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Title: Select Poems of Thomas Gray
Author: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Language: English
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1876, by
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


Many editions of Gray have been published in the last fifty years,
some of them very elegant, and some showing considerable editorial
labor, but not one, so far as I am aware, critically exact either in
text or in notes. No editor since Mathias (A.D. 1814) has given the
2d line of the _Elegy_ as Gray wrote and printed it; while Mathias's
mispunctuation of the 123d line has been copied by his successors,
almost without exception. Other variations from the early editions
are mentioned in the notes.

It is a curious fact that the most accurate edition of Gray's
collected poems is the _editio princeps_ of 1768, printed under his
own supervision. The first edition of the two Pindaric odes, _The
Progress of Poesy_ and _The Bard_ (Strawberry-Hill, 1757), was
printed with equal care, and the proofs were probably read by the
poet. The text of the present edition has been collated, line by
line, with that of these early editions, and in no instance have I
adopted a later reading. All the MS. variations, and the various
readings I have noted in the modern editions, are given in the notes.

Pickering's edition of 1835, edited by Mitford, has been followed
blindly in nearly all the more recent editions, and its many errors
(see pp. 84 and 105, foot-notes) have been faithfully reproduced.
Even its blunders in the "indenting" of the lines in the
corresponding stanzas of the two Pindaric odes, which any careful
proof-reader ought to have corrected, have been copied again and
again--as in the Boston (1853) reprint of Pickering, the pretty
little edition of Bickers & Son (London, n. d.), the fac-simile of
the latter printed at our University Press, Cambridge (1866), etc.

Of former editions of Gray, the only one very fully annotated is
Mitford's (Pickering, 1835), already mentioned. I have drawn freely
from that, correcting many errors, and also from Wakefield's and
Mason's editions, and from Hales's notes (_Longer English Poems_,
London, 1872) on the _Elegy_ and the Pindaric odes. To all this
material many original notes and illustrations have been added.

The facts concerning the first publication of the _Elegy_ are not
given correctly by any of the editors, and even the "experts" of
_Notes and Queries_ have not been able to disentangle the snarl of
conflicting evidence. I am not sure that I have settled the question
myself (see p. 74 and foot-note), but I have at least shown that Gray
is a more credible witness in the case than any of his critics. Their
testimony is obviously inconsistent and inconclusive; he may have
confounded the names of two magazines, but that remains to be

[Footnote 1: Since writing the above to-day, I have found by the
merest chance in my own library another bit of evidence in the case,
which fully confirms my surmise that the _Elegy_ was printed in _The
Magazine of Magazines_ before it appeared in the _Grand Magazine of
Magazines_. _Chambers's Book of Days_ (vol. ii. p. 146), in an
article on "Gray and his Elegy," says:

"It first saw the light in _The Magazine of Magazines_, February,
1751. Some imaginary literary wag is made to rise in a convivial
assembly, and thus announce it: 'Gentlemen, give me leave to soothe
my own melancholy, and amuse you in a most noble manner, with a full
copy of verses by the very ingenious Mr. Gray, of Peterhouse,
Cambridge. They are stanzas written in a country churchyard.' Then
follow the verses. A few days afterwards, Dodsley's edition
appeared," etc.

The same authority gives the four stanzas omitted after the 18th (see
p. 79) as they appear in the _North American Review_, except that the
first line of the third is "Hark how the sacred calm that _reigns_
around," a reading which I have found nowhere else. The stanza "There
scattered oft," etc. (p. 81), is given as in the review. The reading
on p. 82 must be a later one.]

I have retained most of the "parallel passages" from the poets given
by the editors, and have added others, without regard to the critics
who have sneered at this kind of annotations. Whether Gray borrowed
from the others, or the others from him, matters little; very likely,
in most instances, neither party was consciously the borrower. Gray,
in his own notes, has acknowledged certain debts to other poets, and
probably these were all that he was aware of. Some of these he
contracted unwittingly (see what he says of one of them in a letter
to Walpole, quoted in the note on the _Ode on the Spring_, 31), and
the same may have been true of some apparently similar cases pointed
out by modern editors. To me, however, the chief interest of these
coincidences and resemblances of thought or expression is as studies
in the "comparative anatomy" of poetry. The teacher will find them
useful as pegs to hang questions upon, or texts for oral instruction.
The pupil, or the young reader, who finds out who all these poets
were, when they lived, what they wrote, etc., will have learned no
small amount of English literary history. If he studies the
quotations merely as illustrations of style and expression, or as
examples of the poetic diction of various periods, he will have
learned some lessons in the history and the use of his mother-tongue.

The wood-cuts on pp. 9, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 34, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42,
45, 50, and 61 are from Birket Foster's designs; those on pp. 29, 31,
33, 35, 37, and 38 are from the graceful drawings of "E. V. B." (the
Hon. Mrs. Boyle); the rest are from various sources.

  _Cambridge_, Feb. 29, 1876.



STOKE-POGIS, BY WILLIAM HOWITT  . . . . . . . . . . .  16


MISCELLANEOUS POEMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  43

  ON THE SPRING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  45

  ON THE DEATH OF A FAVOURITE CAT . . . . . . . . . .  48


  THE PROGRESS OF POESY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  55

  THE BARD  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  61

  HYMN TO ADVERSITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  68

NOTES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  71

  APPENDIX TO NOTES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138

INDEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145

[Illustration: STOKE-POGIS CHURCH.]



Thomas Gray, the author of the celebrated _Elegy written in a Country
Churchyard_, was born in Cornhill, London, December 26, 1716. His
father, Philip Gray, an exchange broker and scrivener, was a wealthy
and nominally respectable citizen, but he treated his family with
brutal severity and neglect, and the poet was altogether indebted for
the advantages of a learned education to the affectionate care and
industry of his mother, whose maiden name was Antrobus, and who, in
conjunction with a maiden sister, kept a millinery shop. A brother of
Mrs. Gray was assistant to the Master of Eton, and was also a fellow
of Pembroke College, Cambridge. Under his protection the poet was
educated at Eton, and from thence went to Peterhouse, attending
college from 1734 to September, 1738. At Eton he had as
contemporaries Richard West, son of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland,
and Horace Walpole, son of the triumphant Whig minister, Sir Robert
Walpole. West died early in his 26th year, but his genius and virtues
and his sorrows will forever live in the correspondence of his
friend. In the spring of 1739, Gray was invited by Horace Walpole to
accompany him as travelling companion in a tour through France and
Italy. They made the usual route, and Gray wrote remarks on all he
saw in Florence, Rome, Naples, etc. His observations on arts and
antiquities, and his sketches of foreign manners, evince his
admirable taste, learning, and discrimination. Since Milton, no such
accomplished English traveller had visited those classic shores. In
their journey through Dauphiny, Gray's attention was strongly
arrested by the wild and picturesque site of the Grande Chartreuse,
surrounded by its dense forest of beech and fir, its enormous
precipices, cliffs, and cascades. He visited it a second time on his
return, and in the album of the mountain convent he wrote his famous
Alcaic Ode. At Reggio the travellers quarrelled and parted. Walpole
took the whole blame on himself. He was fond of pleasure and
amusements, "intoxicated by vanity, indulgence, and the insolence of
his situation as a prime minister's son"--his own confession--while
Gray was studious, of a serious disposition, and independent spirit.
The immediate cause of the rupture is said to have been Walpole's
clandestinely opening, reading, and resealing a letter addressed to
Gray, in which he expected to find a confirmation of his suspicions
that Gray had been writing unfavourably of him to some friends in
England. A partial reconciliation was effected about three years
afterwards by the intervention of a lady, and Walpole redeemed his
youthful error by a life-long sincere admiration and respect for his
friend. From Reggio Gray proceeded to Venice, and thence travelled
homewards, attended by a _laquais de voyage_. He arrived in England
in September, 1741, having been absent about two years and a half.
His father died in November, and it was found that the poet's fortune
would not enable him to prosecute the study of the law. He therefore
retired to Cambridge, and fixed his residence at the university.
There he continued for the remainder of his life, with the exception
of about two years spent in London, when the treasures of the British
Museum were thrown open. At Cambridge he had the range of noble
libraries. His happiness consisted in study, and he perused with
critical attention the Greek and Roman poets, philosophers,
historians, and orators. Plato and the Anthologia he read and
annotated with great care, as if for publication. He compiled tables
of Greek chronology, added notes to Linnæus and other naturalists,
wrote geographical disquisitions on Strabo; and, besides being
familiar with French and Italian literature, was a zealous
archæological student, and profoundly versed in architecture, botany,
painting, and music. In all departments of human learning, except
mathematics, he was a master. But it follows that one so studious, so
critical, and so fastidious, could not be a voluminous writer. A few
poems include all the original compositions of Gray--the
quintessence, as it were, of thirty years of ceaseless study and
contemplation, irradiated by bright and fitful gleams of inspiration.
In 1742 Gray composed his _Ode to Spring_, his _Ode on a Distant
Prospect of Eton College_, and his _Ode to Adversity_--productions
which most readers of poetry can repeat from memory. He commenced a
didactic poem, _On the Alliance of Education and Government_, but
wrote only about a hundred lines. Every reader must regret that this
philosophical poem is but a fragment. It is in the style and measure
of Dryden, of whom Gray was an ardent admirer and close student. His
_Elegy written in a Country Churchyard_ was completed and published
in 1751. In the form of a sixpenny _brochure_ it circulated rapidly,
four editions being exhausted the first year. This popularity
surprised the poet. He said sarcastically that it was owing entirely
to the subject, and that the public would have received it as well if
it had been written in prose. The solemn and affecting nature of the
poem, applicable to all ranks and classes, no doubt aided its sale;
it required high poetic sensibility and a cultivated taste to
appreciate the rapid transitions, the figurative language, and
lyrical magnificence of the odes; but the elegy went home to all
hearts; while its musical harmony, originality, and pathetic train of
sentiment and feeling render it one of the most perfect of English
poems. No vicissitudes of taste or fashion have affected its
popularity. When the original manuscript of the poem was lately
(1854) offered for sale, it brought the almost incredible sum of 131
pounds. The two great odes of Gray, _The Progress of Poetry_ and _The
Bard_, were published in 1757, and were but coldly received. His
name, however, stood high, and on the death of Cibber, the same year,
he was offered the laureateship, which he wisely declined. He was
ambitious, however, of obtaining the more congenial and dignified
appointment of Professor of Modern History in the University of
Cambridge, which fell vacant in 1762, and, by the advice of his
friends, he made application to Lord Bute, but was unsuccessful. Lord
Bute had designed it for the tutor of his son-in-law, Sir James
Lowther. No one had heard of the tutor, but the Bute influence was
all-prevailing. In 1765 Gray took a journey into Scotland,
penetrating as far north as Dunkeld and the Pass of Killiecrankie;
and his account of his tour, in letters to his friends, is replete
with interest and with touches of his peculiar humour and graphic
description. One other poem proceeded from his pen. In 1768 the
Professorship of Modern History was again vacant, and the Duke of
Grafton bestowed it upon Gray. A sum of 400 pounds per annum was thus
added to his income; but his health was precarious--he had lost it,
he said, just when he began to be easy in his circumstances. The
nomination of the Duke of Grafton to the office of Chancellor of the
University enabled Gray to acknowledge the favour conferred on
himself. He thought it better that gratitude should sing than
expectation, and he honoured his grace's installation with an ode.
Such occasional productions are seldom happy; but Gray preserved his
poetic dignity and select beauty of expression. He made the founders
of Cambridge, as Mr. Hallam has remarked, "pass before our eyes like
shadows over a magic glass." When the ceremony of the installation
was over, the poet-professor went on a tour to the lakes of
Cumberland and Westmoreland, and few of the beauties of the
lake-country, since so famous, escaped his observation. This was to
be his last excursion. While at dinner one day in the college-hall he
was seized with an attack of gout in his stomach, which resisted all
the powers of medicine, and proved fatal in less than a week. He died
on the 30th of July, 1771, and was buried, according to his own
desire, beside the remains of his mother at Stoke-Pogis, near Slough,
in Buckinghamshire, in a beautiful sequestered village churchyard
that is supposed to have furnished the scene of his elegy.[1] The
literary habits and personal peculiarities of Gray are familiar to us
from the numerous representations and allusions of his friends. It is
easy to fancy the recluse-poet sitting in his college-chambers in the
old quadrangle of Pembroke Hall. His windows are ornamented with
mignonette and choice flowers in China vases, but outside may be
discerned some iron-work intended to be serviceable as a fire-escape,
for he has a horror of fire. His furniture is neat and select; his
books, rather for use than show, are disposed around him. He has a
harpsichord in the room. In the corner of one of the apartments is a
trunk containing his deceased mother's dresses, carefully folded up
and preserved. His fastidiousness, bordering upon effeminacy, is
visible in his gait and manner--in his handsome features and small,
well-dressed person, especially when he walks abroad and sinks the
author and hard student in "the gentleman who sometimes writes for
his amusement." He writes always with a crow-quill, speaks slowly and
sententiously, and shuns the crew of dissonant college revellers, who
call him "a prig," and seek to annoy him. Long mornings of study, and
nights feverish from ill-health, are spent in those chambers; he is
often listless and in low spirits; yet his natural temper is not
desponding, and he delights in employment. He has always something to
learn or to communicate--some sally of humour or quiet stroke of
satire for his friends and correspondents--some note on natural
history to enter in his journal--some passage of Plato to unfold and
illustrate--some golden thought of classic inspiration to inlay on
his page--some bold image to tone down--some verse to retouch and
harmonize. His life is on the whole innocent and happy, and a feeling
of thankfulness to the Great Giver is breathed over all.

