Mary Darwall, “Elegy on a much lamented Friend, Who died in Autumn, 1759”


“ELEGY on a much lamented Friend, Who died in Autumn, 1759”


Yet the dull Death-bell smites my trembling Ear;
Yet Fancy sickens o’er Fidelia’s Bier;
Ye weeping Muses, wake the mournful Lyre!
Ye laughing Loves, and jocund Sports, retire!
Fantastic Mirth, and all the smiling Train                                                         5
Of fair Festivity, forsake the Plain!
While gloomy Grief, and ev’ry chearless Pow’r,
Throw darker Horrors o’er this Midnight Hour.
Vot’ries of Woe, your painful Dirges sing!
No more the Muse attunes the sprightly String.                                           10
All, all the Scenes of Joy and Beauty fly,
Clouds dim the Sun, and Tears bedew the Sky:
Fidelia’s Loss see Nature’s self bewail!
Weep in the Stream, and languish in the Gale!
No more the vocal Natives of the Grove                                                          15
Chear the dark Shades, or chant their Songs of Love.
No more the Shepherds pipe, the Virgins sing;
No More the Vales with various Echoes ring:
But pale, and sad, each rural Nymph appears,
With Locks neglected, Eyes be-dim’d with Tears.                                            20
Fidelia’s dead!” they cry, and all around –
Fidelia dead!” the cavern’d Rocks rebound.
Accept, dear Shade, this fondly streaming Tear,
That Friendship sheds on thy untimely Bier.
Ah! what did thy superior Worth avail?                                                            25
Still, still oppos’d by Fortune’s adverse Gale;
Thro’ Life aspers’d by Envy’s black’ning Breath,
Pursu’d by Malice to the Gates of Death;
There, only there the painful Scene was o’er,
All Wrongs forgot, and Anguish wept no more.                                               30
There cold, and peaceful, dear Fidelia sleeps;
No more with palid Care long Vigils keeps;
And there shall sleep, in equal Night inurn’d,
The Friend that lov’d her, and the Fool that scorn’d.
There, wrapt in Shade impervious, Newton lies;                                       35
There lifeless Lely’s Hand, and Myra’s Eyes;
There Thomson’s Harp forgets the moral Song,
Deaf Handel’s Ear, and silent Milton’s Tongue.
There ev’n this Heart, which melts to strains of Woe,
Shall cease to grieve, these streaming Eyes to flow:                                        40
This weary Clay, to Death’s cold Arms consign’d,
Shall give to kindred Skies th’ immortal Mind.


1 Death-bell  “A bell rung at a person’s death or funeral” (OED).

4 jocund  “Feeling, expressing, or communicating mirth or cheerfulness” (OED); Lyre  “A stringed instrument of the harp kind, used by the Greeks for accompanying song and recitation” (OED).

9 Vot’ries Devotees; Dirges  “A song sung at the burial of, or in commemoration of the dead” (OED).

13 bewail  “To wail over, to utter wailings or cries of sorrow over the dead” (OED).

18 Vales  Valleys.

19 Nymph  “Any of a class of semi-divine spirits, imagined as taking the form of a maiden inhabiting the sea, rivers, mountains, woods, trees, etc., and often portrayed in poetry as attendants on a particular god” (OED).

24 Bier  “The movable stand on which a corpse, whether in a coffin or not, is placed before burial; that on which it is carried to the grave” (OED).

33 inurn’d  “To put (the ashes of a cremated body) in an urn; hence transferred, to entomb, bury, inter”  (OED).

35 Newton  Sir Issac Newton (1642-1727), “English physicist and mathematician, who was the culminating figure of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century” (Encylopaedia Britannica).

36 Lely  Sir Peter Lely, (1618-1680), Dutch-born “Baroque portrait painter known for his Van Dyck-influenced likenesses of the mid-seventeenth century English aristocracy” (Encylopaedia Britannica); Myra  Likely a reference to St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, “one of the most popular minor saints commemorated in the Eastern and Western churches and now traditionally associated with the festival of Christmas” (Encylopaedia Britannica).

37 Thomson  James Thomson, (1700-1748), Scottish poet, best known for his long poem, The Seasons; “An Ode on Aeolus’s Harp” is likely referenced in this line (Encylopaedia Britannica).

38 Handel  George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), “German-born composer of the late Baroque era, noted particularly for his operas, oratorios, and instrumental compositions” (Encylopaedia Britannica);  Milton  John Milton, (1608-1674), “poet, pamphleteer, and historian” (Encylopaedia Britannica).

Source: Original Poems on Several Occasions.  By Miss Whateley (London 1764), pp. 23-25. [Google Books]

Edited by Megan Mather

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