The Grave

Original Text: 
Robert Blair, The Grave (London: M. Cooper, 1743). D-10 1636 Fisher Rare Book Library
2Some flee the city, some the hermitage;
3Their aims as various, as the roads they take
4In journeying thro' life;--the task be mine,
5To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb;
6Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
7These travellers meet.--Thy succours I implore,
8Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
9The keys of Hell and Death.--The Grave, dread thing!
10Men shiver when thou'rt named: Nature appall'd
11Shakes off her wonted firmness.--Ah ! how dark
12The long-extended realms, and rueful wastes!
13Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
14Dark as was chaos, ere the infant Sun
15Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
16Athwart the gloom profound.--The sickly taper,
17By glimm'ring thro' thy low-brow'd misty vaults,
18(Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime)
19Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
20And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
21Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,
22Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
23'Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
24Where light-heel'd ghosts, and visionary shades,
25Beneath the wan, cold moon (as fame reports)
26Embodied thick, perform their mystic rounds,
27No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.
28      See yonder hallow'd fane;--the pious work
29Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
30And buried midst the wreck of things which were;
31There lie interr'd the more illustrious dead.
32The wind is up:--hark! how it howls!--Methinks,
33'Till now, I never heard a sound so dreary:
34Doors creak, and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
36Black plaster'd, and hung round with shreds of 'scutcheons,
37And tatter'd coats of arms, send back the sound,
38Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
39The mansions of the dead.--Rous'd from their slumbers,
40In grim array the grisly spectres rise,
41Grin horrible, and, obstinately sullen,
42Pass and repass, hush'd as the foot of night.
43Again the screech-owl shrieks--ungracious sound!
44I'll hear no more; it makes one's blood run chill.
45      Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
46(Coeval near with that) all ragged show,
47Long lash'd by the rude winds. Some rift half down
48Their branchless trunks; others so thin at top,
49That scarce two crows can lodge in the same tree.
50Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here;
51Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs;
52Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;
53And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.
54(Such tales their cheer at wake or gossipping,
56      Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
57By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
58The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
59Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
60And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
61(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
62That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
63Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,
64The sound of something purring at his heels;
65Full fast he flies, and dare not look behind him,
66'Till, out of breath, he overtakes his fellows,
67Who gather round and wonder at the tale
69That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
70O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
71Evanishes at crowing of the cock.
72      The new-made widow, too, I've sometimes 'spy'd,
73Sad sight! slow moving o'er the prostrate dead:
74Listless, she crawls along in doleful black,
75While bursts of sorrow gush from either eye,
76Fast falling down her now untasted cheek,
77Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
78She drops; while busy meddling memory,
79In barbarous succession, musters up
80The past endearments of their softer hours,
81Tenacious of its theme. Still, still she thinks
82She sees him, and indulging the fond thought,
83Clings yet more closely to the senseless turf,
84Nor heeds the passenger who looks that way.
85      Invidious Grave!--how dost thou rend in sunder
86Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one?
87A tie more stubborn far than Nature's band.
88Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul,
89Sweet'ner of life, and solder of society,
90I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
91Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
92Oft have I prov'd the labours of thy love,
93And the warm efforts of the gentle heart,
94Anxious to please.--Oh! when my friend and I
95In some thick wood have wander'd heedless on,
96Hid from the vulgar eye, and sat us down
97Upon the sloping cowslip-cover'd bank,
98Where the pure limpid stream has slid along
99In grateful errors thro' the underwood,
100Sweet murmuring; methought the shrill-tongued thrush
101Mended his song of love; the sooty blackbird
102Mellow'd his pipe, and soften'd every note:
103The eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the rose
104Assum'd a dye more deep; whilst ev'ry flower
105Vied with its fellow-plant in luxury
106Of dress--Oh! then the longest summer's day
107Seem'd too too much in haste; still the full heart
108Had not imparted half: 'twas happiness
109Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed,
110Not to return, how painful the remembrance!
....

Notes

1] A didactic poem (about 800 lines long) on death and bereavement. Back to Line
35] rook'd: squatted. Back to Line
55] Cf. Hamlet, III.ii.407. Back to Line
68] Cf. Hamlet I.i.99.
grateful errors: pleasant wanderings. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1743
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.646; RPO 1996-2000.