[Footnote 1: A claim has been put up for the churchyard of
Granchester, about two miles from Cambridge, the great bell of St.
Mary's serving for the "curfew." But Stoke-Pogis is more likely to
have been the spot, if any individual locality were indicated. The
poet often visited the village, his aunt and mother residing there,
and his aunt was interred in the churchyard of the place. Gray's
epitaph on his mother is characterized not only by the tenderness
with which he always regarded her memory, but by his style and cast
of thought. It runs thus: "Beside her friend and sister here sleep
the remains of Dorothy Gray, widow, the careful, tender mother of
many children, one of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her.
She died March 11, 1753, aged 72." She had lived to read the _Elegy_,
which was perhaps an ample recompense for her maternal cares and
affection. Mrs. Gray's will commences in a similar touching strain:
"In the name of God, amen. This is the last will and desire of
Dorothy Gray to her son Thomas Gray." [Cunningham's edit. of
_Johnson's Lives_.] They were all in all to each other. The father's
cruelty and neglect, their straitened circumstances, the sacrifices
made by the mother to maintain her son at the university, her pride
in the talents and conduct of that son, and the increasing gratitude
and affection of the latter, nursed in his scholastic and cloistered
solitude--these form an affecting but noble record in the history of

[One would infer from the above that Mrs. Gray was _not_ "interred in
the churchyard of the place," though the epitaph given immediately
after shows that she _was_. Gray in his will directed that he should
be laid beside her there. The passage in the will reads thus: "First,
I do desire that my body may be deposited in the vault, made by my
dear mother in the churchyard of Stoke-Pogeis, near Slough in
Buckinghamshire, by her remains, in a coffin of seasoned oak, neither
lined nor covered, and (unless it be inconvenient) I could wish that
one of my executors may see me laid in the grave, and distribute
among such honest and industrious poor persons in said parish as he
thinks fit, the sum of ten pounds in charity."--_Ed_.]]

Various editions of the collected works of Gray have been published.
The first, including memoirs of his life and his correspondence,
edited by his friend, the Rev. W. Mason, appeared in 1775. It has
been often reprinted, and forms the groundwork of the editions by
Mathias (1814) and Mitford (1816). Mr. Mitford, in 1843, published
Gray's correspondence with the Rev. Norton Nicholls; and in 1854
another collection of Gray's letters was published, edited also by
Mr. Mitford. Every scrap of the poet's MSS. is eagerly sought after,
and every year seems to add to his popularity as a poet and

     *     *     *     *     *     *

In 1778 a monument to Gray was erected in Westminster Abbey by Mason,
with the following inscription:

  No more the Grecian muse unrivall'd reigns,
    To Britain let the nations homage pay;
  She felt a Homer's fire in Milton's strains,
    A Pindar's rapture in the lyre of Gray.

The cenotaph afterwards erected in Stoke Park by Mr. Penn is
described below.

[Illustration: WEST-END HOUSE.]



[Footnote 1: Harper's edition, vol. i. p. 314 foll.]

It is at Stoke-Pogis that we seek the most attractive vestiges of
Gray. Here he used to spend his vacations, not only when a youth at
Eton, but during the whole of his future life, while his mother and
his aunts lived. Here it was that his _Ode on a Distant Prospect of
Eton College_, his celebrated _Elegy written in a Country
Churchyard_, and his _Long Story_ were not only written, but were
mingled with the circumstances and all the tenderest feelings of his
own life.

His mother and aunts lived at an old-fashioned house in a very
retired spot at Stoke, called West-End. This house stood in a hollow,
much screened by trees. A small stream ran through the garden, and it
is said that Gray used to employ himself when here much in this
garden, and that many of the trees still remaining are of his
planting. On one side of the house extended an upland field, which
was planted round so as to give a charming retired walk; and at the
summit of the field was raised an artificial mound, and upon it was
built a sort of arcade or summer-house, which gave full prospect of
Windsor and Eton. Here Gray used to delight to sit; here he was
accustomed to read and write much; and it is just the place to
inspire the _Ode on Eton College_, which lay in the midst of its fine
landscape, beautifully in view. The old house inhabited by Gray and
his mother has just been pulled down, and replaced by an Elizabethan
mansion by the present proprietor, Mr. Penn, of Stoke Park, just
by.[2] The garden, of course, has shared in the change, and now
stands gay with its fountain and its modern greenhouse, and,
excepting for some fine trees, no longer reminds you of Gray. The
woodland walk still remains round the adjoining field, and the
summer-house on its summit, though now much cracked by time, and only
held together by iron cramps. The trees are now so lofty that they
completely obstruct the view, and shut out both Eton and Windsor.

[Footnote 2: This was written (or published, at least) in 1846; but
Mitford, in the Life of Gray prefixed to the "Eton edition" of his
Poems, published in 1847, says: "The house, which is now called
_West-End_, lies in a secluded part of the parish, on the road to
Fulmer. It has lately been much enlarged and adorned by its present
proprietor [Mr. Penn], but the room called 'Gray's' (distinguished by
a small balcony) is still preserved; and a shady walk round an
adjoining meadow, with a summer-house on the rising land, are still
remembered as favourite places frequented by the poet."--_Ed_.]

     *     *     *     *     *     *

Stoke Park is about a couple of miles from Slough. The country is
flat, but its monotony is broken up by the noble character and
disposition of its woods. Near the house is a fine expanse of water,
across which the eye falls on fine views, particularly to the south,
of Windsor Castle, Cooper's Hill, and the Forest Woods. About three
hundred yards from the north front of the house stands a column,
sixty-eight feet high, bearing on the top a colossal statue of Sir
Edward Coke, by Rosa. The woods of the park shut out the view of
West-End House, Gray's occasional residence, but the space is open
from the mansion across the park, so as to take in the view both of
the church and of a monument erected by the late Mr. Penn to Gray.
Alighting from the carriage at a lodge, we enter the park just at the
monument. This is composed of fine freestone, and consists of a large
sarcophagus, supported on a square pedestal, with inscriptions on
each side. Three of them are selected from the _Ode on Eton College_
and the _Elegy_. They are:

  Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
    Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
  Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,
    Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

  One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
    Along the heath, and near his fav'rite tree;
  Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
    Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.

The second is from the _Ode_:

  Ye distant spires! ye antique towers!
    That crown the watery glade,
  Where grateful Science still adores
    Her Henry's holy shade;
  And ye, that from the stately brow
  Of Windsor's heights th' expanse below
    Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
  Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among
  Wanders the hoary Thames along
    His silver-winding way.

  Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade!
    Ah, fields belov'd in vain!
  Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
    A stranger yet to pain!
  I feel the gales that from ye blow,
  A momentary bliss bestow.

