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Poem by George Gordon Byron
I STOOD beside the grave of him who blazed The comet of a season, and I saw The humblest of all sepulchres, and gazed With not the less of sorrow and of awe On that neglected turf and quiet stone, With name no clearer than the names unknown Which lay unread around it; and I asked The gardener of that ground, why it might be That for this plant strangers his memory tasked Through the thick deaths of half a century? And thus he answered: “Well, I do not know Why frequent travellers turn to pilgrims so; He died before my day of sextonship, And I had not the digging of this grave.” And is this all? I thought; and do we rip The veil of immortality, and crave I know not what of honor and of light Through unborn ages, to endure this blight, So soon, and so successless? As I said, The Architect of all on which we tread— For earth is but a tombstone—did essay To extricate remembrance from the clay, Whose minglings might confuse a Newton’s thought, Were it not that all life must end in one, Of which we are but dreamers. As he caught As ’t were the twilight of a former sun, Thus spoke he: “I believe the man of whom You wot, who lies in this selected tomb, Was a most famous writer in his day, And therefore travellers step from out their way To pay him honor,—and myself whate’er Your honor pleases.” Then most pleased I shook From out my pocket’s avaricious nook Some certain coins of silver, which as ’t were Perforce I gave this man, though I could spare So much but inconveniently:—ye smile, I see ye, ye profane ones! all the while Because my homely phrase the truth would tell. You are the fools, not I; for I did dwell With a deep thought and with a softened eye On that old sexton’s natural homily, In which there was obscurity and fame,— The glory and the nothing of a name.
George Gordon Byron
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