Select Poems of Thomas Gray
by Thomas Gray
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and again, Visions of Petrarch, ii.:

"After, at sea a tall ship did appeare, Made all of heben and white yvorie; The sailes of golde, of silke the tackle were: Milde was the winde, calme seem'd the sea to bee, The skie eachwhere did show full bright and faire: With rich treasures this gay ship fraighted was: But sudden storme did so turmoyle the aire, And tumbled up the sea, that she (alas) Strake on a rock, that under water lay, And perished past all recoverie."

See also Milton, S. A. 710 foll.

72. The azure realm. Cf. Virgil, Ciris, 483: "Caeruleo pollens conjunx Neptunia regno."

73. Note the alliteration. Cf. Dryden, Annus Mirab. st. 151:

"The goodly London, in her gallant trim, The phoenix-daughter of the vanish'd old, Like a rich bride does to the ocean swim, And on her shadow rides in floating gold."

75. Sweeping whirlwind's sway. Cf. the posthumous fragment by Gray on Education and Government, 48: "And where the deluge burst with sweepy sway." The expression is from Dryden, who uses it repeatedly; as in Geo. i. 483: "And rolling onwards with a sweepy sway;" Ov. Met.: "Rushing onwards with a sweepy sway;" Aen. vii.: "The branches bend beneath their sweepy sway," etc.

76. That hush'd in grim repose, etc. Cf. Dryden, Sigismonda and Guiscardo, 242:

"So, like a lion that unheeded lay, Dissembling sleep, and watchful to betray, With inward rage he meditates his prey;"

and Absalom and Achitophel, 447:

"And like a lion, slumbering in the way, Or sleep dissembling, while he waits his prey."

77. "Richard the Second (as we are told by Archbishop Scroop and the confederate Lords in their manifesto, by Thomas of Walsingham, and all the older writers) was starved to death. The story of his assassination by Sir Piers of Exon is of much later date" (Gray).

79. Reft of a crown. Wakefield quotes Mallet's ballad of William and Margaret:

"Such is the robe that kings must wear When death has reft their crown."

82. A baleful smile. The MS. has "A smile of horror on." Cf. Milton, P. L. ii. 846: "Grinn'd horrible a ghastly smile."

83. "Ruinous wars of York and Lancaster" (Gray). Cf. P. L. vi. 209: "Arms on armour clashing brayed."

84. Cf. Shakes. 1 Hen. IV. iv. 1: "Harry to Harry shall, hot horse to horse;" and Massinger, Maid of Honour: "Man to man, and horse to horse."

87. "Henry the Sixth, George Duke of Clarence, Edward the Fifth, Richard Duke of York, etc., believed to be murdered secretly in the Tower of London. The oldest part of that structure is vulgarly attributed to Julius Caesar" (Gray). The MS. has "Grim towers."

88. Murther. See on murthorous, p. 105.

89. His consort. "Margaret of Anjou, a woman of heroic spirit, who struggled hard to save her husband and her crown" (Gray).

His father. "Henry the Fifth" (Gray).

90. The meek usurper. "Henry the Sixth, very near being canonized. The line of Lancaster had no right of inheritance to the crown" (Gray). See on Eton Coll. 4. The MS. has "hallow'd head."

91. The rose of snow, etc. "The white and red roses, devices of York and Lancaster" (Gray).

Cf. Shakes. 1 Hen. VI. ii. 4:

"No, Plantagenet, 'Tis not for shame, but anger, that thy cheeks Blush for pure shame, to counterfeit our roses."

93. The bristled boar. "The silver boar was the badge of Richard the Third; whence he was usually known in his own time by the name of the Boar" (Gray). Scott (notes to Lay of Last Minstrel) says: "The crest or bearing of a warrior was often used as a nom de guerre. Thus Richard III. acquired his well-known epithet, 'the Boar of York.'" Cf. Shakes. Rich. III. iv. 5: "this most bloody boar;" v. 2: "The wretched, bloody, and usurping boar," etc.