The third is again from the _Elegy_:

  Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
  Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
    The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

  The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
    The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
  The cock's shrill clarion or the echoing horn,
    No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

The fourth bears this inscription:

            This Monument, in honour of
                    THOMAS GRAY,
               Was erected A.D. 1799,
                 Among the scenery
  Celebrated by that great Lyric and Elegiac Poet.
                  He died in 1771,
   And lies unnoted in the adjoining Church-yard,
      Under the Tomb-stone on which he piously
      And pathetically recorded the interment
          Of his Aunt and lamented Mother.

This monument is in a neatly kept garden-like enclosure, with a
winding walk approaching from the shade of the neighbouring trees. To
the right, across the park, at some little distance, backed by fine
trees, stands the rural little church and churchyard where Gray wrote
his _Elegy_, and where he lies. As you walk on to this, the mansion
closes the distant view between the woods with fine effect. The
church has often been engraved, and is therefore tolerably familiar
to the general reader. It consists of two barn-like structures, with
tall roofs, set side by side, and the tower and finely tapered spire
rising above them at the northwest corner. The church is thickly hung
with ivy, where

   "The moping owl may to the moon complain
  Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
    Molest her ancient, solitary reign."

The structure is as simple and old-fashioned, both without and
within, as any village church can well be. No village, however, is to
be seen. Stoke consists chiefly of scattered houses, and this is now
in the midst of the park. In the churchyard,

 "Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
  Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
    The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."

All this is quite literal; and the tomb of the poet himself, near the
southeast window, completes the impression of the scene. It is a
plain brick altar tomb, covered with a blue slate slab, and, besides
his own ashes, contains those of his mother and aunt. On the slab are
inscribed the following lines by Gray himself: "In the vault beneath
are deposited, in hope of a joyful resurrection, the remains of _Mary
Antrobus_. She died unmarried, Nov. 5, 1749, aged sixty-six. In the
same pious confidence, beside her friend and sister, here sleep the
remains of _Dorothy Gray_, widow; the careful, tender mother of many
children, ONE of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her. She
died, March 11, 1753, aged LXXII."

No testimony of the interment of Gray in the same tomb was inscribed
anywhere till Mr. Penn, in 1799, erected the monument already
mentioned, and placed a small slab in the wall, under the window,
opposite to the tomb itself, recording the fact of Gray's burial
there. The whole scene is well worthy of a summer day's stroll,
especially for such as, pent in the metropolis, know how to enjoy the
quiet freshness of the country and the associations of poetry and the





  The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
  The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

  Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,         5
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
  Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
    And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:


  Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
    The moping owl does to the moon complain              10
  Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
    Molest her ancient solitary reign.


  Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
  Each in his narrow cell forever laid,                   15
    The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.


  The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
    The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
  The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
    No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.        20


  For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
    Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
  No children run to lisp their sire's return,
    Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.


  Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,              25
    Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
  How jocund did they drive their team afield!
    How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!


  Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
    Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;               30
  Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
    The short and simple annals of the poor.

  The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
  Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.                       35
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

  Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
    If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise;
  Where, through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
    The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.         40

  Can storied urn or animated bust
    Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
  Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust?
    Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

  Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid                  45
    Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
  Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
    Or wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre:

  But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
    Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;       50
  Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
    And froze the genial current of the soul.


  Full many a gem of purest ray serene
    The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear;
  Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,             55
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

  Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
    The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
  Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
    Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.      60


  Th' applause of listening senates to command,
    The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
  To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
    And read their history in a nation's eyes,

  Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone              65
    Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
  Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
    And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

  The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
    To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,             70
  Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
    With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.


  Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
    Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
  Along the cool sequester'd vale of life                 75
    They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

  Yet even these bones from insult to protect,
    Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
  With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
    Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.               80


  Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
    The place of fame and elegy supply;
  And many a holy text around she strews,
    That teach the rustic moralist to die.


  For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,                  85
    This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
  Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
    Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

  On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
    Some pious drops the closing eye requires;            90
  Even from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
    Even in our ashes live their wonted fires.


  For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
    Dost in these lines their artless tale relate,
  If chance, by lonely contemplation led,                 95
    Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,


  Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
    "Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
  Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
    To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.                100


  "There at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
    That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
  His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
    And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

  "Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,            105
    Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
  Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,
    Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

  "One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
    Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;        110
  Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
    Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

  "The next, with dirges due in sad array,
    Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
  Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay        115
    Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."


                    THE EPITAPH.

  Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
    A youth, to Fortune and to Fame unknown;
  Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
    And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.               120

  Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
    Heaven did a recompense as largely send;
  He gave to Misery all he had, a tear;
    He gain'd from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

  No farther seek his merits to disclose,                125
    Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
  (There they alike in trembling hope repose)
    The bosom of his Father and his God.





  Lo! where the rosy-bosom'd Hours,
    Fair Venus' train, appear,
  Disclose the long-expecting flowers,
    And wake the purple year!
  The Attic warbler pours her throat,           5
  Responsive to the cuckoo's note,
    The untaught harmony of spring;
  While, whispering pleasure as they fly,
  Cool Zephyrs thro' the clear blue sky
    Their gather'd fragrance fling.            10

  Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch
    A broader browner shade,
  Where'er the rude and moss-grown beech
    O'ercanopies the glade,
  Beside some water's rushy brink              15
  With me the Muse shall sit, and think
    (At ease reclin'd in rustic state)
  How vain the ardour of the crowd,
  How low, how little are the proud,
    How indigent the great!                    20

  Still is the toiling hand of Care;
    The panting herds repose:
  Yet hark, how thro' the peopled air
    The busy murmur glows!
  The insect youth are on the wing,            25
  Eager to taste the honied spring,
    And float amid the liquid noon:
  Some lightly o'er the current skim,
  Some show their gayly-gilded trim
    Quick-glancing to the sun.                 30

  To Contemplation's sober eye
    Such is the race of Man;
  And they that creep, and they that fly,
    Shall end where they began.
  Alike the busy and the gay                   35
  But flutter thro' life's little day,
    In Fortune's varying colours drest:
  Brush'd by the hand of rough Mischance,
  Or chill'd by age, their airy dance
    They leave, in dust to rest.               40

  Methinks I hear in accents low
    The sportive kind reply:
  Poor moralist! and what art thou?
    A solitary fly!
  Thy joys no glittering female meets,         45
  No hive hast thou of hoarded sweets,
    No painted plumage to display:
  On hasty wings thy youth is flown;
  Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone--
    We frolic while 'tis May.                  50



_Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes_.

  'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
  Where China's gayest art had dyed
    The azure flowers that blow;
  Demurest of the tabby kind,
  The pensive Selima, reclin'd,                 5
    Gaz'd on the lake below.

  Her conscious tail her joy declar'd:
  The fair round face, the snowy beard,
    The velvet of her paws,
  Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,       10
  Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
    She saw; and purr'd applause.

  Still had she gaz'd; but midst the tide
  Two angel forms were seen to glide,
    The Genii of the stream:                   15
  Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
  Through richest purple to the view
    Betray'd a golden gleam.

  The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
  A whisker first, and then a claw,            20
    With many an ardent wish,
  She stretch'd in vain to reach the prize.
  What female heart can gold despise?
    What Cat's averse to fish?

  Presumptuous maid! with looks intent         25
  Again she stretch'd, again she bent,
    Nor knew the gulf between.
  (Malignant Fate sat by, and smil'd.)
  The slippery verge her feet beguil'd,
    She tumbled headlong in.                   30

  Eight times emerging from the flood,
  She mew'd to every watery God,
    Some speedy aid to send.
  No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr'd:
  Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.              35
    A favourite has no friend!

  From hence, ye beauties, undeceiv'd,
  Know, one false step is ne'er retriev'd,
    And be with caution bold.
  Not all that tempts your wandering eyes      40
  And heedless hearts is lawful prize,
    Nor all that glisters gold.


[Greek: Anthrôpos, hikanê prophasis eis to dustuchein.]--MENANDER.

  Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
    That crown the watery glade,
  Where grateful Science still adores
    Her Henry's holy shade;
  And ye, that from the stately brow                5
  Of Windsor's heights th' expanse below
    Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
  Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among
  Wanders the hoary Thames along
    His silver-winding way:                        10

  Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade!
    Ah, fields belov'd in vain!
  Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
    A stranger yet to pain!
  I feel the gales that from ye blow               15
  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.                    20

  Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
    Full many a sprightly race
  Disporting on thy margent green
    The paths of pleasure trace;
  Who foremost now delight to cleave               25
  With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
    The captive linnet which enthrall?
  What idle progeny succeed
  To chase the rolling circle's speed,
    Or urge the flying ball?                       30

  While some, on earnest business bent,
    Their murmuring labours ply
  'Gainst graver hours that bring constraint
    To sweeten liberty,
  Some bold adventurers disdain                    35
  The limits of their little reign,
    And unknown regions dare descry:
  Still as they run they look behind,
  They hear a voice in every wind,
    And snatch a fearful joy.                      40

  Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
    Less pleasing when possest;
  The tear forgot as soon as shed,
    The sunshine of the breast:
  Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,                 45
  Wild wit, invention ever new,
    And lively cheer of vigour born;
  The thoughtless day, the easy night,
  The spirits pure, the slumbers light,
    That fly th' approach of morn.                 50

  Alas! regardless of their doom,
    The little victims play;
  No sense have they of ills to come,
    No care beyond to-day:
  Yet see how all around 'em wait                  55
  The ministers of human fate,
    And black Misfortune's baleful train!
  Ah, show them where in ambush stand
  To seize their prey the murtherous band!
    Ah, tell them, they are men!                   60

  These shall the fury Passions tear,
    The vultures of the mind,
  Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,
    And Shame that skulks behind;
  Or pining Love shall waste their youth,          65
  Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,
    That inly gnaws the secret heart;
  And Envy wan, and faded Care,
  Grim-visag'd comfortless Despair,
    And Sorrow's piercing dart.                    70

  Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
    Then whirl the wretch from high,
  To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,
    And grinning Infamy.
  The stings of Falsehood those shall try,         75
  And hard Unkindness' alter'd eye,
    That mocks the tear it forc'd to flow;
  And keen Remorse with blood defil'd,
  And moody Madness laughing wild
    Amid severest woe.                             80

  Lo! in the vale of years beneath
    A grisly troop are seen,
  The painful family of Death,
    More hideous than their queen:
  This racks the joints, this fires the veins,     85
  That every labouring sinew strains,
    Those in the deeper vitals rage:
  Lo! Poverty, to fill the band,
  That numbs the soul with icy hand,
    And slow-consuming Age.                        90

  To each his sufferings: all are men,
    Condemn'd alike to groan;
  The tender for another's pain,
    Th' unfeeling for his own.
  Yet, ah! why should they know their fate,        95
  Since sorrow never comes too late,
    And happiness too swiftly flies?
  Thought would destroy their paradise.
  No more;--where ignorance is bliss,
    'Tis folly to be wise.                        100

[Illustration: SEAL OF ETON COLLEGE.]


