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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 29

On the Death of George the Third

By Horace Smith (1779–1849)

  • The latter days of George III. form one of the most pitiful spectacles in history. For the last ten years of his life he was insane, with only occasional lucid intervals. He died Jan. 29, 1820.
  • Written under Windsor Terrace

  • I SAW him last on this terrace proud,

    Walking in health and gladness,

    Begirt with his court; and in all the crowd

    Not a single look of sadness.

    Bright was the sun, the leaves were green—

    Blithely the birds were singing;

    The cymbals replied to the tambourine,

    And the bells were merrily ringing.

    I have stood with the crowd beside his bier,

    When not a word was spoken—

    When every eye was dim with a tear,

    And the silence by sobs was broken.

    I have heard the earth on his coffin pour

    To the muffled drums, deep rolling,

    While the minute-gun, with its solemn roar,

    Drowned the death-bells’ tolling.

    The time—since he walked in his glory thus,

    To the grave till I saw him carried—

    Was an age of the mightiest change to us,

    But to him a night unvaried.

    A daughter beloved, a queen, a son,

    And a son’s sole child, have perished;

    And sad was each heart, save only the one

    By which they were fondest cherished;

    For his eyes were sealed and his mind was dark,

    And he sat in his age’s lateness—

    Like a vision throned, as a solemn mark

    Of the frailty of human greatness;

    His silver beard, o’er a bosom spread

    Unvexed by life’s commotion,

    Like a yearly lengthening snow-drift shed

    On the calm of a frozen ocean.

    Still o’er him Oblivion’s waters lay,

    Though the stream of life kept flowing;

    When they spoke of our king, ’twas but to say

    The old man’s strength was going.

    At intervals thus the waves disgorge,

    By weakness rent asunder,

    A piece of the wreck of the Royal George,

    To the people’s pity and wonder.

    He is gone at length—he is laid in the dust,

    Death’s hand his slumbers breaking;

    For the coffined sleep of the good and just

    Is a sure and blissful waking.

    His people’s heart is his funeral urn;

    And should sculptured stone be denied him,

    There will his name be found, when in turn

    We lay our heads beside him.