98. See on 48 above.

99. Half of thy heart. "Eleanor of Castile died a few years after the conquest of Wales. The heroic proof she gave of her affection for her lord is well known.[2] The monuments of his regret and sorrow for the loss of her[3] are still to be seen at Northampton, Geddington, Waltham, and other places" (Gray). Cf. Horace, Od. i. 3, 8: "animae dimidium meae."

[Footnote 2: See Tennyson, Dream of Fair Women:

"Or her who knew that Love can vanquish Death, Who kneeling, with one arm about her king, Drew forth the poison with her balmy breath, Sweet as new buds in spring."]

[Footnote 3: Gray refers to the "Eleanor crosses," erected at the places where the funeral procession halted each night on the journey from Hardby, in Nottinghamshire (near Lincoln), where the queen died, to Westminster. Of the thirteen (or, as some say, fifteen) crosses only three now remain—at Northampton, Geddington, and Waltham. The one at Charing Cross in London has been replaced by a fac-simile of the original. These monuments were all exquisite works of Gothic art, fitting memorials of la chere Reine, "the beloved of all England," as Walsingham calls her.]

101. Nor thus forlorn. In MS. "nor here forlorn;" in next line, "Leave your despairing Caradoc to mourn;" in 103, "yon black clouds;" in 104, "They sink, they vanish;" in 105, "But oh! what scenes of heaven on Snowdon's height;" in 106, "their golden skirts."

107. Cf. Dryden, State of Innocence, iv. 1: "Their glory shoots upon my aching sight."

109. "It was the common belief of the Welsh nation that King Arthur was still alive in Fairyland, and would return again to reign over Britain" (Gray).

In the MS. this line and the next read thus:

"From Cambria's thousand hills a thousand strains Triumphant tell aloud, another Arthur reigns."

110. "Both Merlin and Taliessin had prophesied that the Welsh should regain their sovereignty over this island; which seemed to be accomplished in the house of Tudor" (Gray).

111. Many a baron bold. Cf. L'Allegro, 119: "throngs of knights and barons bold."

The reading in the MS. is,

"Youthful knights, and barons bold, With dazzling helm, and horrent spear."

112. Their starry fronts. Cf. Milton, Ode on the Passion, 18: "His starry front;" Statius, Theb. 613: "Heu! ubi siderei vultus."

115. A form divine. Elizabeth. Wakefield quotes Spenser's eulogy of the queen, Shep. Kal. Apr.:

"Tell me, have ye seene her angelick face, Like Phoebe fayre? Her heavenly haveour, her princely grace, Can you well compare? The Redde rose medled with the White yfere, In either cheeke depeincten lively chere; Her modest eye, Her Majestie, Where have you seene the like but there?"

117. "Speed, relating an audience given by Queen Elizabeth to Paul Dzialinski, ambassador of Poland, says: 'And thus she, lion-like rising, daunted the malapert orator no less with her stately port and majestical deporture, than with the tartnesse of her princelie checkes'" (Gray). The MS. reads "A lion-port, an awe-commanding face."

121. "Taliessin, chief of the bards, flourished in the sixth century. His works are still preserved, and his memory held in high veneration among his countrymen" (Gray).

As Hales remarks, there is no authority for connecting him with Arthur, as Tennyson does in his Holy Grail.

123. Cf. Congreve, Ode to Lord Godolphin: "And soars with rapture while she sings."

124. The eye of heaven. Wakefield quotes Spenser, F. Q. 1. 3. 4,

"Her angel's face As the great eye of heaven shined bright."

Cf. Shakes. Rich. II. iii. 2: "the searching eye of heaven."

Many-colour'd wings. Cf. Shakes. Temp. iv. 1: "Hail, many-colour'd messenger;" and Milton, P. L. iii. 642:

"Wings he wore Of many a colour'd plume sprinkled with gold."

126. Gray quotes Spenser, F. Q. Proeme, 9:

"Fierce warres and faithful loves shall moralize my song."