_A Pindaric Ode_.
  [Greek:  Phônanta sunetoisin: es
           De to pan hermêneôn
           Chatizei.]--PINDAR, _Ol_. II.

I. 1.

    Awake, Æolian lyre, awake,
  And give to rapture all thy trembling strings.
  From Helicon's harmonious springs
    A thousand rills their mazy progress take:
  The laughing flowers that round them blow,                  5
  Drink life and fragrance as they flow.
  Now the rich stream of music winds along,
  Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong,
  Thro' verdant vales, and Ceres' golden reign:
  Now rolling down the steep amain,                          10
  Headlong, impetuous, see it pour;
  The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar.

I. 2.

    Oh! Sovereign of the willing soul,
  Parent of sweet and solemn-breathing airs,
  Enchanting shell! the sullen Cares                         15
    And frantic Passions hear thy soft control.
  On Thracia's hills the Lord of War
  Has curb'd the fury of his car,
  And dropt his thirsty lance at thy command.
  Perching on the sceptred hand                              20
  Of Jove, thy magic lulls the feather'd king
  With ruffled plumes and flagging wing:
  Quench'd in dark clouds of slumber lie
  The terror of his beak, and lightnings of his eye.

I. 3.

  Thee the voice, the dance, obey,                           25
  Temper'd to thy warbled lay.
  O'er Idalia's velvet-green
  The rosy-crowned Loves are seen
  On Cytherea's day
  With antic Sports, and blue-eyed Pleasures,                30
  Frisking light in frolic measures;
  Now pursuing, now retreating,
    Now in circling troops they meet:
  To brisk notes in cadence beating,
    Glance their many-twinkling feet.                        35
  Slow melting strains their Queen's approach declare:
    Where'er she turns the Graces homage pay.
  With arms sublime, that float upon the air,
    In gliding state she wins her easy way:
  O'er her warm cheek, and rising bosom, move                40
  The bloom of young Desire and purple light of Love.


II. 1.

    Man's feeble race what ills await!
  Labour, and Penury, the racks of Pain,
  Disease, and Sorrow's weeping train,
    And Death, sad refuge from the storms of Fate!           45
  The fond complaint, my song, disprove,
  And justify the laws of Jove.
  Say, has he given in vain the heavenly Muse?
  Night and all her sickly dews,
  Her spectres wan, and birds of boding cry,                 50
  He gives to range the dreary sky;
  Till down the eastern cliffs afar
  Hyperion's march they spy, and glittering shafts of war.

II. 2.

    In climes beyond the solar road,
  Where shaggy forms o'er ice-built mountains roam,          55
  The Muse has broke the twilight gloom
    To cheer the shivering native's dull abode.
  And oft, beneath the odorous shade
  Of Chili's boundless forests laid,
  She deigns to hear the savage youth repeat,                60
  In loose numbers wildly sweet,
  Their feather-cinctur'd chiefs, and dusky loves.
  Her track, where'er the Goddess roves,
  Glory pursue, and generous Shame,
  Th' unconquerable Mind, and Freedom's holy flame.          65

II. 3.

  Woods, that wave o'er Delphi's steep,
  Isles, that crown th' Ægean deep,
  Fields, that cool Ilissus laves,
  Or where Mæander's amber waves
  In lingering labyrinths creep,                             70
  How do your tuneful echoes languish,
  Mute, but to the voice of anguish!
  Where each old poetic mountain
    Inspiration breath'd around;
  Every shade and hallow'd fountain                          75
    Murmur'd deep a solemn sound:
  Till the sad Nine, in Greece's evil hour,
    Left their Parnassus for the Latian plains.
  Alike they scorn the pomp of tyrant Power,
    And coward Vice, that revels in her chains.              80
  When Latium had her lofty spirit lost,
  They sought, O Albion! next thy sea-encircled coast.


III. 1.

    Far from the sun and summer gale,
  In thy green lap was Nature's darling laid,
  What time, where lucid Avon stray'd,                       85
    To him the mighty mother did unveil
  Her awful face: the dauntless child
  Stretch'd forth his little arms and smil'd.
  "This pencil take (she said), whose colours clear
  Richly paint the vernal year:                              90
  Thine too these golden keys, immortal Boy!
  This can unlock the gates of joy;
  Of horror that, and thrilling fears,
  Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears."

III. 2.

    Nor second He, that rode sublime                         95
  Upon the seraph wings of Ecstasy,
  The secrets of th' abyss to spy.
    He pass'd the flaming bounds of place and time:
  The living throne, the sapphire blaze,
  Where angels tremble while they gaze,                     100
  He saw; but, blasted with excess of light,
  Clos'd his eyes in endless night.
  Behold, where Dryden's less presumptuous car,
  Wide o'er the fields of glory bear
  Two coursers of ethereal race,                            105
  With necks in thunder cloth'd, and long-resounding pace.

III. 3.

  Hark, his hands the lyre explore!
  Bright-eyed Fancy hovering o'er
  Scatters from her pictur'd urn
  Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.               110
  But ah! 'tis heard no more----
  Oh! lyre divine, what daring spirit
  Wakes thee now? Tho' he inherit
  Nor the pride, nor ample pinion,
    That the Theban eagle bear,                             115
  Sailing with supreme dominion
    Thro' the azure deep of air,
  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:                  120
    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.


_A Pindaric Ode_.

I. 1.

  "Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!
    Confusion on thy banners wait;
  Tho' fann'd by Conquest's crimson wing,
    They mock the air with idle state.
  Helm, nor hauberk's twisted mail,                             5
  Nor e'en thy virtues, Tyrant, shall avail
  To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,
  From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears!"
    Such were the sounds that o'er the crested pride
  Of the first Edward scatter'd wild dismay,                   10
    As down the steep of Snowdon's shaggy side
  He wound with toilsome march his long array.
  Stout Gloster stood aghast in speechless trance:
  "To arms!" cried Mortimer, and couch'd his quivering lance.

I. 2.

    On a rock whose haughty brow                               15
  Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood,
    Rob'd in the sable garb of woe,
  With haggard eyes the poet stood
  (Loose his beard, and hoary hair
  Stream'd, like a meteor, to the troubled air),               20
  And with a master's hand, and prophet's fire,
  Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre.
  "Hark, how each giant oak, and desert cave,
    Sighs to the torrent's awful voice beneath!
  O'er thee, O King! their hundred arms they wave,             25
    Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe;
  Vocal no more, since Cambria's fatal day,
  To high-born Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.

I. 3.

    "Cold is Cadwallo's tongue,
    That hush'd the stormy main;                               30
  Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed;
    Mountains, ye mourn in vain
    Modred, whose magic song
  Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topt head.
    On dreary Arvon's shore they lie,                          35
  Smear'd with gore, and ghastly pale:
  Far, far aloof th' affrighted ravens sail;
    The famish'd eagle screams, and passes by.
  Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,
    Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,              40
  Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
    Ye died amidst your dying country's cries--
  No more I weep. They do not sleep.
    On yonder cliffs, a grisly band,
  I see them sit, they linger yet,                             45
    Avengers of their native land:
  With me in dreadful harmony they join,
  And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.

II. 1.

  "Weave the warp, and weave the woof,
    The winding-sheet of Edward's race.                        50
  Give ample room, and verge enough
    The characters of hell to trace.
  Mark the year, and mark the night,
  When Severn shall reëcho with affright
  The shrieks of death thro' Berkeley's roofs that ring,       55
  Shrieks of an agonizing king!
    She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs,
  That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate,
    From thee be born, who o'er thy country hangs
  The scourge of heaven. What terrors round him wait!          60
  Amazement in his van, with Flight combin'd,
  And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.

II. 2.

    "Mighty victor, mighty lord!
  Low on his funeral couch he lies!
    No pitying heart, no eye, afford                           65
  A tear to grace his obsequies.
  Is the sable warrior fled?
  Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead.
  The swarm that in thy noontide beam were born?
  Gone to salute the rising morn.                              70
  Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,
    While proudly riding o'er the azure realm
  In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes;
    Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm;
  Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway,                 75
  That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening prey.

II. 3.

    "Fill high the sparkling bowl,
    The rich repast prepare;
  Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast:
    Close by the regal chair                                   80
    Fell Thirst and Famine scowl
  A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.
    Heard ye the din of battle bray,
  Lance to lance, and horse to horse?
  Long years of havoc urge their destined course,              85
    And thro' the kindred squadrons mow their way.
  Ye towers of Julius, London's lasting shame,
    With many a foul and midnight murther fed,
  Revere his consort's faith, his father's fame,
    And spare the meek usurper's holy head.                    90
  Above, below, the rose of snow,
    Twin'd with her blushing foe, we spread:
  The bristled boar in infant gore
    Wallows beneath the thorny shade.
  Now, brothers, bending o'er the accursed loom,               95
  Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.

[Illustration: THE BLOODY TOWER.]

III. 1.

  "Edward, lo! to sudden fate
    (Weave we the woof. The thread is spun.)
  Half of thy heart we consecrate.
    (The web is wove. The work is done.)                      100
  Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn
  Leave me unbless'd, unpitied, here to mourn:
  In yon bright track, that fires the western skies,
  They melt, they vanish from my eyes.
    But oh! what solemn scenes on Snowdon's height            105
  Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?
    Visions of glory, spare my aching sight!
  Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!
  No more our long-lost Arthur we bewail.
  All hail, ye genuine kings, Britannia's issue, hail!        110

III. 2.

    "Girt with many a baron bold
  Sublime their starry fronts they rear;
    And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old
  In bearded majesty, appear.
  In the midst a form divine!                                 115
  Her eye proclaims her of the Briton line;
  Her lion-port, her awe-commanding face,
  Attemper'd sweet to virgin-grace.
  What strings symphonious tremble in the air,
    What strains of vocal transport round her play!           120
  Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;
    They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
  Bright Rapture calls, and soaring as she sings,
  Waves in the eye of heaven her many-colour'd wings.

