On the Death of Sir Erasmus Philips

Unfortunately drowned in the River Avon, near Bath, October 15, 1743

Why dash the floods! What cries my soul affright!
How steep the precipice! How dark the night!
Then Virtue sunk in Avon’s fatal wave,
No friend to succour, no kind hand to save; 
The circling waters hide his sinking head,
The treach’rous bottom forms his oozy bed. 
Behold the bloated corpse, the visage pale; 
See here what virtue, wealth, and birth avail.
What now remains beneath this load of pain?
To weep is nature, but to weep is vain.
What now remains? It yet remains to try 
What hope, what peace, religion can supply: 
It yet remains to catch the parting ray,
To note his worth ere mem’ry fade away,
To mark how various excellence combin’d, 
Recount his virtues, and transcribe his mind. 
It yet remains with holy rites to lay,
The breathless reliques in their kindred day.
Ye wise, ye good, the holy rites attend,
Here lies the wise man’s guide, the good man’s friend.
Awhile let faith exalt th’ adoring eye, 
And meditation deep suspend the sigh;
Then close the grave, and sound the fun’ral knell,
Each drop a tear, and take a last farewell; 
In peace retire, and wish to live as well.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.