128. "Shakespeare" (Gray). Cf. Il Penseroso, 102: "the buskin'd stage;" that is, the tragic stage.

129. Pleasing pain. Cf. Spenser, F. Q. vi. 9, 10: "sweet pleasing payne;" and Dryden, Virg. Ecl. iii. 171: "Pleasing pains of love."

131. "Milton" (Gray).

133. "The succession of poets after Milton's time" (Gray).

135. Fond. Foolish. See on Prog. of Poesy, 46.

On the couplet, cf. Dekker, If this be not a good play, etc.:

"Thinkest thou, base lord, Because the glorious Sun behind black clouds Has awhile hid his beams, he's darken'd forever, Eclips'd never more to shine?"

137. Cf. Lycidas, 169: "And yet anon repairs his drooping head;" and Fletcher, Purple Island, vi. 64: "So soon repairs her light, trebling her new-born raies."

141. Mitford remarks that there is a passage (which he misquotes, as usual) in the Thebaid of Statius (iii. 81) similar to this, describing a bard who had survived his companions:

"Sed jam nudaverat ensem Magnanimus vates, et nunc trucis ora tyranni, Nunc ferrum adspectans: 'Nunquam tibi sanguinis hujus Jus erit, aut magno feries imperdita Tydeo Pectora; vado equidem exsultans et ereptaque fata Insequor, et comites feror expectatus ad umbras; Te Superis, fratrique.' Et jam media orsa loquentis Abstulerat plenum capulo latus."

Cf. also a passage in Pindar (Olymp. i. 184), which Gray seems to have had in mind:

[Greek: Eie se te touton Hupsou chronon patein, eme Te tossade nikaphorois Homilein, k. t. l.

143. Cf. Virgil, Ecl. viii. 59:

"Praeceps aerii specula de montis in undas Deferar; extremum hoc munus morientis habeto."

As we have given Johnson's criticism on The Progress of Poesy, we append his comments on this "Sister Ode:"

"'The Bard' appears, at the first view, to be, as Algarotti and others have remarked, an imitation of the prophecy of Nereus. Algarotti thinks it superior to its original; and, if preference depends only on the imagery and animation of the two poems, his judgment is right. There is in 'The Bard' more force, more thought, and more variety. But to copy is less than to invent, and the copy has been unhappily produced at a wrong time. The fiction of Horace was to the Romans credible; but its revival disgusts us with apparent and unconquerable falsehood. Incredulus odi.

"To select a singular event, and swell it to a giant's bulk by fabulous appendages of spectres and predictions, has little difficulty; for he that forsakes the probable may always find the marvellous. And it has little use; we are affected only as we believe; we are improved only as we find something to be imitated or declined. I do not see that 'The Bard' promotes any truth, moral or political.

"His stanzas are too long, especially his epodes; the ode is finished before the ear has learned its measures, and consequently before it can receive pleasure from their consonance and recurrence.

"Of the first stanza the abrupt beginning has been celebrated; but technical beauties can give praise only to the inventor. It is in the power of any man to rush abruptly upon his subject, that has read the ballad of 'Johnny Armstrong,'

'Is there ever a man in all Scotland—'

"The initial resemblances, or alliterations, 'ruin, ruthless, helm or hauberk,' are below the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at sublimity.

"In the second stanza the Bard is well described; but in the third we have the puerilities of obsolete mythology. When we are told that 'Cadwallo hush'd the stormy main,' and that 'Modred made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topt head,' attention recoils from the repetition of a tale that, even when it was first heard, was heard with scorn.

"The weaving of the winding-sheet he borrowed, as he owns, from the Northern Bards; but their texture, however, was very properly the work of female powers, as the act of spinning the thread of life is another mythology. Theft is always dangerous; Gray has made weavers of slaughtered bards by a fiction outrageous and incongruous. They are then called upon to 'Weave the warp, and weave the woof,' perhaps with no great propriety; for it is by crossing the woof with the warp that men weave the web or piece; and the first line was dearly bought by the admission of its wretched correspondent, 'Give ample room and verge enough.' He has, however, no other line as bad.

