Elegy III - Anno Aetates 17.1 - On the Death of the Bishop of Winchester.2

A poem by John Milton

Silent I sat, dejected, and alone,
Making in thought the public woes my own,
When, first, arose the image in my breast
Of England's sufferings by that scourge, the pest.3
How death, his fun'ral torch and scythe in hand,
Ent'ring the lordliest mansions of the land,
Has laid the gem-illumin'd palace low,
And level'd tribes of Nobles at a blow.
I, next, deplor'd the famed fraternal pair4
Too soon to ashes turn'd and empty air,
The Heroes next, whom snatch'd into the skies
All Belgia saw, and follow'd with her sighs;
But Thee far most I mourn'd, regretted most,
Winton's chief shepherd and her worthiest boast;
Pour'd out in tears I thus complaining said
Death, next in pow'r to Him who rules the Dead!
Is't not enough that all the woodlands yield
To thy fell force, and ev'ry verdant field,
That lilies, at one noisome blast of thine,
And ev'n the Cyprian Queen's own roses, pine,
That oaks themselves, although the running rill
Suckle their roots, must wither at thy will,
That all the winged nations, even those
Whose heav'n-directed flight the Future shows,
And all the beasts that in dark forests stray,
And all the herds of Proteus5 are thy prey?
Ah envious! arm'd with pow'rs so unconfined
Why stain thy hands with blood of Human kind?
Why take delight, with darts that never roam,
To chase a heav'n-born spirit from her home?
While thus I mourn'd, the star of evening stood,
Now newly ris'n, above the western flood,
And Phoebus from his morning-goal again
Had reach'd the gulphs of the Iberian main.
I wish'd repose, and, on my couch reclined
Took early rest, to night and sleep resign'd,
When Oh for words to paint what I beheld!
I seem'd to wander in a spacious field,
Where all the champain glow'd with purple light
Like that of sun-rise on the mountain height;
Flow'rs over all the field, of ev'ry hue
That ever Iris wore, luxuriant grew,
Nor Chloris,6 with whom amtrous Zephyrs play,
E'er dress'd Alcinous' gardens7 half so gay.
A silver current, like the Tagus, roll'd
O'er golden sands, but sands of purer gold,
With dewy airs Favonius fann'd the flow'rs,
With airs awaken'd under rosy bow'rs.
Such poets feign, irradiated all o'er
The sun's abode on India's utmost shore.
While I, that splendour and the mingled shade
Of fruitful vines, with wonder fixt survey'd,
At once, with looks that beam'd celestial grace,
The Seer of Winton stood before my face.
His snowy vesture's hem descending low
His golden sandals swept, and pure as snow
New-fallen shone the mitre on his brow.
Where'er he trod, a tremulous sweet sound
Of gladness shook the flow'ry scene around:
Attendant angels clap their starry wings,
The trumpet shakes the sky, all aether rings,
Each chaunts his welcome, folds him to his breast,
And thus a sweeter voice than all the rest.
"Ascend, my son! thy Father's kingdom share,
My son! henceforth be free'd from ev'ry care."
So spake the voice, and at its tender close
With psaltry's sound th'Angelic band arose.
Then night retired, and chased by dawning day
The visionary bliss pass'd all away.
I mourn'd my banish'd sleep with fond concern,
Frequent, to me may dreams like this return.

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