Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
November 4
Churchill’s Grave
By Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
          Charles Churchill was an English poet of most erratic habits, who died on Nov. 4, 1764.

I STOOD beside the grave of him who blazed
  The comet of a season, and I saw
The humblest of all sepulchres, and gazed
  With not the less of sorrow and of awe
On that neglected turf and quiet stone,        5
With name no clearer than the names unknown,
Which lay unread around it; and I ask’d
  The Gardener of that ground, why it might be
That for this plant strangers his memory task’d
  Through the thick deaths of half a century?        10
And thus he answer’d: “Well, I do not know
Why frequent travellers turn to pilgrims so;
He died before my day of Sextonship,
  And I had not the digging of this grave.”
And is this all? I thought,—and do we rip        15
  The veil of Immortality? and crave
I know not what of honor and of light
Through unborn ages, to endure this blight?
So soon, and so successless? As I said,
The Architect of all on which we tread,        20
For Earth is but a tombstone, did essay
To extricate remembrance from the clay,
Whose minglings might confuse a Newton’s thought,
Were it not that all life must end in one,
Of which we are but dreamers;—as he caught        25
As ’twere the twilight of a former Sun,
Thus spoke he: “I believe the man of whom
You wot, who lies in this selected tomb,
Was a most famous writer in his day,
And therefore travellers step from out their way        30
To pay to him honor,—and myself whate’er
Your honor pleases.” Then most pleased I shook
From out my pocket’s avaricious nook
Some certain coins of silver, which as ’twere
Perforce I gave this man, though I could spare        35
So much but inconveniently:—Ye smile,
I see ye, ye profane ones! all the while,
Because my homely phrase the truth would tell.
You are the fools, not I—for I did dwell
With a deep thought, and with a soften’d eye,        40
On that old Sexton’s natural homily,
In which there was Obscurity and Fame,—
The Glory and the Nothing of a Name.
 
 
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