III. 3.

    "The verse adorn again                                    125
    Fierce War, and faithful Love,
  And Truth severe, by fairy Fiction drest.
    In buskin'd measures move
    Pale Grief, and pleasing Pain,
  With Horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast.                130
    A voice, as of the cherub-choir,
  Gales from blooming Eden bear;
  And distant warblings lessen on my ear,
    That lost in long futurity expire.
  Fond impious man, think'st thou yon sanguine cloud,         135
    Rais'd by thy breath, has quench'd the orb of day?
  To-morrow he repairs the golden flood,
    And warms the nations with redoubled ray.
  Enough for me; with joy I see
    The different doom our fates assign.                      140
  Be thine despair, and sceptred care;
    To triumph, and to die, are mine."
  He spoke, and headlong from the mountain's height
  Deep in the roaring tide he plung'd to endless night.

[Illustration: QUEEN ELIZABETH.]



  [Greek:  Zêna----
           Ton phronein brotous hodô-
           santa, tôi pathei mathan
           Thenta kuriôs echein.]
                     ÆSCHYLUS, _Agam_.

    Daughter of Jove, relentless power,
      Thou tamer of the human breast,
    Whose iron scourge and torturing hour
      The bad affright, afflict the best!
    Bound in thy adamantine chain,                        5
    The proud are taught to taste of pain,
    And purple tyrants vainly groan
  With pangs unfelt before, unpitied and alone.

    When first thy sire to send on earth
      Virtue, his darling child, design'd,               10
    To thee he gave the heavenly birth,
      And bade to form her infant mind.
    Stern rugged nurse! thy rigid lore
    With patience many a year she bore:
    What sorrow was, thou bad'st her know,               15
  And from her own she learn'd to melt at others' woe.

    Scar'd at thy frown terrific, fly
      Self-pleasing Folly's idle brood,
    Wild Laughter, Noise, and thoughtless Joy,
      And leave us leisure to be good.                   20
    Light they disperse, and with them go
    The summer friend, the flattering foe;
    By vain Prosperity receiv'd,
  To her they vow their truth, and are again believ'd.

    Wisdom in sable garb array'd,                        25
      Immersed in rapturous thought profound,
    And Melancholy, silent maid,
      With leaden eye that loves the ground,
    Still on thy solemn steps attend;
    Warm Charity, the general friend,                    30
    With Justice, to herself severe,
  And Pity, dropping soft the sadly-pleasing tear.

    Oh! gently on thy suppliant's head,
      Dread goddess, lay thy chastening hand!
    Not in thy Gorgon terrors clad,                      35
      Not circled with the vengeful band
    (As by the impious thou art seen),
    With thundering voice and threatening mien,
    With screaming Horror's funeral cry,
  Despair, and fell Disease, and ghastly Poverty:        40

    Thy form benign, O goddess, wear,
      Thy milder influence impart;
    Thy philosophic train be there
      To soften, not to wound, my heart.
    The generous spark extinct revive,                   45
    Teach me to love and to forgive,
    Exact my own defects to scan,
  What others are to feel, and know myself a Man.

[Illustration: BERKELEY CASTLE.

  "Mark the year, and mark the night,
  When Severn shall reëcho with affright
  The shrieks of death thro' Berkeley's roofs that ring,
  Shrieks of an agonizing king!"
                        _The Bard_, 53.]



A. S., Anglo-Saxon.

Arc., Milton's _Arcades_.

C. T., Chaucer's _Canterbury Tales_.

Cf. (_confer_), compare.

D. V., Goldsmith's _Deserted Village_.

Ep., Epistle, Epode.

Foll., following.

F. Q., Spenser's _Faërie Queene_.

H., Haven's _Rhetoric_ (Harper's edition).

Hales, _Longer English Poems_, edited by Rev. J. W. Hales (London,

Il Pens., Milton's _Il Penseroso_.

L'All., Milton's _L'Allegro_.

Ol., Pindar's _Olympian Odes_.

P. L., Milton's _Paradise Lost_.

P. R., Milton's _Paradise Regained_.

S. A., Milton's _Samson Agonistes_.

Shakes. Gr., Abbott's _Shakespearian Grammar_ (the references are to
_sections_, not pages).

Shep. Kal., Spenser's _Shepherd's Kalendar_.

st., stanza.

Wb., Webster's Dictionary (last revised quarto edition).

Worc., Worcester's Dictionary (quarto edition).

Other abbreviations (names of books in the Bible, plays of
Shakespeare, works of Ovid, Virgil, and Horace, etc.) need no




This poem was begun in the year 1742, but was not finished until
1750, when Gray sent it to Walpole with a letter (dated June 12,
1750) in which he says: "I have been here at Stoke a few days (where
I shall continue good part of the summer), and having put an end to a
thing, whose beginning you have seen long ago, I immediately send it
you. You will, I hope, look upon it in the light of a thing with an
end to it: a merit that most of my writings have wanted, and are like
to want." It was shown in manuscript to some of the author's friends,
and was published in 1751 only because it was about to be printed

February 11, 1751, Gray wrote to Walpole that the proprietors of "the
Magazine of Magazines" were about to publish his _Elegy_, and added,
"I have but one bad way left to escape the honour they would inflict
upon me; and therefore am obliged to desire you would make Dodsley
print it immediately (which may be done in less than a week's time)
from your copy, but without my name, in what form is most convenient
for him, but on his best paper and character; he must correct the
press himself,[1] and print it without any interval between the
stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued beyond them;
and the title must be--'Elegy, written in a Country Churchyard.' If
he would add a line or two to say it came into his hands by accident,
I should like it better." Walpole did as requested, and wrote an
advertisement to the effect that accident alone brought the poem
before the public, although an apology was unnecessary to any but the
author. On which Gray wrote, "I thank you for your advertisement,
which saves my honour."

[Footnote 1: Dodsley's proof-reading must have been somewhat
careless, for there are many errors of the press in this _editio
princeps_. Gray writes to Walpole, under date of "Ash-Wednesday,
Cambridge, 1751," as follows: "Nurse Dodsley has given it a pinch or
two in the cradle, that (I doubt) it will bear the marks of as long
as it lives. But no matter: we have ourselves suffered under her
hands before now; and besides, it will only look the more careless
and by _accident_ as it were." Again, March 3, 1751, he writes: "I do
not expect any more editions; as I have appeared in more magazines
than one. The chief errata were _sacred_ for _secret_; _hidden_ for
_kindred_ (in spite of dukes and classics); and '_frowning_ as in
scorn' for _smiling_. I humbly propose, for the benefit of Mr.
Dodsley and his matrons, that take _awake_ [in line 92, which at
first read "awake and faithful to her wonted fires"] for a verb, that
they should read _asleep_, and all will be right." Other errors were,
"Their _harrow_ oft the stubborn glebe," "And read their _destiny_ in
a nation's eyes," "With uncouth rhymes and shapeless _culture_
decked," "Slow through the churchway _pass_," and many of minor

A writer in _Notes and Queries_, June 12, 1875, states that the poem
first appeared in the _London Magazine_, March, 1751, p. 134, and
that "the Magazine of Magazines" is "a gentle term of scorn used by
Gray to indicate" that periodical, and not the name of any actual
magazine. But in the next number of _Notes and Queries_ (June 19,
1875) Mr. F. Locker informs us that he has in his possession a
title-page of the _Grand Magazine of Magazines_, and the page of the
number for April, 1751, which contains the _Elegy_. The magazine is
said to be "collected and digested by Roger Woodville, Esq.," and
"published by Cooper at the Globe, in Pater Noster Row."

Gray says nothing in his letters of the appearance of the _Elegy_ in
the _London Magazine_. The full title of that periodical was "The
London Magazine: or Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer." The editor's
name was not given; the publisher was "R. Baldwin, jun. at the Rose
in Pater-Noster Row." The volume for 1751 was the 20th, and the
Preface (written at the close of the year) begins thus: "As the two
most formidable Enemies we have ever had, are now extinct, we have
great Reason to conclude, that it is only the Merit, and real
Usefulness of our COLLECTION, that hath supported its Sale and
Reputation for Twenty Years." A foot-note informs us that the
"Enemies" are the "_Magazine of Magazines_ and _Grand Magazine of
Magazines_;" from which it would appear that there were two
periodicals of similar name published in London in 1751.[2]

[Footnote 2: May not the _Elegy_ have been printed in both of these?
We do not know how otherwise to reconcile the conflicting statements
concerning the "Magazine of Magazines," as Gray calls it. In the
first place, Gray appears (from other portions of his letter to
Walpole) to be familiar with this magazine, and would not be likely
to confound it with another of similar name. Then, as we have seen,
he writes _early in March_ to Walpole that the poem has been printed
"in more magazines than one." This cannot refer to the _Grand
Magazine of Magazines_, if, as Mr. Locker states, it was the _April_
number of that periodical in which the poem appeared. Nor can it
refer to the _London Magazine_, as it is clear from internal evidence
that the March number, containing the _Elegy_, was not issued until
early in April. It contains a summary of current news down to Sunday,
March 31, and the price of stocks in the London market for March 30.
The _February_ number, in its "monthly catalogue" of new books,
records the publication of the _Elegy_ by Dodsley thus: "An Elegy
wrote in a Church-yard, pr. 6d. Dodsley."

If, then, the _Elegy_ did not appear in either the _London Magazine_
or the _Grand Magazine of Magazines_ until more than a month (in the
case of the latter, perhaps two months) after Dodsley had issued it,
in what magazine was it that it _did_ appear just before he issued
it? The _N. A. Review_ says that "it was a close race between the
Magazine and Dodsley; but the former, having a little the start, came
out a few days ahead." If so, it must have been the _March_ number;
or the _February_ one, if it was published, like the _London_, at the
end of the month. Gray calls it "the Magazine of Magazines," and we
shall take his word for it until we have reason for doubting it. What
else was included in his "more magazines than one" we cannot even

We have not been able to find the _Magazine of Magazines_ or the
_Grand Magazine of Magazines_ in the libraries, and know nothing
about either "of our own knowledge." The _London Magazine_ is in the
Harvard College Library, and the statements concerning that we can
personally vouch for.]