"The third stanza of the second ternary is commended, I think, beyond its merit. The personification is indistinct. Thirst and Hunger are not alike; and their features, to make the imagery perfect, should have been discriminated. We are told, in the same stanza, how 'towers are fed.' But I will no longer look for particular faults; yet let it be observed that the ode might have been concluded with an action of better example; but suicide is always to be had, without expense of thought."


This poem first appeared in Dodsley's Collection, vol. iv., together with the "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." In Mason's and Wakefield's editions it is called an "Ode," but the title given by the author is as above.

The motto from Aeschylus is not in Dodsley, but appears in the first edition of the poems (1768) in the form given in the text. The best modern editions of Aeschylus have the reading, [Greek: ton (some, toi) pathei mathos]. Keck translates the passage into German thus:

"Ihn der uns zur Sinnigkeit leitet, ihn der fest den Satz Stellet, 'Lehre durch das Leid.'"

Plumptre puts it into English as follows:

"Yea, Zeus, who leadeth men in wisdom's way, And fixeth fast the law Wisdom by pain to gain."

Cf. Mrs. Browning's Vision of Poets:

"Knowledge by suffering entereth, And life is perfected by death."

1. Mitford remarks: "[Greek: Ate], who may be called the goddess of Adversity, is said by Homer to be the daughter of Jupiter (Il. [Greek: t.] 91: [Greek: presba Dios thugater Ate, he pantas aatai). Perhaps, however, Gray only alluded to the passage of Aeschylus which he quoted, and which describes Affliction as sent by Jupiter for the benefit of man." The latter is the more probable explanation.

2. Mitford quotes Pope, Dunciad, i. 163: "Then he: 'Great tamer of all human art.'"

3. Torturing hour. Cf. Milton, P. L. ii. 90:

"The vassals of his anger, when the scourge Inexorable, and the torturing hour, Calls us to penance."

5. Adamantine chains. Wakefield quotes Aeschylus, Prom. Vinct. vi.: [Greek: Adamantinon desmon en arrektois pedais]. Cf. Milton, P. L. i. 48: "In adamantine chains and penal fire;" and Pope, Messiah, 47: "In adamantine chains shall Death be bound."

7. Purple tyrants. Cf. Pope, Two Choruses to Tragedy of Brutus: "Till some new tyrant lifts his purple hand." Wakefield cites Horace, Od. i. 35, 12: "Purpurei metuunt tyranni."

8. With pangs unfelt before. Cf. Milton, P. L. ii. 703: "Strange horror seize thee, and pangs unfelt before."

9-12. Cf. Bacon, Essays, v. (ed. 1625): "Certainly, Vertue is like pretious Odours, most fragrant when they are incensed [that is, burned], or crushed:[1] For Prosperity doth best discover Vice;[2] But Adversity doth best discover Vertue."

[Footnote 1: So in his Apophthegms, 253, Bacon says: "Mr. Bettenham said: that virtuous men were like some herbs and spices, that give not their sweet smell till they be broken or crushed."]

[Footnote 2: Cf. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, ii. 1: "It is the bright day that brings forth the adder."]

Cf. also Thomson:

"If Misfortune comes, she brings along The bravest virtues. And so many great Illustrious spirits have convers'd with woe, Have in her school been taught, as are enough To consecrate distress, and make ambition E'en wish the frown beyond the smile of fortune."

16. Cf. Virgil, Aen. i. 630: "Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco."

18. Folly's idle brood. Cf. the opening lines of Il Penseroso:

"Hence, vain deluding Joys, The brood of Folly, without father bred!"

20. Mitford quotes Oldham, Ode: "And know I have not yet the leisure to be good."

22. The summer friend. Cf. Geo. Herbert, Temple: "like summer friends, flies of estates and sunshine;" Quarles, Sion's Elegies, xix.: "Ah, summer friendship with the summer ends;" Massinger, Maid of Honour: "O summer friendship." See also Shakespeare, T. of A. iii. 6:

"2d Lord. The swallow follows not summer more willing than we your lordship.

