Elegy VIII. He Describes His Early Love of Poetry, and Its Consequences

To Mr. Graves, 1745.

Ah me! what envious magic thins my fold?
What mutter'd spell retards their late increase?
Such lessening fleeces must the swain behold,
That e'er with Doric pipe essays to please.

I saw my friends in evening circles meet;
I took my vocal reed, and tuned my lay;
I heard them say my vocal reed was sweet:
Ah, fool! to credit what I heard them say.

Ill-fated Bard! that seeks his skill to show,
Then courts the judgment of a friendly ear;
Not the poor veteran, that permits his foe
To guide his doubtful step, has more to fear.

Nor could my Graves mistake the critic's laws,
Till pious Friendship mark'd the pleasing way:
Welcome such error! ever bless'd the cause!
E'en though it led me boundless leagues astray.

Couldst thou reprove me, when I nursed the flame,
On listening Cherwell's osier banks reclined?
While, foe to Fortune, unseduced by Fame,
I soothed the bias of a careless mind?

Youth's gentle kindred, Health and Love, were met;
What though in Alma's guardian arms I play'd?
How shall the Muse those vacant hours forget?
Or deem that bliss by solid cares repaid?

Thou know'st how transport thrills the tender breast
Where Love and Fancy fix their opening reign;
How Nature shines, in livelier colours drest,
To bless their union, and to grace their train.

So first when Phœbus met the Cyprian queen,
And favour'd Rhodes beheld their passion crown'd,
Unusual flowers enrich'd the painted green,
And swift spontaneous roses blush'd around.

Now sadly lorn, from Twitnam's widow'd bower
The drooping Muses take their casual way,
And where they stop, a flood of tears they pour;
And where they weep, no more the fields are gay.

Where is the dappled pink, the sprightly rose?
The cowslip's golden cup no more I see:
Dark and discolour'd every flower that blows,
To form the garland, Elegy! for thee.

Enough of tears has wept the virtuous dead;
Ah! might we now the pious rage control!
Hush'd be my grief ere every smile be fled,
Ere the deep-swelling sigh subvert the soul!

If near some trophy spring a stripling bay,
Pleased we behold the graceful umbrage rise;
But soon too deep it works its baneful way,
And low on earth the prostrate ruin lies.

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