The author's name is not given with the _Elegy_ as printed in the
_London Magazine_. The poem is sandwiched between an "Epilogue to
_Alfred, a Masque_" and some coarse rhymes entitled "Strip-Me-Naked,
or Royal Gin for ever." There is not even a printer's "rule" or
"dash" to separate the title of the latter from the last line of the
_Elegy_. The poem is more correctly printed than in Dodsley's
authorized edition; though, queerly enough, it has "winds" in the
second line and the parenthesis "(all he had)" in the Epitaph. Of
Dodsley's misprints noted above it has only "Their _harrow_ oft" and
"shapeless _culture_." These four errors, indeed, are the only ones
worth noting, except "Or _wake_ to extasy the living lyre."

The "Magazine of Magazines" (as the writer in the _North American
Review_ tells us) printed the _Elegy_ with the author's name. The
authorized though anonymous edition was thus briefly noticed by _The
Monthly Review_, the critical Rhadamanthus of the day: "_An Elegy in
a Country Churchyard_. 4to. Dodsley's. Seven pages.--The excellence
of this little piece amply compensates for its want of quantity."

"Soon after its publication," says Mason, "I remember, sitting with
Mr. Gray in his College apartment, he expressed to me his surprise at
the rapidity of its sale. I replied:

  'Sunt lacrymae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.'

He paused awhile, and taking his pen, wrote the line on a printed
copy of it lying on his table. 'This,' said he, 'shall be its future
motto.' 'Pity,' cried I, 'that Dr. Young's Night Thoughts have
preoccupied it.' 'So,' replied he, 'indeed it is.'" Gray himself
tells the story of its success on the margin of the manuscript copy
of the _Elegy_ preserved at Cambridge among his papers, and
reproduced in _fac-simile_ in Mathias's elegant edition of the poet.
The following is a careful transcript of the memorandum:

  "publish'd in
   Feb:^{ry}, 1751.
   by Dodsley: &
   went thro' four
   Editions; in two
   months; and af-
   terwards a fifth
   6^{th} 7^{th} & 8^{th} 9^{th} & 10^{th}
   & 11^{th}
   printed also in 1753
   with M^r Bentley's
   Designs, of w^{ch}
   there is a 2^d Edition
   & again by Dodsley
   in his Miscellany,
   Vol: 4^{th} & in a
   Scotch Collection
   call'd _the Union_.
   translated into
   Latin by Chr: Anstey
   Esq, & the Rev^d M^r
   Roberts, & publish'd
   in 1762; & again
   in the same year
   by Rob: Lloyd, M: A:"

"One peculiar and remarkable tribute to the merit of the _Elegy_,"
says Professor Henry Reed, "is to be noticed in the great number of
translations which have been made of it into various languages, both
of ancient and modern Europe. It is the same kind of tribute which
has been rendered to _Robinson Crusoe_ and to _The Pilgrim's
Progress_, and is proof of the same universality of interest,
transcending the limits of language and of race. To no poem in the
English language has the same kind of homage been paid so abundantly.
Of what other poem is there a polyglot edition? Italy and England
have competed with their polyglot editions of the _Elegy_: Torri's,
bearing the title, 'Elegia di Tomaso Gray sopra un Cimitero di
Campagna, tradotta dall' Inglese in più lingue: Verona, 1817;
Livorno, 1843;' and Van Voorst's London edition." Professor Reed adds
a list of the translations (which, however, is incomplete), including
one in Hebrew, seven in Greek, twelve in Latin, thirteen in Italian,
fifteen in French, six in German, and one in Portuguese.

"Had Gray written nothing but his _Elegy_," remarks Byron, "high as
he stands, I am not sure that he would not stand higher; it is the
cornerstone of his glory."

The tribute paid the poem by General Wolfe is familiar to all, but we
cannot refrain from quoting Lord Mahon's beautiful account of it in
his _History of England_. On the night of September 13th, 1759, the
night before the battle on the Plains of Abraham, Wolfe was
descending the St. Lawrence with a part of his troops. The historian
says: "Swiftly, but silently, did the boats fall down with the tide,
unobserved by the enemy's sentinels at their posts along the shore.
Of the soldiers on board, how eagerly must every heart have throbbed
at the coming conflict! how intently must every eye have contemplated
the dark outline, as it lay pencilled upon the midnight sky, and as
every moment it grew closer and clearer, of the hostile heights! Not
a word was spoken--not a sound heard beyond the rippling of the
stream. Wolfe alone--thus tradition has told us--repeated in a low
tone to the other officers in his boat those beautiful stanzas with
which a country churchyard inspired the muse of Gray. One noble line,

  'The paths of glory lead but to the grave,'

must have seemed at such a moment fraught with mournful meaning. At
the close of the recitation Wolfe added, 'Now, gentlemen, I would
rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec.'"

Hales, in his Introduction to the poem, remarks: "The _Elegy_ is
perhaps the most widely known poem in our language. The reason of
this extensive popularity is perhaps to be sought in the fact that it
expresses in an exquisite manner feelings and thoughts that are
universal. In the current of ideas in the _Elegy_ there is perhaps
nothing that is rare, or exceptional, or out of the common way. The
musings are of the most rational and obvious character possible; it
is difficult to conceive of any one musing under similar
circumstances who should not muse so; but they are not the less deep
and moving on this account. The mystery of life does not become
clearer, or less solemn and awful, for any amount of contemplation.
Such inevitable, such everlasting questions as rise on the mind when
one lingers in the precincts of Death can never lose their freshness,
never cease to fascinate and to move. It is with such questions, that
would have been commonplace long ages since if they could ever be so,
that the _Elegy_ deals. It deals with them in no lofty philosophical
manner, but in a simple, humble, unpretentious way, always with the
truest and the broadest humanity. The poet's thoughts turn to the
poor; he forgets the fine tombs inside the church, and thinks only of
the 'mouldering heaps' in the churchyard. Hence the problem that
especially suggests itself is the potential greatness, when they
lived, of the 'rude forefathers' that now lie at his feet. He does
not, and cannot solve it, though he finds considerations to mitigate
the sadness it must inspire; but he expresses it in all its awfulness
in the most effective language and with the deepest feeling; and his
expression of it has become a living part of our language."

The writer in the _North American Review_ (vol. 96) from whom we have
elsewhere quoted says of the _Elegy_: "It is upon this that Gray's
fame as a poet must chiefly rest. By this he will be known forever
alike to the lettered and the unlettered. Many, in future ages, who
may never have heard of his classic Odes, his various learning, or
his sparkling letters, will revere him only as the author of the
_Elegy_. For this he will be enshrined through all time in the hearts
of the myriads who shall speak our English tongue. For this his name
will be held in glad remembrance in the far-off summer isles of the
Pacific, and amidst the waste of polar snows. If he had written
nothing else, his place as a leading poet in our language would still
be assured. Many have asserted, with Johnson, that he was a mere
mechanical poet--one who brought from without, but never found
within; that the gift of inspiration was not native to him; that his
imagination was borrowed finery, his fancy tinsel, and his invention
the world's well-worn jewels; that whatever in his verse was poetic
was not new, and what was new was not poetic; that he was only an
unworldly dyspeptic, living amid many books, and laboriously delving
for a lifetime between musty covers, picking out now and then
another's gems and bits of ore, and fashioning them into
ill-compacted mosaics, which he wrongly called his own. To all this
the _Elegy_ is a sufficient answer. It is not old--it is not bookish;
it is new and human. Books could not make its maker: he was born of
the divine breath alone. Consider all the commentators, the
scholiasts, the interpreters, the annotators, and other like
book-worms, from Aristarchus down to Döderlein; and may it not be
said that, among them all, 'Nec viget quidquam simile aut secundum?'

"Gray wrote but little, yet he wrote that little well. He might have
done far more for us; the same is true of most men, even of the
greatest. The possibilities of a life are always in advance of its
performance. But we cannot say that his life was a wasted one. Even
this little _Elegy_ alone should go for much. For, suppose that he
had never written this, but instead had done much else in other ways,
according to his powers: that he had written many learned treatises;
that he had, with keen criticism, expounded and reconstructed Greek
classics; that he had, perchance, sat upon the woolsack, and laid
rich offerings at the feet of blind Justice;--taking the years
together, would it have been, on the whole, better for him or for us?
Would he have added so much to the sum of human happiness? He might
thus have made himself a power for a time, to be dethroned by some
new usurper in the realm of knowledge; now he is a power and a joy
forever to countless thousands."

Two manuscripts of the _Elegy_, in Gray's handwriting, still exist.
Both were bequeathed by the poet, together with his library, letters,
and many miscellaneous papers, to his friends the Rev. William Mason
and the Rev. James Browne, as joint literary executors. Mason
bequeathed the entire trust to Mr. Stonhewer. The latter, in making
his will, divided the legacy into two parts. The larger share went to
the Master and Fellows of Pembroke Hall. Among the papers, which are
still in the possession of the College, was found a copy of the
_Elegy_. An excellent fac-simile of this manuscript appears in
Mathias's edition of Gray, published in 1814. In referring to it
hereafter we shall designate it as the "Pembroke" MS.

The remaining portion of Gray's literary bequest, including the other
manuscript of the _Elegy_, was left by Mr. Stonhewer to his friend,
Mr. Bright. In 1845 Mr. Bright's sons sold the collection at auction.
The MS. of the _Elegy_ was bought by Mr. Granville John Penn, of
Stoke Park, for _one hundred pounds_--the highest sum that had ever
been known to be paid for a single sheet of paper. In 1854 this
manuscript came again into the market, and was knocked down to Mr.
Robert Charles Wrightson, of Birmingham, for 131 pounds. On the 29th
of May, 1875, it was once more offered for sale in London, and was
purchased by Sir William Fraser for 230 pounds, or about $1150. A
photographic reproduction of it was published in London in 1862. For
convenience we shall refer to it as the "Wrightson" MS.

There can be little doubt that the Wrightson MS. is the original one,
and that the Pembroke MS. is a fair copy made from it by the poet.
The former contains a greater number of alterations, and varies more
from the printed text. It bears internal evidence of being the rough
draft, while the other represents a later stage of the poem. We will
give the variations of both from the present version.[3]

[Footnote 3: For the readings of the Wrightson MS. we have had to
depend on Mason, Mitford, and other editors of the poem, and on the
article in the _North American Review_, already referred to. The
readings of the Pembroke MS. are taken from the engraved fac-simile
in Mathias's edition.