"Timon [aside]. Nor more willingly leaves winter; such summer-birds are men;"

and T. and C. iii. 3:

"For men, like butterflies, Shew not their mealy wings but to the summer."

Mitford suggests that Gray had in mind Horace, Od. i. 35, 25:

"At vulgus infidum et meretrix retro Perjura cedit; diffugiunt cadis Cum faece siccatis amici Ferre jugum pariter dolosi."

25. In sable garb. Cf. Milton, Il Pens. 16: "O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue."

28. With leaden eye. Evidently suggested by Milton's description of Melancholy, Il Pens. 43:

"Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes; There, held in holy passion still, Forget thyself to marble, till With a sad leaden downward cast Thou fix them on the earth as fast."

Mitford cites Sidney, Astrophel and Stella, song 7: "So leaden eyes;" Dryden, Cymon and Iphigenia, 57: "And stupid eyes that ever lov'd the ground;" Shakespeare, Pericles, i. 2: "The sad companion, dull-eyed Melancholy;" and L. L. L. iv. 3: "In leaden contemplation." Cf. also The Bard, 69, 70.

31. To herself severe. Cf. Carew:

"To servants kind, to friendship dear, To nothing but herself severe;"

and Dryden: "Forgiving others, to himself severe;" and Waller: "The Muses' friend, unto himself severe." Mitford quotes several other similar passages.

32. The sadly pleasing tear. Rogers cites Dryden's "sadly pleasing thought" (Virgil's Aen. x.); and Mitford compares Thomson's "lenient, not unpleasing tear."

35. Gorgon terrors. Cf. Milton, P. L. ii. 611: "Medusa with Gorgonian terror."

36-40. Cf. Ode on Eton College, 55-70 and 81-90.

45-48. Cf. Shakespeare, As You Like It, ii. 1:

"these are counsellors That feelingly persuade me what I am. Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;"

and Mallet:

"Who hath not known ill-fortune, never knew Himself, or his own virtue."

Guizot, in his Cromwell, says: "The effect of supreme and irrevocable misfortune is to elevate those souls which it does not deprive of all virtue;" and Sir Philip Sidney remarks: "A noble heart, like the sun, showeth its greatest countenance in its lowest estate."


Just as this book is going to press we have received The Quarterly Review (London) for January, 1876, which contains an interesting paper on "Wordsworth and Gray." After quoting Wordsworth's remark that "Gray was at the head of those poets who, by their reasonings, have attempted to widen the space of separation between prose and metrical composition, and was, more than any other man, curiously elaborate in the construction of his own poetic diction," the reviewer remarks:

"The indictment, then, brought by Wordsworth against Gray is twofold. Gray, it seems, had in the first place a false conception of the nature of poetry; and, secondly, a false standard of poetical diction. To begin with the first count, Gray, we are told, sought to widen the space of separation betwixt prose and metrical composition. What this charge amounts to we shall see hereafter. Meantime, did Wordsworth think that between prose and poetry there was any line of demarcation at all? In the Preface [to the "Lyrical Ballads"] from which we have quoted we read:

"'There neither is nor can be any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition. We are fond of tracing the resemblance between Poetry and Painting, and accordingly we call them sisters; but where shall we find bonds of connection sufficiently strong to typify the connection betwixt prose and metrical composition?'

"Now this question admits of a very definite answer. Take the Iliad of Homer and a proposition of Euclid. Is it conceivable that the latter could have been expressed at all in metre, or the former expressed half so well in prose? If not, what is the reason? Is it not plain that the poem contains a predominant element of imagination and feeling which is absolutely excluded from the proposition? And in the same way it may be shown that whenever a man expresses himself properly in metre, the subject-matter of his composition belongs to imagination or feeling; whenever he writes in prose his subject belongs to or (if the prose be fiction) intimately resembles matter of fact. We may decide then with certainty that the sphere of poetry lies in Imagination, and that the larger the amount of just liberty the Imagination enjoys, the better will be the poetry it produces. But then a further question arises, and this is the key of the whole position, How far does this liberty extend? Is Imagination absolute, supreme, and uncontrolled in its own sphere, or is it under the guidance and government of reason? That its dominion is not universal is obvious, but of its influence we are all conscious, and there is no exaggeration in the eloquent words of Pascal:

