Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Gray's Elegy Reworked by W. S. Gilbert

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Gray's Elegy Reworked by W. S. Gilbert

Article excerpt

If a poet requires his poetical fires

To ignite with improved incandescence,

Then the place and the time he selects for his rhyme

Will turn out to be just of the essence.

He will certainly find his acuteness of mind

(Which results in a language more muscular)

Plus his sense of romance to be greatly enhanced

As the atmosphere grows more crepuscular.

And as to the where, I can readily swear,

I predict a swift end to his search

Should he choose to enthuse his recalcitrant Muse

In a graveyard adjunct to a church.

It's an apothegm sound that the dead in the ground

And the gravestones above them erected

Are subjects most suitable for the immutable

Truths our great bards have selected.

Like the veriest peasant, our ends are unpleasant

Whatever our fame or urbanity,

Shut up in a box with no picks to the locks

All our hopes and our wishes are vanity,

Lord Nelson, Will Shakespeare and Nicholas Breakspear

Who finished his life as a Pope,

The ploughboy, the cowboy, the lowest-of-brow boy

And every anonymous dope,

We are all dead as mutton; when bright as a button,

We think that our life waxes jollier,

Yet the older we grow with the more that we know,

We fall prey to a deep melancholia,

Till we find that our pigeon is old-time religion,

Though once we had jibbed at the thought of it. …

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