The two stanzas of which a fac-simile is given on page 73 are from
the Pembroke MS., but the wood-cut hardly does justice to the
feminine delicacy of the poet's handwriting.]

The Wrightson MS. has in the first stanza, "The lowing herd _wind_
slowly," etc. See our note on this line, below.

In the 2d stanza, it reads, "And _now_ the air," etc.

The 5th stanza is as follows:

  "For ever sleep: the breezy call of morn,
     Or swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
   Or Chanticleer so shrill, or echoing horn,
     No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed."

In 8th stanza, "Their _rustic_ joys," etc.

In 10th stanza, the first two lines read,

  "Forgive, ye proud, th' involuntary fault,
     If memory to these no trophies raise."

In 12th stanza, "Hands that the _reins_ of empire," etc.

In 13th stanza, "Chill Penury _depress'd_," etc.

The 15th stanza reads thus:

  "Some village Cato, who, with dauntless breast,
     The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
   Some mute inglorious Tully here may rest,
     Some Cæsar guiltless of his country's blood."[4]

[Footnote 4: The _Saturday Review_ for June 19, 1875, has a long
article on the change made by Gray in this stanza, entitled, "A
Lesson from Gray's Elegy," from which we cull the following

"Gray, having first of all put down the names of three Romans as
illustrations of his meaning, afterwards deliberately struck them out
and put the names of three Englishmen instead. This is a sign of a
change in the taste of the age, a change with which Gray himself had
a good deal to do. The deliberate wiping out of the names of Cato,
Tully, and Cæsar, to put in the names of Hampden, Milton, and
Cromwell, seems to us so obviously a change for the better that there
seems to be no room for any doubt about it. It is by no means certain
that Gray's own contemporaries would have thought the matter equally
clear. We suspect that to many people in his day it must have seemed
a daring novelty to draw illustrations from English history,
especially from parts of English history which, it must be
remembered, were then a great deal more recent than they are now. To
be sure, in choosing English illustrations, a poet of Gray's time was
in rather a hard strait. If he chose illustrations from the century
or two before his own time, he could only choose names which had
hardly got free from the strife of recent politics. If, in a poem of
the nature of the Elegy, he had drawn illustrations from earlier
times of English history, he would have found but few people in his
day likely to understand him....

"The change which Gray made in this well-known stanza is not only an
improvement in a particular poem, it is a sign of a general
improvement in taste. He wrote first according to the vicious taste
of an earlier time, and he then changed it according to his own
better taste. And of that better taste he was undoubtedly a prophet
to others. Gray's poetry must have done a great deal to open men's
eyes to the fact that they were Englishmen, and that on them, as
Englishmen, English things had a higher claim than Roman, and that to
them English examples ought to be more speaking than Roman ones. But
there is another side of the case not to be forgotten. Those who
would have regretted the change from Cato, Tully, and Cæsar to
Hampden, Milton, and Cromwell, those who perhaps really did think
that the bringing in of Hampden, Milton, and Cromwell was a
degradation of what they would have called the Muse, were certainly
not those who had the truest knowledge of Cato, Tully, and Cæsar. The
'classic' taste from which Gray helped to deliver us was a taste
which hardly deserves to be called a taste. Pardonable perhaps in the
first heat of the Renaissance, when 'classic' studies and objects had
the charm of novelty, it had become by his day a mere silly

In 18th stanza, "Or _crown_ the shrine," etc.

After this stanza, the MS. has the following four stanzas, now

  "The thoughtless world to Majesty may bow,
     Exalt the brave, and idolize success;
   But more to innocence their safety owe
     Than Pow'r, or Genius, e'er conspir'd to bless.

  "And thou who, mindful of the unhonour'd Dead,
     Dost in these notes their artless tale relate,
   By night and lonely contemplation led
     To wander in the gloomy walks of fate:

  "Hark! how the sacred Calm, that breathes around,
     Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease;
   In still small accents whisp'ring from the ground
     A grateful earnest of eternal peace.

  "No more, with reason and thyself at strife,
     Give anxious cares and endless wishes room;
   But through the cool sequester'd vale of life
     Pursue the silent tenor of thy doom."[5]

[Footnote 5: We follow Mason (ed. 1778) in the text of these stanzas.
The _North American Review_ has "Power _and_ Genius" in the first,
and "_linger_ in the _lonely_ walks" in the second.]

The second of these stanzas has been remodelled and used as the 24th
of the present version. Mason thought that there was a pathetic
melancholy in all four which claimed preservation. The third he
considered equal to any in the whole _Elegy_. The poem was originally
intended to end here, the introduction of "the hoary-headed swain"
being a happy after-thought.

In the 19th stanza, the MS. has "never _learn'd_ to stray."

In the 21st stanza, "fame and _epitaph_," etc.

In the 23d stanza, the last line reads,

  "And buried ashes glow with social fires."

"Social" subsequently became "wonted," and other changes were made
(see p. 74, foot-note) before the line took its present form.

The 24th stanza reads,

  "If chance that e'er some pensive Spirit more,
     By sympathetic musings here delay'd,
   With vain, though kind inquiry shall explore
     Thy once-lov'd haunt, this long-deserted shade."[6]

[Footnote 6: Mitford (Eton ed.) gives "sympathizing" in the second
line, and for the last,

  "Thy ever loved haunt--this long deserted shade."

The latter is obviously wrong (Gray was incapable of such metre), and
the former is probably wrong also.]

The last line of the 25th stanza reads,

  "On the high brow of yonder hanging lawn."

Then comes the following stanza, afterwards omitted:

  "Him have we seen the greenwood side along,
     While o'er the heath we hied, our labour done,
   Oft as the woodlark pip'd her farewell song,
     With wistful eyes pursue the setting sun."[7]

Mason remarked: "I rather wonder that he rejected this stanza, as it
not only has the same sort of Doric delicacy which charms us
peculiarly in this part of the poem, but also completes the account
of his whole day; whereas, this evening scene being omitted, we have
only his morning walk, and his noontide repose."

[Footnote 7: Here also we follow Mason; the _North American Review_
reads "our _labours_ done."]

The first line of the 27th stanza reads,

  "With gestures quaint, now smiling as in scorn."

After the 29th stanza, and before the Epitaph, the MS. contains the
following omitted stanza:

  "There scatter'd oft, the earliest of the year,
     By hands unseen are frequent violets found;
   The robin loves to build and warble there,
     And little footsteps lightly print the ground."

This--with two or three verbal changes only[8]--was inserted in all
the editions up to 1753, when it was dropped. The omission was not
made from any objection to the stanza in itself, but simply because
it was too long a parenthesis in this place; on the principle which
he states in a letter to Dr. Beattie: "As to description, I have
always thought that it made the most graceful ornament of poetry, but
never ought to make the subject." The part was sacrificed for the
good of the whole. Mason very justly remarked that "the lines,
however, are in themselves exquisitely fine, and demand

[Footnote 8: See next page. The writer in the _North American Review_
is our only authority for the stanza as given above. He appears to
have had the photographic reproduction of the Wrightson MS., but we
cannot vouch for the accuracy of his transcripts from it.]

The first line of the 31st stanza has "and his _heart_ sincere."

The 32d and last stanza is as follows:

  "No farther seek his merits to disclose,
     Nor seek to draw them from their dread abode--
   (His frailties there in trembling hope repose);
     The bosom of his Father and his God."[9]

[Footnote 9: The above are all the variations from the present text
in the Wrightson MS. which are noted by the authorities on whom we
have depended; but we suspect that the following readings, mentioned
by Mitford as in the MS., belong to _that_ MS., as they are _not_
found in the other: in the 7th stanza, "sickles" for "sickle;" in
18th, "shrines" for "shrine." Two others (in stanzas 9th and 27th)
are referred to in our account of the Pembroke MS. below.]

The Pembroke MS. has the following variations from the present

In the 1st stanza, "wind" for "winds."

2d stanza, "_Or_ drowsy," etc.

5th stanza, "_and_ the ecchoing horn."

6th stanza, "_Nor_ climb his knees."

9th stanza, "_Awaits_ alike." Probably this is also the reading of
the Wrightson MS. Mitford gives it as noted by Mason, and it is
retained by Gray in the ed. of 1768.

The 10th stanza begins,

  "_Forgive_, ye Proud, _th' involuntary_ fault
      If Memory _to these_," etc.,

the present readings ("Nor you," "impute to these," and "Mem'ry o'er
their tomb") being inserted in the margin.

The 12th stanza has "_reins_ of empire," with "rod" in the margin.

In the 15th stanza, the word "lands" has been crossed out, and
"fields" written above it.

The 17th has "_Or_ shut the gates," etc.

In the 21st we have "fame and _epitaph_ supply."

The 23d has "_And_ in our ashes _glow_," the readings "Ev'n" and
"live" being inserted in the margin.

The 27th stanza has "_would he_ rove." We suspect that this is also
the reading of the Wrightson MS., as Mitford says it is noted by

In the 28th stanza, the first line reads "_from_ the custom'd hill."

In the 29th a word which we cannot make out has been erased, and
"aged" substituted.

Before the Epitaph, two asterisks refer to the bottom of the page,
where the following stanza is given, with the marginal note, "Omitted
in 1753:"

  "There scatter'd oft, the earliest of the Year,
     By Hands unseen, are Show'rs of Violets found;
   The Red-breast loves to build, and warble there,
     And little Footsteps lightly print the Ground."

The last two lines of the 31st stanza (see note below) are pointed as

  "He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a Tear,
     He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a Friend."

Some of the peculiarities of spelling in this MS. are the following:
"Curfeu;" "Plowman;" "Tinkleings;" "mopeing;" "ecchoing;" "Huswife;"
"Ile" (aisle); "wast" (waste); "village-Hambden;" "Rhimes;"
"spell't;" "chearful;" "born" (borne); etc.

Mitford, in his Life of Gray prefixed to the "Eton" edition of his
Poems (edited by Rev. John Moultrie, 1847), says: "I possess many
curious variations from the printed text, taken from a copy of it in
his own handwriting." He adds specimens of these variations, a few of
which differ from both the Wrightson and Pembroke MSS. We give these
in our notes below. See on 12, 24, and 93.

