Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
On the Death of Waller
By Aphra Behn (1640–1689)
 
HOW to thy sacred memory shall I bring,
Worthy thy fame, a grateful offering?
I, who by toils of sickness am become
Almost as near as thou art to a tomb,
While every soft and every tender strain        5
Is ruffled and ill-natured grown with pain?
But at thy name my languished muse revives,
And a new spark in the dull ashes strives;
I hear thy tuneful verse, thy song divine,
And am inspired by every charming line.        10
But oh!
What inspiration, at the second hand,
Can an immortal elegy command?
Unless, like pious offerings, mine should be
Made sacred, being consecrate to thee.        15
Eternal as thy own almighty verse,
Should be those trophies that adorn thy hearse,
The thought illustrious and the fancy young,
The wit sublime, the judgment fine and strong,
Soft as thy notes to Sacharissa sung;        20
Whilst mine, like transitory flowers, decay,
That come to deck thy tomb a short-lived day,
Such tributes are, like tenures, only fit
To show from whom we hold our right to wit.
 
Long did the untun’d world in ignorance stray,        25
Producing nothing that was great and gay,
Till taught by thee the true poetic way;
Rough were the tracks before, dull and obscure,
Nor pleasure nor instruction could procure;
Their thoughtless labours could no passion move,        30
Sure, in that age, the poets knew not love.
That charming god, like apparitions, then,
Was only talked on, but ne’er seen by men.
Darkness was o’er the Muses’ land displayed,
And even the chosen tribe unguided strayed,        35
Till, by thee rescued from the Egyptian night,
They now look up and view the god of light,
That taught them how to love, and how to write.
 
 
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