wishes e’er disturbed my ease;

Heaven gave content and health—I asked no more.

Now Spring returns; but not to me returns

The vernal joy my better years have known:

Dim in my breast life’s dying taper burns,

And all the joys of life with health are flown.

Starting and shivering in th’ inconstant wind,

Meagre and pale—the ghost of what I was,

Beneath some blasted tree I lie reclined,

And count the silent moments as they pass—

The wingèd moments, whose unstaying speed

No art can stop, or in their course arrest,

Whose flight shall shortly count me with the dead,

And lay me down in peace with them that rest.

Oft morning dreams presage approaching fate;—

And morning dreams, as poets tell, are true:

Led by pale ghosts, I enter Death’s dark gate,

And bid the realms of light and life adieu.

I hear the helpless wail, the shriek of woe;

I see the muddy wave, the dreary shore,

The sluggish streams that slowly creep below,

Which mortals visit—and return no more.

Farewell, ye blooming fields! ye cheerful plains!

Enough for me the churchyard’s lonely mound,

Where Melancholy with still Silence reigns,

And the rank grass waves o’er the cheerless ground.

There let me wander at the shut of eve,

When Sleep sits dewy on the labourer’s eyes,—

The world and all its busy follies leave,

And talk with Wisdom where my Daphnis lies.

There let me sleep forgotten in the clay,

When Death shall shut these weary aching eyes,—

Rest in the hopes of an eternal day,

Till the long night is gone, and the last morn arise.