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Robert Burns (1759–1796).  Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
173. Elegy on Stella
 
 
  The following poem is the work of some hapless son of the Muses who deserved a better fate. There is a great deal of “The voice of Cona” in his solitary, mournful notes; and had the sentiments been clothed in Shenstone’s language, they would have been no discredit even to that elegant poet.—R. B.
 
 
STRAIT is the spot and green the sod
  From whence my sorrows flow;
And soundly sleeps the ever dear
  Inhabitant below.
 
Pardon my transport, gentle shade,        5
  While o’er the turf I bow;
Thy earthy house is circumscrib’d,
  And solitary now.
 
Not one poor stone to tell thy name,
  Or make thy virtues known:        10
But what avails to me-to thee,
  The sculpture of a stone?
 
I’ll sit me down upon this turf,
  And wipe the rising tear:
The chill blast passes swiftly by,        15
  And flits around thy bier.
 
Dark is the dwelling of the Dead,
  And sad their house of rest:
Low lies the head, by Death’s cold arms
  In awful fold embrac’d.        20
 
I saw the grim Avenger stand
  Incessant by thy side;
Unseen by thee, his deadly breath
  Thy lingering frame destroy’d.
 
Pale grew the roses on thy cheek,        25
  And wither’d was thy bloom,
Till the slow poison brought thy youth
  Untimely to the tomb.
 
Thus wasted are the ranks of men—
  Youth, Health, and Beauty fall;        30
The ruthless ruin spreads around,
  And overwhelms us all.
 
Behold where, round thy narrow house,
  The graves unnumber’d lie;
The multitude that sleep below        35
  Existed but to die.
 
Some, with the tottering steps of Age,
  Trod down the darksome way;
And some, in youth’s lamented prime,
  Like thee were torn away:        40
 
Yet these, however hard their fate,
  Their native earth receives;
Amid their weeping friends they died,
  And fill their fathers’ graves.
 
From thy lov’d friends, when first thy heart        45
  Was taught by Heav’n to glow,
Far, far remov’d, the ruthless stroke
  Surpris’d and laid thee low.
 
At the last limits of our isle,
  Wash’d by the western wave,        50
Touch’d by thy face, a thoughtful bard
  Sits lonely by thy grave.
 
Pensive he eyes, before him spread
  The deep, outstretch’d and vast;
His mourning notes are borne away        55
  Along the rapid blast.
 
And while, amid the silent Dead
  Thy hapless fate he mourns,
His own long sorrows freshly bleed,
  And all his grief returns:        60
 
Like thee, cut off in early youth,
  And flower of beauty’s pride,
His friend, his first and only joy,
  His much lov’d Stella, died.
 
Him, too, the stern impulse of Fate        65
  Resistless bears along;
And the same rapid tide shall whelm
  The Poet and the Song.
 
The tear of pity which he sheds,
  He asks not to receive;        70
Let but his poor remains be laid
  Obscurely in the grave.
 
His grief-worn heart, with truest joy,
  Shall meet he welcome shock:
His airy harp shall lie unstrung,        75
  And silent on the rock.
 
O, my dear maid, my Stella, when
  Shall this sick period close,
And lead the solitary bard
  To his belov’d repose?        80
 

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