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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Lines Written in the Churchyard of Richmond, Yorkshire

Herbert Knowles (1798–1817)

  • “It is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”
  • —Matt. xvii. 4.

  • METHINKS it is good to be here;

    If Thou wilt, let us build—but for whom?

    Nor Elias nor Moses appear,

    But the shadows of eve that encompass the gloom,

    The abode of the dead and the place of the tomb.

    Shall we build to Ambition? Oh, no!

    Affrighted, he shrinketh away;

    For see! they would pin him below,

    In a small narrow cave, and, begirt with cold clay,

    To the meanest of reptiles a peer and a prey.

    To Beauty? Ah, no!—she forgets

    The charms which she wielded before—

    Nor knows the foul worm that he frets

    The skin which but yesterday fools could adore,

    For the smoothness it held, or the tint which it wore.

    Shall we build to the purple of Pride—

    The trappings which dizen the proud?

    Alas! they are all laid aside;

    And here’s neither dress nor adornment allowed,

    But the long winding-sheet, and the fringe of the shroud.

    To Riches? Alas! ’tis in vain;

    Who hid, in their turn have been hid:

    The treasures are squander’d again;

    And here in the grave are all metals forbid,

    But the tinsel that shone on the dark coffin-lid.

    To the pleasures which Mirth can afford—

    The revel, the laugh, and the jeer?

    Ah! here is a plentiful board!

    But the guests are all mute as their pitiful cheer,

    And none but the worm is a reveller here.

    Shall we build to Affection and Love?

    Ah, no! they have wither’d and died,

    Or fled with the spirit above;

    Friends, brothers, and sisters, are laid side by side,

    Yet none have saluted, and none have replied.

    Unto Sorrow?—The dead cannot grieve:

    Not a sob, not a sigh meets mine ear,

    Which compassion itself could relieve!

    Ah! sweetly they slumber, nor hope, love, nor fear—

    Peace, peace is the watchword, the only one here!

    Unto Death, to whom Monarchs must bow?

    Ah, no! for his empire is known,

    And here there are trophies enow!

    Beneath—the cold dead, and around—the dark stone,

    Are the signs of a Sceptre that none may disown!

    The first tabernacle to Hope we will build,

    And look for the sleepers around us to rise!

    The second to Faith, which ensures it fulfill’d;

    And the third to the Lamb of the great sacrifice,

    Who bequeath’d us them both when He rose to the skies.