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With a new elegance of form, unknown
'Tis but a night, a long and moonless night; We make the grave our bed, and then are gone.
Thus, at the shut of even, the weary bird
DEATH OF LADY COVENTRY.
Written in 1760.
THE midnight clock has tolld-and, hark! the bell
Of death beats slow: heard ye the note profound? It pauses now; and now, with rising knell,
Flings to the hollow gale its sullen sound.
Yes-Coventry is dead. Attend the strain,
Daughters of Albion! ye that, light as air, So oft have tripp'd in her fantastic train,
With hearts as gay, and faces half as fair :
For she was fair beyond your brightest bloom;
(This envy owns, since now her bloom is fled ;) Fair as the forms that, wove in Fancy's loom,
Float in light vision round the poet's head.
Whene'er with soft serenity she smild,
Or caught the orient blush of quick surprise, How sweetly mutable, how brightly wild,
The liquid lustre darted from her eyes!
Each look, each motion, wak'd a new-born grace,
That o'er her form its transient glory cast; Some lovelier wonder soon usurp'd the place,
Chas'd by a charm still lovelier than the last.
That bell again! It tells us what she is;
On what she was, no more the strain prolong: Luxuriant fancy, pause ! an hour like this
Demands the tribute of a serious song.
Maria claims it from that sable bier,
Where cold and wan the slumberer rests her head; In still small whispers to reflection's ear
She breathes the solemn dictates of the dead.
O catch the awful notes, and lift them loud!
Proclaim the theme, by sage, by fool, rever'd ; Hear it, ye young, ye vain, ye great, ye proud!
'Tis Nature speaks, and Nature will be heard.
Yes; ye shall hear, and tremble as ye hear,
While high with health, your hearts exulting leap, E'en in the midst of pleasure's mad career,
The mental monitor shall wake and weep!
For say, than Coventry's propitious star,
What brighter planet on your births arose? Or gave of fortune's gifts an ampler share,
In life to lavish, or by death to lose ?
Early to lose! While borne on busy wing,
Ye sip the nectar of each varying bloom;
Nor fear, while basking in the meads of spring,
The wintry storm that sweeps you to the tomb;
Think of her fate! revere the heavenly hand
That led her hence, though soon, by steps so slow; Long at her couch Death took his patient stand,
And menac'd oft, and oft withheld the blow :
To give reflection time, with lenient art
Each fond delusion from her soul to steal; Teach her from folly peaceably to part,
And wean her from a world she lov'd so well.
Say, are ye sure his mercy shall extend
To you so long a span? Alas, ye sigh! Make then, while yet ye may, your God your friend,
And learn with equal ease to sleep or die !
Nor think the Muse, whose sober voice you hear,
Contracts with bigot frown her sullen brow; Casts round religion's orb the mists of fear,
Or shades with horrors what with smiles should glow.
No-she would warm you with seraphic fire,
Heirs as ye are of heaven's eternal day; Would bid you boldly to that heaven aspire,
Nor sink and slamber in your cells of clay.
Know, ye were form’d to range yon azure field,
In yon ethereal founts of bliss to lave:
The sting from death, the victory from the grave!
Is this the bigot's'rant? Away, ye vain,
Your hopes, your fears, in doubt, in dulness steep; Go sooth your souls, in sickness, grief, or pain,
With the sad solace of eternal sleep!
Yet will I praise you, triflers as ye are,
More than those preachers of your fav’rité creed, Who proudly swell the brazen throat of war,
Who form the phalanx, bid the battle bleed,
Nor wish for more; who conquer but to die.
Hear, Folly, hear, and triumph in the tale ! Like you they reason, not like you enjoy
The breeze of bliss that fills your silken sail!
On pleasure's glittering stream ye gayly steer
Your little course to cold oblivion's shore ; They dare the storm, and through th’inclement year
Stem the rough surge, and brave the torrent's roar.
Is it for glory? That just fate denies ;
Long must the warrior moulder in his shroud, Ere from her trump the heaven-breath'd accents rise,
That lift the hero from the fighting crowd!
Is it his grasp of empire to extend ?
To curb the fury of insulting foes ? Ambition, cease! the idle contest end :
'Tis but a kingdom thou canst win or lose.
And why must murder'd myriads lose their all,
(If life be all,) why desolation lower