Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice
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Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
 
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

By Thomas Gray

(English poet and scholar, 1716–1771; Cambridge professor. It is said that Major Wolfe, while sitting in a row-boat on his way to the night attack upon Quebec, remarked that he would rather have been the author of this poem than the taker of the city)
 
OFT did the harvest to their sickle yield,
  Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
  How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
 
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,        5
  Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
  The short and simple annals of the Poor.
 
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
  And all that beauty, all that wealth, e’er gave        10
Await alike th’ inevitable hour:—
  The paths of glory lead but to the grave.…
 
Can storied urn, or animated bust,
  Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can honor’s voice provoke the silent dust,        15
  Or flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?
 
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
  Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,
  Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre;        20
 
But knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
  Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
  And froze the genial current of the soul.
 
Full many a gem of purest ray serene        25
  The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
  And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
 
Some village Hampden, that, with dauntless breast,
  The little tyrant of his fields withstood,        30
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
  Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
 
The applause of listening senates to command,
  The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,        35
  And read their history in a nation’s eyes,
 
Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
  Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
  And shut the gates of mercy on mankind;        40
 
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
  To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of luxury and pride
  With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.
 
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,        45
  Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
  They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
 
 
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