An Antient Fragment Found in the Skeleton Case of the County Hospital at York
Behold this ruin! — ’twas a skull
Once of ethereal spirit full!
This narrow cell was life’s retreat,
This space was Thought’s mysterious seat:
What beauteous pictures fill’d this spot!
What dreams of pleasure long forgot!
Nor Love, nor Joy, nor Hope, nor Fear
Has left one feeble record here!
Beneath this mould’ring canopy
Once shone the bright and busy eye!
But start not at the gloomy void!
If Social Love that eye employ’d,
If with no lawless fire it gleam’d,
But thro’ the dew of kindness beam’d,
That eye shall be for ever bright
When stars and sun have lost their light!
Here, in this silent cavern hung
The ready, swift, and tuneful tongue!
If Falsehood’s honey it disdain’d
And when it could not praise, was chain’d;
If bold in Virtue’s cause it spoke,
Yet peaceful Concord never broke
That tuneful tongue shall plead for thee
When Death unveils Eternity!
Perhaps these fingers, shrunk and bare,
Might once adorn the diamond’s glare;
To delve the more or wear the gem
Can nothing now avail to them:
But if the prose of peace they sought
And comfort to the mourner brought
These hands a richer meed shall claim
Than all that waits on Wealth or Fame!
Avails it whether bare or shod
These feet the path of duty trod?
If from the bow’rs of Vice they fled
To seek the poor man’s friendless bed,
If Grandeur’s guilty bribe they spurn’d
And home to Virtue’s lap return’d
Those feet with angel-wings shall vie
And tread the Palace of the Sky!
Perhaps the enclosed may deserve a place among the sprightlier Jeu d’esprits in the Attic Chest.