Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Elegy
By Mather Byles (1706–1788)
 
Addressed to Governor Belcher on the Death of His Lady.

BELCHER, once more permit the muse you loved,
By honor, and by sacred friendship moved,
Waked by your woe, her numbers to prolong,
And pay her tribute in a funeral song.
 
  From you, great heaven with undisputed voice,        5
Has snatch’d the partner of your youthful joys.
Her beauties, ere slow hectic fires consumed,
Her eyes shone cheerful, and her roses bloom’d:
Long lingering sickness broke the lovely form,
Shock after shock, and storm succeeding storm,        10
Till death, relentless, seized the wasting clay,
Stopp’d the faint voice, and catch’d the soul away.
 
  No more in converse sprightly she appears,
With nice decorum, and obliging airs:
Ye poor, no more expecting round her stand,        15
Where soft compassion stretch’d her bounteous hand
Her house, her happy skill no more shall boast;
“Be all things plentiful, but nothing lost.”
Cold to the tomb, see the pale corpse convey’d,
Wrapt up in silence, and the dismal shade.        20
 
  Ah! what avail the sable velvet spread,
And golden ornaments amidst the dead?
No beam smiles there, no eye can there discern
The vulgar coffin from the marble urn:
The costly honors, preaching, seem to say,        25
“Magnificence must mingle with the clay.”
 
  Learn here, ye fair, the frailty of your face,
Ravish’d by death, or nature’s slow decays:
Ye great, must so resign your transient power,
Heroes of dust, and monarchs of an hour!        30
So must each pleasing air, each gentle fire,
And all that’s soft, and all that’s sweet expire.
 
  But you, O Belcher, mourn the absent fair,
Feel the keen pang, and drop the tender tear:
The God approves that nature do her part,        35
A panting bosom, and a bleeding heart.
Ye baser arts of flattery, away!
The virtuous muse shall moralize her lay.
To you, O favorite man, the power supreme,
Gives wealth, and titles, and extent of fame;        40
Joys from beneath, and blessings from above;
Thy monarch’s plaudit; and thy people’s love:
The same high power, unbounded, and alone,
Resumes his gifts, and puts your mourning on.
His edict issues, and his vassal, death,        45
Requires your consort’s,—or your flying breath.
Still be your glory at his feet to bend,
Kiss thou the Son, and own his sovereign hand;
For his high honors all thy powers exert,
The gifts of nature, and the charms of art;        50
So, over death, the conquest shall be given,
Your name shall live on earth, your soul in heaven.
 
Meantime my name to thine allied shall stand,
Still our warm friendship, mutual flames extend;
The muse shall so survive from age to age,        55
And Belcher’s name protect his Byles’s page.
 
 
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