Elegy, by Brooke Boothby

Cicely Mary Barker - The Blackthorn Fairy
Cicely Mary Barker – The Blackthorn Fairy – from Etsy

In 1796, Brooke Boothby published Sorrows. Sacred to the Memory of Penelope, a collection of poems in memory of his deceased daughter Penelope. The collection consists of 24 numbered sonnets, two longer poems both called Elegy, and a final 12-verse poem called Stanzas. In two previous posts I transcribed 7 of the 24 sonnets. Now I reproduce one of its two elegies. In this sad poem, Boothby longs to die and to have his body deposited by a friend into Penelope’s tomb, so that his ashes can mix with hers. Then, being rid of his body, he imagines his daughter greeting him in heaven, taking him by the hand and crowning him with a wreath of flowers.

In the original edition (reproduced by Gale ECCO Print Editions), after the poem there is a drawing of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, an allegory of death seen as a transformation liberating the soul.


Ye vales, that echo to my plaintive cries;
Swell’d with my tears, ye falls, that murmuring flow;
Soft breathing airs, that mingle with my sighs;
Sweet birds, that melt in melody of woe;
Hid with dark alders from the blaze of day,
In yon cool stream, ye herds, that silent stand,
Where silvery shoals approach in amorous play,
Or in light leaps pursue the insect-band;
Green winding paths, that once to pleasure led,
And now in misery end; where still my feet,
By custom drawn, bend with unconsious tread,
And every well known turn unbid repeat;
Flowers, that at eve your silken petals close,
And charged with dew drops, bend your pensive heads;
While night’s pale queen her mildest radiance throws,
And the soft gale rich streams of fragrance sheds,
Sweet soothing scenes of bliss, and of despair;
Full of the loves that brighten’d once my day;
Full of the griefs I now am doom’d to bear,
To you once more I tune my trembling lay!
Stretch wide, ye groves, your vast umbrageous arms;
Hide me, O hide me, in your deepest dell;
Far from the world, and all its idle charms,
In these lone haunts, let me and Sorrow dwell!—
Insensate hope! fate mocks my humble vow;
Now, to these shades I bid a last adieu;
And go, with fifty winters on my brow,
To act life’s sad insanities anew.
And when the short, cold, lingering scene is o’er;
Raised with no graces, warm’d with no applause,
When love and sorrow move this heart no more,
And her eternal veil oblivion draws;
Dropp’d from existence, like a scattered tear
In the vast waves of time’s unfathom’d sea;
While still to some kind friend my name sounds dear,
And love’s fond traces have not ceased to be;
That friend shall penetrate the sacred gloom,
And bear my relicks to yon hallow’d shrine;
Where, join’d for ever in the silent tomb,
My Child’s pure ashes shall be mix’d with mine.
Such mortal life! of elements combined,
Snatch’d from surrounding nature’s ample store;
Soon to the common stock again resign’d,
To feel, to think, to love, and weep, no more.
But if the flame that vibrates in my heart,
—Willing—self-moved—essence too fine to die—
When disencumber’d of its mortal part,
On morning’s wing shall mount yon lunar sky;
As here my Child was wont these eyes to meet,
With joy’s warm blush, and winning smiles of love,
On heaven’s bright threshold she my soul shall greet,
Her hand shall lead me to the realms above,
To those glad fields, bless’d seats, and happy bowers,
Where purer ether sheds a purple day,
Crown me with wreaths of ever blooming flowers,
And sorrow’s tear for ever wipe away!

Previously published on Agapeta, 2015/06/03.

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