Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
The Bard
By Thomas Gray (1716–1771)
 
I. 1.
‘RUIN seize thee, ruthless King!
  Confusion on thy banners wait;
Tho’ fanned by Conquest’s crimson wing,
  They mock the air with idle state.
Helm, nor hauberk’s twisted mail,        5
Nor e’en thy virtues, Tyrant, shall avail
  To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,
  From Cambria’s curse, from Cambria’s tears!’
Such were the sounds that o’er the crested pride
  Of the first Edward scattered wild dismay,        10
As down the steep of Snowdon’s shaggy side
  He wound with toilsome march his long array.
Stout Gloster stood aghast in speechless trance:
‘To arms!’ cried Mortimer, and couched his quivering lance.
 
I. 2.
  On a rock, whose haughty brow
        15
Frowns o’er cold Conway’s foaming flood,
  Robed in the sable garb of woe,
With haggard eyes the poet stood;
(Loose his beard, and hoary hair
Streamed, like a meteor, to the troubled air)        20
And with a master’s hand, and prophet’s fire,
Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre.
  ‘Hark, how each giant-oak, and desert cave,
Sighs to the torrent’s awful voice beneath!
O’er thee, oh King! their hundred arms they wave,        25
  Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe;
Vocal no more, since Cambria’s fatal day,
To high-born Hoel’s harp, or soft Llewellyn’s lay.
 
I. 3.
  ‘Cold is Cadwallo’s tongue,
  That hushed the stormy main:        30
Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed:
  Mountains, ye mourn in vain
  Modred, whose magic song
Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topt head.
  On dreary Arvon’s shore they lie,        35
Smeared with gore, and ghastly pale:
Far, far aloof th’ affrighted ravens sail;
  The famished eagle screams, and passes by.
Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,
  Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,        40
Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
  Ye died amidst your dying country’s cries—
No more I weep. They do not sleep.
  On yonder cliffs, a griesly band,
I see them sit, they linger yet,        45
  Avengers of their native land:
With me in dreadful harmony they join,
And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.
 
II. 1.
  ‘Weave the warp, and weave the woof,
The winding sheet of Edward’s race.        50
  Give ample room, and verge enough
The characters of hell to trace.
Mark the year, and mark the night,
When Severn shall re-echo with affright
The shrieks of death, thro’ Berkley’s roof that ring,        55
Shrieks of an agonizing king!
  She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs,
That tear’st the bowels of thy mangled mate,
  From thee be born, who o’er thy country hangs
The scourge of heaven. What terrors round him wait!        60
Amazement in his van, with flight combined,
And sorrow’s faded form, and solitude behind.
 
II. 2.
  ‘Mighty victor, mighty lord! Low on his funeral couch he lies!
  No pitying heart, no eye, afford
A tear to grace his obsequies.        65
  Is the sable warrior fled?
Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead.
The swarm, that in thy noontide beam were born?
Gone to salute the rising morn.
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,        70
  While proudly riding o’er the azure realm
In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes;
  Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm;
Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind’s sway,
That, hushed in grim repose, expects his evening prey.        75
 
II. 3.
  ‘Fill high the sparkling bowl,
The rich repast prepare,
  Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast:
Close by the regal chair
  Fell Thirst and Famine scowl        80
  A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.
Heard ye the din of battle bray,
  Lance to lance, and horse to horse?
  Long years of havoc urge their destined course,
And thro’ the kindred squadrons mow their way.        85
  Ye towers of Julius, London’s lasting shame,
With many a foul and midnight murder fed,
  Revere his consort’s faith, his father’s fame,
And spare the meek usurper’s holy head.
Above, below, the rose of snow,        90
  Twined with her blushing foe, we spread:
The bristled boar in infant-gore
  Wallows beneath the thorny shade.
Now, brothers, bending o’er the accursed loom,
Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.        95
 
III. 1.
  ‘Edward, lo! to sudden fate
(Weave we the woof. The thread is spun.)
  Half of thy heart we consecrate.
(The web is wove. The work is done.)
Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn        100
Leave me unblessed, unpitied, here to mourn:
In yon bright track, that fires the western skies,
They melt, they vanish from my eyes.
But oh! what solemn scenes on Snowdon’s height
  Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?        105
Visions of glory, spare my aching sight!
  Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!
No more our long-lost Arthur we bewail.
All hail, ye genuine kings, Britannia’s issue, hail!
 
III. 2.
  ‘Girt with many a baron bold
        110
Sublime their starry fronts they rear;
  And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old
In bearded majesty, appear.
In the midst a form divine!
Her eye proclaims her of the Briton-line;        115
Her lion-port, her awe-commanding face,
Attempered sweet to virgin-grace.
What strings symphonious tremble in the air,
  What strains of vocal transport round her play.
Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;        120
  They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
Bright Rapture calls, and soaring as she sings,
Waves in the eye of heaven her many-coloured wings.
 
III. 3.
‘The verse adorn again
  Fierce war, and faithful love,        125
And truth severe, by fairy fiction drest.
  In buskined measures move
Pale grief, and pleasing pain,
With horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast.
  A voice, as of the cherub-choir,        130
Gales from blooming Eden bear;
And distant warblings lessen on my ear,
  That lost in long futurity expire.
Fond impious man, think’st thou yon sanguine cloud,
  Raised by thy breath, has quenched the orb of day?        135
To-morrow he repairs the golden flood,
  And warms the nations with redoubled ray.
Enough for me; with joy I see
  The different doom our fates assign.
Be thine despair, and sceptred care,        140
  To triumph, and to die, are mine.’
He spoke, and headlong from the mountain’s height
Deep in the roaring tide he plunged to endless night.
 
 
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