“Elegy” by Robert Bolling (1775)


On May 20, 1775, the Virginia Gazette published “Elegy,” a long poem by Robert Bolling, on the deaths of Virginia militiamen at the Battle of Point Pleasant (October 10, 1774) during Dunmore’s War (1773–1774). Some spelling has been modernized and contractions expanded.



That ignorance and envy restrain, and that letters and candour excite the efforts of virtue.

Romulus et liber pater et cum castore pollux,

Post ingentia facta, …

Ploravere suis non respondere favorem

Speratum meritis. …

Urit enim fulgore suo, qui prægravat artes

Infra se positas.



BOLD is the hope, by virtuous deeds

To gain an honoured name:

In truth not ill the man succeeds,

Who ‘scapes severe-ey’d blame.

Though sought with zeal thro’ toil and woe,

Their praise reluctant men bestow.

In hideous envy‘s adverse test

The gold of virtue strict is tried;

A small allay with it allied,

In envy‘s eyes will damn the rest.


The sensualist, his belly full,

And muddied thrice the day,

Can from his sty, profoundly dull,

Grunt worth’s best claims away.

In th’ obscene strife of meat and drink

The creature, one wou’d swear, cou’d think

Worth known, but by comparison:

T’allow another’s—-no; that wou’d

Degrade his own gross turpitude;

He scarce knows why, yet he’ll own none.


The equestrian worthies, and the tribe

Whose souls hang on an ace;

Men, words are wanting to describe,

Ideas to disgrace:

The T–s and M—-ds, that for gains

The world around would fell to chains;

Men horrible, while nations grieve,

Who rail and leer; how, how shou’d they

To virtue her due tribute pay,

Or honour what—-they can’t *conceive!


When, as the blazing flash at night,

Some mightier merit shines,

And envy, poisoned by the sight,

Sits silent, and repines—–

Ah wherefore; in unlettered days,

If Phœbus warm no songsters lays

To paint th’ examples as they pass?

In vain new springs of wealth are shewn;

In vain around fresh blessings thrown;

In vain by heroes stained the grass.


Unhonoured in unconscious clay

Our worthy sires repose;

Though wise and active in their day,

Oblivion‘s shades enclose.

With us, they to our laws gave birth;

With being, they gave being worth,

Freedom——and spirit to sustain:

Yet ah! among those thousands dead,

Say—in what page—whose virtues, read,

Bid through the heart sweet tumult reign?


Envy ‘gainst merit in the dust

Her vipers warms no more;

Say why then—those great, good, and just,

Must endless shades obscure?

Because no muses in their times

To home-born merit tun’d their rhymes:

Heaven call’d it hence, to brighter spheres.

Lost on new sons of eastern gales

Tradition told her dubious tales;

And time hath brushed them from our ears.


But NOW, her fair and vivid light

On crowds of tuneful souls

When SCIENCE beams, and eggs their flight;

Her impulse what controls?

Invidious of each other grown

Thy votaries, PHOEBUS, they alone

Th’ inspiring rage, O shame, restrain;

And JEALOUSY with eyes malign

From the bold births of minds divine

Averts the praise herself would gain.


Thus too to virtue‘s lost, alas!

Her best and noblest spur.

Like ancient, modern worth may pass,

No page a trace prefer.

Ambition sees, and, without prize,

Her lengthened cares and toil denies;

Inactive grows the source of good:

Nor shou’d our lions court their fate,

Their mighty deeds will muse relate;

Scarce e’en what late AUGUSTA view’d.


FAME held (in the mild arts of peace

While fared DUNMORE) rough talk;


Had raised the red **tomauk.

The CHIEFTAIN started, awful frowned—-

Say, sprung his armies from the ground?

Vigour, or magic, west and north

Displays in arms. Where leads DUNMORE

His northern bands, red nations cow’r,

And from his mercy date new birth.


But where KONHAWA, clear and cold,

With fair OHIO blends

His mountain rills, our western bold

A harsher fate attends—-

Decisive souls, so dead to fear,

They thanked who told the foes drew near;

Foes great in fray, before whose sight

Proud Britons erst, their General slain

And left behind, had fled amain:

Foes dull to learn their speed in flight.


Yet ‘tween that glorious well fought scene

(By morn, noon, and evening view’d)

And MEMORY’s glances, never keen,

His wing shall TIME intrude.

OBLIVION’s deep encroaching gloom

Shall hover round the HERO’s tomb,

And fold his generous struggles o’er:

Th’ unshaken LEADER’s cautious care,

Sustained through all the din of war,

Be wrecked—O wrong!—on Lethe‘s shore.