"'This mighty power, the perpetual antagonist of reason, which delights to show its ascendency by bringing her under its control and dominion, has created a second nature in man. It has its joys and its sorrows; its health, its sickness; its wealth, its poverty; it compels reason, in spite of herself, to believe, to doubt, to deny; it suspends the exercise of the senses, and imparts to them again an artificial acuteness; it has its follies and its wisdom; and the most perverse thing of all is that it fills its votaries with a complacency more full and complete even than that which reason can supply.'

"If such be the force of Imagination in active life, how absolute must be its dominion in poetry! And absolute it is, if we are to believe Wordsworth, who defines poetry to be 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion.' This definition coincides well with modern notions on the nature of the art. But how different is the view if we turn from theory to practice! It would surely be a serious mistake to describe the noblest poems, like the 'Aeneid' or 'Paradise Lost,' as the product of mere spontaneous emotion. And even in lyric verse, to which it may be said Wordsworth is specially alluding, we find the greatest poets, like Pindar and Simonides, composing their odes for set occasions like the public games, in honour of persons with whom they were but little acquainted, and (most significant fact of all) in the expectation of receiving liberal rewards. We need not say that such considerations detract nothing from the genius of these great poets; but they prove very conclusively that poetry is not what Wordsworth's definition asserts, and what in these days it is too often assumed to be, the mere gush of unconscious inspiration. The definition of Wordsworth may perhaps suit short lyrics, such as he was himself in the habit of composing, but it would be fatal to the claims of poetry to rank among the higher arts, for it would exclude that quality which, in poetry as in all art, is truly sovereign, Invention. The poet, no less than the mechanical inventor, excels by the exercise of reason, by his knowledge of the required effect, his power of adapting means to ends, and his skill in availing himself of circumstances. Consider for a moment the external difficulties which restrict the poet's liberty, and require the most vigorous efforts of reason to subdue them. To begin with, in order to secure the happy result promised by Horace,

'Cui lecta potenter erit res Nec facundia deseret hunc nec lucidus ordo,'

he has to take the exact measure of his own powers. How many a poet has failed for want of judgment by trespassing on a subject and style for which his genius is unfitted! Again, he is confronted by the most obvious difficulties of language and metre, which limit his freedom to a degree unknown to the prose-writer. And beyond this, if he wishes to be read—and a poem without readers is no more than a musical instrument without a musician—he has to consider the character of his audience. He must have all the instinct of an orator, all the intuitive knowledge of the world, as well as all the practical resource, which are required to gain command over the hearts of men, and to subdue, by the charms of eloquence, their passions, their prejudices, and their judgment. To achieve such results something more is required than 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling.'

