A Funeral Elogy

By William Butler Yeats

    Ask not why hearts turn Magazines of passions,
    And why that grief is clad in sev’ral fashions;
    Why She on progress goes, and doth not borrow
    The smallest respite from th’extreams of sorrow,
    Her misery is got to such an height,
    As makes the earth groan to support its weight,
    Such storms of woe, so strongly have beset her,
    She hath no place for worse, nor hope for better;
    Her comfort is, if any for her be,
    That none can shew more cause of grief then she.
    Ask not why some in mournfull black are clad;
    The Sun is set, there needs must be a shade.
    Ask not why every face a sadness shrowdes;
    The setting Sun ore-cast us hath with Clouds.
    Ask not why the great glory of the Skye
    That gilds the stars with heavenly Alchamy,
    Which all the world doth lighten with his rayes,
    The Persian God the Monarch of the dayes;
    Ask not the reason of his extasie,
    Paleness of late, in midnoon Majesty,
    Why that the palefac’d Empress of the night
    Disrob’d her brother of his glorious light.
    Did not the language of the starrs foretel
    A mournfull Scene when they with tears did swell?
    Did not the glorious people of the Skye
    Seem sensible of future misery?
    Did not the lowring heavens seem to express
    The worlds great lose, and their unhappiness?
    Behold how tears flow from the learned hill,
    How the bereaved Nine do daily fill
    The bosom of the fleeting Air with groans,
    And wofull Accents, which witness their moanes.
    How doe the Goddesses of verse, the learned quire
    Lament their rival Quill, which all admire?
    Could Maro’s Muse but hear her lively strain,
    He would condemn his works to fire again,
    Methinks I hear the Patron of the Spring,
    The unshorn Deity abruptly sing.
    Some doe for anguish weep, for anger I
    That Ignorance should live, and Art should die.
    Black, fatal, dismal, inauspicious day,
    Unblest forever by Sol’s precious Ray,
    Be it the first of Miseries to all;
    Or last of Life, defam’d for Funeral.
    When this day yearly comes, let every one,
    Cast in their urne, the black and dismal stone,
    Succeeding years as they their circuit goe,
    Leap o’re this day, as a sad time of woe.
    Farewell my Muse, since thou hast left thy shrine,
    I am unblest in one, but blest in nine.
    Fair Thespian Ladyes, light your torches all,
    Attend your glory to its Funeral,
    To court her ashes with a learned tear,
    A briny sacrifice, let not a smile appear.
    Grave Matron, whoso seeks to blazon thee,
    Needs not make use of witts false Heraldry;
    Whoso should give thee all thy worth would swell
    So high, as ‘twould turn the world infidel.
    Had he great Maro’s Muse, or Tully’s tongue,
    Or raping numbers like the Thracian Song,
    In crowning of her merits he would be
    Sumptuously poor, low in Hyperbole.
    To write is easie; but to write on thee,
    Truth would be thought to forfeit modesty.
    He’l seem a Poet that shall speak but true;
    Hyperbole’s in others, are thy due.
    Like a most servile flatterer he will show
    Though he write truth, and make the Subject, You.
    Virtue ne’re dies, time will a Poet raise
    Born under better Starrs, shall sing thy praise.
    Praise her who list, yet he shall be a debtor
    For Art ne’re feigned, nor Nature fram’d a better.
    Her virtues were so great, that they do raise
    A work to trouble fame, astonish praise.
    When as her Name doth but salute the ear,
    Men think that they perfections abstract hear.
    Her breast was a brave Pallace, a Broad-street,
    Where all heroick ample thoughts did meet,
    Where nature such a Tenement had tane,
    That others souls, to hers, dwelt in a lane.
    Beneath her feet, pale envy bites her chain,
    And poison Malice whetts her sting in vain.
    Let every Laurel, every Myrtel bough
    Be stript for leaves t’adorn and load her brow.
    Victorious wreathes, which ’cause they never fade
    Wise elder times for Kings and Poets made
    Let not her happy memory e’re lack
    Its worth in Fame’s eternal Almanack,
    Which none shall read, but straight their loss deplore,
    And blame their Fates they were not born before.
    Do not old men rejoyce their Fates did last,
    And infants too, that theirs did make such hast,
    In such a welcome time to bring them forth,
    That they might be a witness to her worth.
    Who undertakes this subject to commend
    Shall nothing find so hard as how to end.

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