Inscription on a Stone

William Cowper

Erected at the sowing of a grove of oaks at Chillington, the seat of T. Gifford, Esq., 1790

Other stones the era tell
When some feeble mortal fell;
I stand here to date the birth
Of these hardy sons of earth.

Which shall longest brave the sky,
Storm and frost,—these oaks or I?
Pass an age or two away,
I must moulder and decay;
But the years that crumble me
Shall invigorate the tree,
Spread its branch, dilate its size,
Lift its summit to the skies.

Cherish honour, virtue, truth,
So shalt thou prolong thy youth.
Wanting these, however fast
Man be fixed and formed to last,
He is lifeless even now.
Stone at heart, and cannot grow.

Chillington Hall is a stately home which has been owned by the Giffard family for around 500 years. There was a castle on the spot in the 12th century. The present building, the third on the site, is Georgian. The gardens were landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century.