Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady
Alexander Pope, Works (London: W. Bowyer for Bernard Lintot, 1717). E-10 884 and E-10 885 and E-10 3947 and E-10 3938 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
1 What beck'ning ghost, along the moon-light shade
2Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
3'Tis she!--but why that bleeding bosom gor'd,
4Why dimly gleams the visionary sword?
5Oh ever beauteous, ever friendly! tell,
6Is it, in heav'n, a crime to love too well?
7To bear too tender, or too firm a heart,
8To act a lover's or a Roman's part?
9Is there no bright reversion in the sky,
10For those who greatly think, or bravely die?
11 Why bade ye else, ye pow'rs! her soul aspire
12Above the vulgar flight of low desire?
13Ambition first sprung from your blest abodes;
14The glorious fault of angels and of gods;
15Thence to their images on earth it flows,
16And in the breasts of kings and heroes glows.
17Most souls, 'tis true, but peep out once an age,
18Dull sullen pris'ners in the body's cage:
19Dim lights of life, that burn a length of years
20Useless, unseen, as lamps in sepulchres;
21Like eastern kings a lazy state they keep,
22And close confin'd to their own palace, sleep.
23 From these perhaps (ere nature bade her die)
24Fate snatch'd her early to the pitying sky.
25As into air the purer spirits flow,
26And sep'rate from their kindred dregs below;
27So flew the soul to its congenial place,
28Nor left one virtue to redeem her race.
29 But thou, false guardian of a charge too good,
30Thou, mean deserter of thy brother's blood!
31See on these ruby lips the trembling breath,
32These cheeks now fading at the blast of death:
33Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before,
34And those love-darting eyes must roll no more.
35Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball,
36Thus shall your wives, and thus your children fall;
37On all the line a sudden vengeance waits,
38And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.
39There passengers shall stand, and pointing say,
40(While the long fun'rals blacken all the way)
41"Lo these were they, whose souls the furies steel'd,
42And curs'd with hearts unknowing how to yield.
43Thus unlamented pass the proud away,
44The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day!
45So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow
46For others' good, or melt at others' woe."
47 What can atone (oh ever-injur'd shade!)
48Thy fate unpitied, and thy rites unpaid?
49No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear
50Pleas'd thy pale ghost, or grac'd thy mournful bier.
51By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd,
52By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd,
53By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd,
54By strangers honour'd, and by strangers mourn'd!
55What though no friends in sable weeds appear,
56Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year,
57And bear about the mockery of woe
58To midnight dances, and the public show?
59What though no weeping loves thy ashes grace,
60Nor polish'd marble emulate thy face?
61What though no sacred earth allow thee room,
62Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb?
63Yet shall thy grave with rising flow'rs be drest,
64And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast:
65There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
66There the first roses of the year shall blow;
67While angels with their silver wings o'ershade
68The ground, now sacred by thy reliques made.
69 So peaceful rests, without a stone, a name,
70What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame.
71How lov'd, how honour'd once, avails thee not,
72To whom related, or by whom begot;
73A heap of dust alone remains of thee,
74'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be!
75 Poets themselves must fall, like those they sung,
76Deaf the prais'd ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.
77Ev'n he, whose soul now melts in mournful lays,
78Shall shortly want the gen'rous tear he pays;
79Then from his closing eyes thy form shall part,
80And the last pang shall tear thee from his heart,
81Life's idle business at one gasp be o'er,
82The Muse forgot, and thou belov'd no more!
Publication Start Year:
RPO poem Editors:
N. J. Endicott