"How far Wordsworth's own poetry illustrates his principles we shall consider presently; meantime his definition helps us to understand what he meant by Gray's fault of widening the space of separation betwixt prose and metrical composition. Neither in respect of the quantity nor the quality of his verse could Gray's manner of composition be described as spontaneous. Compared with Wordsworth's numerous volumes of poetry, the slender volume that contains the poetry of Gray looks meagre indeed; yet almost every poem in this small collection is a considered work of art. To begin with 'The Bard.' Few readers, we suppose, would rise from this ode without a sense of its poetical 'effect.' The details may be thought to require too much attention; the allusions, from the nature of the subject, are, no doubt, difficult; but a feeling of loftiness, of harmony, of proportion, remains in the mind at the close of the poem, which is not likely to pass away. How, then, was this effect produced? First of all we see that Gray had selected a good subject; his raw materials, so to speak, were poetical. The imagination, unembarrassed by common associations, breathes freely in its own region, and is instinctively elevated as it moves among the great events of the past, dwelling on the misfortunes of monarchs, the rise of dynasties, and the splendours of literature. But, in the second place, when he has chosen his subject, it is the part of the poet to impress the great ideas derived from it on the feelings and the memory by the distinctness of the form under which he presents it; and here poetical invention first begins to work. By the imaginative fiction of 'The Bard,' Gray is enabled to cast the whole course of English history into the form of a prophecy, and to excite the patriotic feelings of the reader, as Virgil roused the pride of his own countrymen by Anchises' forecast of the grandeur of Rome. Finally, when the main design of the poem is thus conceived, observe with what art all the different parts are made to emphasize the beauty of the general conception; with what dramatic propriety the calamities of the conquering Plantagenet are prophesied by his vanquished foe; while on the other hand, the literary glories of the Tudor Elizabeth awaken the triumph of the patriot and the poet; how martial and spirited is the opening of the poem! how lofty and enthusiastic its close! Perhaps there is no English lyric which, animated by equal fervour, displays so much architectural genius as 'The Bard.'

"Take, again, the 'Ode on the Prospect of Eton College.' A subject better adapted far the indulgence of personal feeling, or for those sentimental confidences between the reader and the poet, in which the modern muse so much delights, could not be imagined. But what do we find? The theme is treated in the most general manner. Though emphasizing the irony of his reflection by the beautiful touch of memory in the second stanza, the poet speaks throughout as a moralist or spectator; from first to last he seems to lose all thought of himself in contemplating the tragedies he foresees for others; the subject is in fact handled with the most skilful rhetoric, and every stanza is made to strengthen and elaborate the leading thought. In the 'Progress of Poesy,' though the general constructive effect is perhaps inferior to 'The Bard,' we see the same evidence of careful preconsideration, while the course of the poem is particularly distinguished by the beauty of the transitions. Of the form of the 'Elegy' it is superfluous to speak; a poem so dignified and yet so tender, appeals immediately, and will continue to appeal, to the heart of every Englishman, so long as the care of public liberty and love of the soil maintain their hold in this country. In this poem, as indeed in all that Gray ever wrote, we find it his first principle to prefer his subject to himself; he never forgot that while he was a man he was also an artist, and he knew that the function of art was not merely to indulge nature, but to dignify and refine it.

"Yet, in spite of his love of form, there is nothing frigid or statuesque in the genius of Gray. A vein of deep melancholy, evidently constitutional, runs through his poetry, and, considering how little he produced, the number of personal allusions in his verses is undoubtedly large. But he is entirely free from that egotism which we have had frequent occasion to blame as the prevailing vice of modern poetry. For whereas the modern poet thrusts his private feelings into prominence, and finds a luxury in the confession of his sorrows, Gray's references to himself are introduced on public grounds, or, in other words, with a view to poetical effect. He, like our own bards, is 'condemned to groan,' but for different reasons—

'The tender for another's pain, The unfeeling for his own.'

"We have already remarked on the public character of the 'Ode on Eton College;' but the second stanza of this poem is a pure expression of individual feeling:

'Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade! Ah, fields belov'd in vain! Where once my careless childhood play'd, A stranger yet to pain! I feel the gales that from ye blow A momentary bliss bestow, As waving fresh their gladsome wing, My weary soul they seem to soothe, And, redolent of joy and youth, To breathe a second spring.'

Every one will perceive the art which enforces the truth of the general reflections that follow by the personal experience of the speaker. Again, the 'Progress of Poesy' closes with a personal allusion which, as it is a climax, might, if ill-managed, have appeared arrogant, but which is, in fact, a masterpiece of oratory. After confessing his own inferiority to Pindar, the poet proceeds:

'Yet oft before his infant eyes would run Such forms as glitter in the Muse's ray, With orient hues, unborrow'd of the sun; Yet shall he mount, and keep his distant way, Beyond the limits of a vulgar fate, Beneath the Good how far—but far above the Great!'