In half an age the forest drear

Where glides each limpid wave

No more shall tawny warriour fear

Or honour th’ ancient brave.

It’s vales in peace shall teem with corn,

It’s hills fair rural seats adorn.

THEN happy, creeping o’er his ground,

My sons, some hoary chief may say,

Here erst these eyes viewed bloody fray,

Here Death no mean collation found.


And, pointing with his staff, he’ll tell

The spot where fell the spies;

And, O deplor’d! where LEWIS fell.

In whose expiring sighs

Lived accents, such as, in old ROME,

Had honour’d a dictator’s doom.

Close worthy of a life, parade

In which was none, save of whate’er

Superior talents Heaven deigns here,

Whence heroes are adored, obey’d.


Why mourn’d a SAGE his brother’s fall?

His country call’d; he died:

Had his loved CHARLES refused her call,

How lowered had been his pride!

Nor rest untold—how—tho’ unjust

To FIELDS; for her FIELDS pressed the dust:

At FLEMING twice how death his dart

Shook fierce, then, all relenting, strode

In sight where firm McCLANAHAN glow’d,

Mourn’d that fate urged, and pierced that heart.


See there he lies by MURRAY’s side,

FROGG’s turf beyond appears,

And CUNDIFF’s, whose nine children tried

To sooth their mother’s tears.


WARD, STEEL, and more, whose hearts beat high;

But o’er whose names OBLIVION deep

The sable veil, he whilom spread

O’er crowds on MO’NGAHELA dead,

Hath thrown: In mass the warriours sleep.


Sleep sweeter far (he’ll say) was theirs

Than some unhappy sound,

Afar from tender female cares,

In half their limbs—a wound.

Ah! who can well express, my sons,

Their tortures dire, or count their groans!

Could the stern warriours rough goodwill,

Tho’ ***TERRY and DICKENSON were there,

Yield in a cot that balm to care

The soft-eyed spouse and home instill?


Here pausing—all in mental strife—

He BEAUFORD paints anew,

And ROUTLEDGE, gliding out of life,

And hears their last adieu.

Their shadowy forms float o’er his eyes—

His aged bosom heaves with sighs.

The sprightly scenes extinct fore’er,

In vigour with the BRAVE he shared,

Are with their last great hour compared;

And in his eye starts the big tear.


The grief of those, thro’ every house,

Whom most they loved succeed:

Her’s wrings his foul, with her GREAT SPOUSE,

Who saw three brothers bleed;

Nor lived to weep!———————

—————————A hand of snow

Grasps his torn heart: He bursts in woe.

The cruel retrospect to chace

He turns him off; while still to hear

His sadly wistful sons appear,

And view his drooping, homeward pace.


Yet—press—at large—the tale severe,

Sweet youths, and far diffuse.

The name, which life hath bought, costs dear;

May theirs the slain ne’er lose.

Ye GREATLY BRAVE, who still survive,

In wealth and glory may you thrive:

And may (by those, who warm with pride,

Whene’er their country grows in fame)

The tribute of well-earned acclaim,

And all your due be ne’er denied.


Methinks I see your hardy bands

In nobler strife engage

T’ expel base slavery from our lands

And all your valour rage.

Despotic on our climes to reign

The obdurate . . hopes in vain,

When spirits, dangers but exalt,

Determined front his tools, prepared


And bid his hell-spawned projects HALT.


Then, then shall envy’s snaky crest

On MERIT hiss no more,

But coiling round her own fell breast,

In it black venom pour.

Then calumny shall bite her tongue,

And, social grown, the sons of song

Sublime the martial deeds recount:

Each ear shall catch the strains admired,

Those strains by every muse inspired;

Your fame—earth, ocean time surmount.


D. C.

* As in the preceding stanza the author had no view to a liberal enjoyment, but only to a flagrant abuse of the gifts of fortune; so in this be as far from any reflection upon men of honour, who race, or play for amusement. His satire is merely pointed against brutes, [illegible], and traitors. He wishes it still more severe.

** Such is the Indian name, and so written by Captain Smith.

*** The care taken by the heroic Minister Terry, and by Captain Dickenson, for the relief of the wounded, deserves eternal commendation. Captain Dickenson, according to the constant tenour of his fortune, was himself wounded.

May 20, 1775
Robert Bolling publishes in the Virginia Gazette a long elegy on the deaths of Virginia militiamen at the Battle of Point Pleasant the previous October during Dunmore's War (1773—1774).
APA Citation:
Bolling, Robert. “Elegy” by Robert Bolling (1775). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Bolling, Robert. "“Elegy” by Robert Bolling (1775)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 22 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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