O thou! before whose haggard eyes
A thousand images arise,
Whose forms of horror none may see,
But with a soul disturb’d by thee!
Wilt thon for ever haunt mankind,
And glare upon the darken’d mind!
Whene’er thou enterest a breast,
Thou robb’st it of its joy and rest;
And terrible, and strange to tell,
On what that mind delights to dwell.
The ruffian’s knife with reeking blade,
The stranger murder’d in his bed:
The howling wind, the raging deep,
The sailor’s cries, the sinking ship:
The awful thunder breaking round:
The yauning gulf, the rocking ground:
The precipice, whose low’ring brow
O’erhangs the horrid deep below;
And tempts the wretch, worn out with strife,
Of worldly cares, to end his life.
But when thou raisest to the fight
Unearthly forms that walk the night,
The chilly blood, with magic art,
Runs backward on the stoutest heart.
Lo! in his post the soldier stands[See Spectator, No. 12.]!
The deadly weapon in his hands.
In front of death he rushes on,
Renown with life is cheaply won,
Whilst all his soul with ardour burns,
And to the thickest danger turns.
But see the man alone, unbent,
A church-yard near, and twilight spent,
Returning late to his abode,
Upon an unfrequented road:
No choice is left, his feet must tread
The awful dwelling of the dead.
In foul mist doth the pale moon wade,
No twinkling star breaks thro’ the shade:
Thick rows of trees increase the gloom,
And awful silence of the tomb.
Swift to his thoughts, unbidden, throng
Full many a tale, forgotten long,
Of ghosts, who at the dead of night
Walk round their graves all wrapt in white,
And o’er the church-yard dark and drear,
Becken the traveller to draw near:
And restless sprites, who from the ground,
Just as the midnight clock doth sound,
Rise slowly to a dreadful height,
Then vanish quickly from the fight:
And wretches who, returning home,
By chance have stumbled near some tomb,
Athwart a coffin or a bone,
And three times heard a hollow groan;
With fearful steps he takes his way,
And shrinks, and wishes it were day.
He starts and quakes at his own tread,
But dare not turn about his head.
Some sound he hears on ev’ry side;
And thro’ the trees strange phantoms glide.
His heart beats thick against his breast,
And hardly stays within its chest:
Wild and unsettled are his eyes;
His quicken’d hairs begin to rise:
Ghastly and strong his features grow;
The cold dew trickles from his brow;
Whilst grinning beat his clatt’ring teeth,
And loosen’d knock his joints beneath.
As to the charnel he draws nigh
The whiten’d tomb-stone strikes his eye:
He starts, he stops, his eye-balls glare,
And settle in a death-like stare:
Deep hollow sounds ring in his ear;
Such sounds as dying wretches hear
When the grim dreaded tyrant calls,
A horrid sound, he groans and falls.