There is something very noble in the elevated manner in which the self-complacent triumph of genius, expressed by so many poets from Ennius downwards, is at once justified and chastened by the reflection in these lines. We see in them that the poet alludes to himself in the third person, and he repeats this style in the 'Elegy,' where, after the fourth line, the first personal pronoun is never again used. How just and beautiful is the turn where, after contemplating the general lot of the lowly society he is celebrating, he proceeds to identify his own fate with theirs:

'For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead, Dost in these lines their artless tale relate, If, chance, by lonely contemplation led, Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

'Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,' etc.

"The two great characteristics of Gray's poetry that we have noticed—his self-suppression and his sense of form and dignity—are best described by the word 'classical.' What we particularly admire in the great authors of Greece and Rome is their public spirit. Their writings are full of patriotism, good-breeding, and common-sense, and have that happy mixture of art and nature which is only acquired by men who have learned from liberty how to discipline individual instincts by social refinement. Their style is masculine, clear, and moderate; they seem, as it were, never to lose the sense of being before an audience, and, like orators who know that they are always exposed to the judgment of their intellectual equals, they aim at putting intelligible thoughts into the most natural and forcible words. Precisely the same qualities are observable in all the best English writers of the eighteenth century. Addison, Pope, and Goldsmith are perhaps the most shining examples, but the rest are 'classical' in the sense which we have just indicated; and we can hardly be wrong in ascribing this common rhetorical instinct to the intimate connection between the men of thought and the men of action, which existed both in the free states of antiquity, and in England under the rule of the aristocracy. With the advance of the eighteenth century the instinct in English literature seems to grow weaker; the style of our authors becomes more formal and constrained, and symptoms of that dislike of society encouraged by the philosophy of Rousseau more frequently betray themselves. As the poetry of Cowper shows less social instinct than that of Gray, so Gray himself is inferior in this respect to Pope and Goldsmith. But his style has the same lofty public spirit that distinguishes his favourite models, and no worthier form could be imagined to express the ardour excited in the heart of a patriotic poet by the rising fortunes of his native country. We feel that it is in every way fitting that the author of the 'Elegy' should have been the favourite of Wolfe and the countryman of Chatham."


Aeolian, 109.

afield, 86.

amain, 110.

antic, 111.

Arvon, 125.

Attic warbler, 95.

Berkeley, 126.

boar (of Richard III.), 130.

broke (=broken), 86.

buskined, 132.

buxom, 104.

Cadwallo, 125.

Caernarvon, 125.

captive (proleptic), 104.

chance (adverb), 91.

cheer, 104.

churchway, 92.

curfew, 83.

customed, 92.

Cytherea, 111.

Delphi, 114.

fond (=foolish), 111, 132.

fretted, 87.

glister, 99.

Gloster, 124.

Gorgon, 137.

graved, 93.

grisly, 105, 126.

grove (=graved), 93.

haggard, 124.

hauberk, 123.

Helicon, 109.

Hoel, 124.

honied, 96.

Horae, 94.

Hyperion, 112.

Idalia, 110.

Ilissus, 114.

jet, 99.

leaden (eye), 136.

lion-port, 132.

little (=petty), 89.

Llewellyn, 124.

long-expecting, 95.

Maeander, 114.

margent, 104.

Modred, 125.

Mortimer, 124.

murther, 129.

murtherous, 105.

nightly (=nocturnal), 123.

parting (=departing), 83.

pious (=pius), 90.

Plinlimmon, 125.

provoke (=provocare), 87.

purple, 95, 111, 135.

rage, 88.

repair, 132.

repeat, 113.

rose (of snow), 130.

rushy, 96.

shaggy, 123.

shell (=lyre), 110.

slow-consuming, 105.

Snowdon, 123.

solemn-breathing, 110.

summer friend, 136.

tabby, 99.

Taliessin, 132.

tempered, 110.

Thracia, 110.

Tyrian, 99.

upland, 91.

Urien, 125.

velvet-green, 110.

woeful-wan, 92.

ye (accusative), 103.


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