Several localities have contended for the honor of being the scene of
the _Elegy_, but the general sentiment has always, and justly, been
in favor of Stoke-Pogis. It was there that Gray began the poem in
1742; and there, as we have seen, he finished it in 1750. In that
churchyard his mother was buried, and there, at his request, his own
remains were afterwards laid beside her. The scene is, moreover, in
all respects in perfect keeping with the spirit of the poem.

According to the common Cambridge tradition, Granchester, a parish
about two miles southwest of the University, to which Gray was in the
habit of taking his "constitutional" daily, is the locality of the
poem; and the great bell of St. Mary's is the "curfew" of the first
stanza. Another tradition makes a similar claim for Madingley, some
three miles and a half northwest of Cambridge. Both places have
churchyards such as the _Elegy_ describes; and this is about all that
can be said in favor of their pretensions. There is also a parish
called Burnham Beeches, in Buckinghamshire, which one writer at least
has suggested as the scene of the poem, but for no better reason than
that Gray once wrote a description of the place to Walpole, and
casually mentioned the existence of certain "beeches," at the foot of
which he would "squat," and "there grow to the trunk a whole
morning." Gray's uncle had a seat in the neighborhood, and the poet
often visited here, but the spot was not hallowed to him by the fond
and tender associations that gathered about Stoke.

1. _The curfew_. Hales remarks: "It is a great mistake to suppose
that the ringing of the curfew was, at its institution, a mark of
Norman oppression. If such a custom was unknown before the Conquest,
it only shows that the old English police was less well-regulated
than that of many parts of the Continent, and how much the superior
civilization of the Norman-French was needed. Fires were the curse of
the timber-built towns of the Middle Ages: 'Solae pestes Londoniae
sunt stultorum immodica potatio et _frequens incendium_'
(Fitzstephen). The enforced extinction of domestic lights at an
appointed signal was designed to be a safeguard against them."

Warton wanted to have this line read

  "The curfew tolls!--the knell of parting day."

It is sufficient to say that Gray, as the manuscript shows, did not
want it to read so, and that we much prefer his way to Warton's.

Mitford says that _toll_ is "not the appropriate verb," as the curfew
was rung, not tolled. We presume that depended, to some extent, on
the fancy of the ringer. Milton (_Il Pens._ 76) speaks of the curfew

  "Swinging slow with sullen roar."

Gray himself quotes here Dante, _Purgat._ 8:

                   --"squilla di lontano
  Che paia 'l giorno pianger, che si muore;"

and we cannot refrain from adding, for the benefit of those
unfamiliar with Italian, Longfellow's exquisite translation:

              --"from far away a bell
  That seemeth to deplore the dying day."

Mitford quotes (incorrectly, as often) Dryden, _Prol. to Troilus and
Cressida_, 22:

  "That tolls the knell for their departed sense."

On _parting_=departing, cf. Shakes. _Cor._ v. 6: "When I parted
hence;" Goldsmith, _D. V._ 171: "Beside the bed where parting life
was laid," etc.

2. _The lowing herd wind_, etc. _Wind_, and not _winds_, is the
reading of the MS. (see fac-simile of this stanza on p. 73) and of
_all_ the early editions--that of 1768, Mason's, Wakefield's,
Mathias's, etc.--but we find no note of the fact in Mitford's or any
other of the more recent editions, which have substituted _winds_.
Whether the change was made as an amendment or accidentally, we do
not know;[10] but the original reading seems to us by far the better
one. The poet does not refer to the herd as an aggregate, but to the
animals that compose it. He sees, not _it_, but "_them_ on their
winding way." The ordinary reading mars both the meaning and the
melody of the line.

[Footnote 10: Very likely the latter, as we have seen that _winds_
appears in the unauthorized version of the _London Magazine_ (March,
1751), where it may be a misprint, like the others noted above.

We may remark here that the edition of 1768--the _editio princeps_ of
the _collected_ Poems--was issued under Gray's own supervision, and
is printed with remarkable accuracy. We have detected only one
indubitable error of the type in the entire volume. Certain
peculiarities of spelling were probably intentional, as we find the
like in the fac-similes of the poet's manuscripts. The many
quotations from Greek, Latin, and Italian are correctly given
(according to the received texts of the time), and the references to
authorities, so far as we have verified them, are equally exact. The
book throughout bears the marks of Gray's scholarly and critical
habits, and we may be sure that the poems appear in precisely the
form which he meant they should retain. In doubtful cases, therefore,
we have generally followed this edition. Mason's (the _second_
edition: York, 1778) is also carefully edited and printed, and its
readings seldom vary from Gray's. All of Mitford's that we have
examined swarm with errors, especially in the notes. Pickering's
(1835), edited by Mitford, is perhaps the worst of all. The Boston
ed. (Little, Brown, & Co., 1853) is a pretty careful reproduction of
Pickering's, with all its inaccuracies.]

3. The critic of the _N. A. Review_ points out that this line "is
quite peculiar in its possible transformations. We have made," he
adds, "twenty different versions preserving the rhythm, the general
sentiment and the rhyming word. Any one of these variations might be,
not inappropriately, substituted for the original reading."

Luke quotes Spenser, _F. Q._ vi. 7, 39: "And now she was uppon the
weary way."

6. _Air_ is of course the object, not the subject of the verb.

7. _Save where the beetle_, etc. Cf. Collins, _Ode to Evening_:

  "Now air is hush'd, save where the weak-eyed bat
   With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing,
       Or where the beetle winds
       His small but sullen horn,
   As oft he rises 'midst the twilight path,
   Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum."

and _Macbeth_, iii. 2:

                           "Ere the bat hath flown
   His cloister'd flight; ere to black Hecate's summons
   The shard-borne beetle, with his drowsy hums,
   Hath rung night's yawning peal," etc.

10. _The moping owl_. Mitford quotes Ovid, _Met._ v. 550: "Ignavus
bubo, dirum mortalibus omen;" Thomson, _Winter_, 114:

  "Assiduous in his bower the wailing owl
   Plies his sad song;"

and Mallet, _Excursion_:

                     "the wailing owl
   Screams solitary to the mournful moon."

12. _Her ancient solitary reign_. Cf. Virgil, _Geo._ iii. 476:
"desertaque regna pastorum." A MS. variation of this line mentioned
by Mitford is, "Molest and pry into her ancient reign."

13. "As he stands in the churchyard, he thinks only of the poorer
people, because the better-to-do lay interred inside the church.
Tennyson (_In Mem._ x.) speaks of resting

               'beneath the clover sod
     That takes the sunshine and the rains,
     Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
   The chalice of the grapes of God.'

In Gray's time, and long before, and some time after it, the former
resting-place was for the poor, the latter for the rich. It was so in
the first instance, for two reasons: (i.) the interior of the church
was regarded as of great sanctity, and all who could sought a place
in it, the most dearly coveted spot being near the high altar; (ii.)
when elaborate tombs were the fashion, they were built inside the
church for the sake of security, 'gay tombs' being liable to be
'robb'd' (see the funeral dirge in Webster's _White Devil_). As these
two considerations gradually ceased to have power, and other
considerations of an opposite tendency began to prevail, the inside
of the church became comparatively deserted, except when ancestral
reasons gave no choice" (Hales).

17. Cf. Milton, _Arcades_, 56: "the odorous breath of morn;" _P. L._
ix. 192:

  "Now when as sacred light began to dawn
   In Eden on the humid flowers that breath'd
   Their morning incense," etc.

18. Hesiod ([Greek: Erg.] 568) calls the swallow [Greek: orthogoê
chelidôn.] Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ viii. 455:

  "Evandrum ex humili tecto lux suscitat alma,
   Et matutini volucrum sub culmine cantus."

19. _The cock's shrill clarion_. Cf. Philips, _Cyder_, i. 753:

  "When chanticleer with clarion shrill recalls
   The tardy day;"

Milton, _P. L._ vii. 443:

  "The crested cock, whose clarion sounds
   The silent hours;"

_Hamlet_, i. 1:

  "The cock that is the trumpet to the morn;"

Quarles, _Argalus and Parthenia_:

  "I slept not till the early bugle-horn
   Of chaunticlere had summon'd in the morn;"

and Thomas Kyd, _England's Parnassus_:

  "The cheerful cock, the sad night's trumpeter,
     Wayting upon the rising of the sunne;
   The wandering swallow with her broken song," etc.

20. _Their lowly bed_. Wakefield remarks: "Some readers, keeping in
mind the 'narrow cell' above, have mistaken the 'lowly bed' in this
verse for the grave--a most puerile and ridiculous blunder;" and
Mitford says: "Here the epithet 'lowly,' as applied to 'bed,'
occasions some ambiguity as to whether the poet meant the bed on
which they sleep, or the grave in which they are laid, which in
poetry is called a 'lowly bed.' Of course the former is designed; but
Mr. Lloyd, in his Latin translation, mistook it for the latter."

21. Cf. Lucretius, iii. 894:

  "Jam jam non domus accipiet te laeta, neque uxor
   Optima nee dulces occurrent oscula nati
   Praeripere et tacita pectus dulcedine tangent;"

and Horace, _Epod._ ii. 39:

  "Quod si pudica mulier in partem juvet
   Domum atque dulces liberos
   *     *     *     *     *     *     *
   Sacrum vetustis exstruat lignis focum
   Lassi sub adventum viri," etc.

Mitford quotes Thomson, _Winter_, 311:

  "In vain for him the officious wife prepares
   The fire fair-blazing, and the vestment warm;
   In vain his little children, peeping out
   Into the mingling storm, demand their sire
   With tears of artless innocence."

Wakefield cites _The Idler_, 103: "There are few things, not purely
evil, of which we can say without some emotion of uneasiness, _this
is the last_."

22. _Ply her evening care_. Mitford says, "To _ply a care_ is an
expression that is not proper to our language, and was probably
formed for the rhyme _share_." Hales remarks: "This is probably the
kind of phrase which led Wordsworth to pronounce the language of the
_Elegy_ unintelligible. Compare his own

  'And she I cherished _turned her wheel_
   Beside an English fire.'"

23. _No children run_, etc. Hales quotes Burns, _Cotter's Saturday
Night_, 21:

  "Th' expectant wee-things, toddlin, stacher through
   To meet their Dad, wi' flichterin noise an' glee."

24. Among Mitford's MS. variations we find "coming kiss." Wakefield
compares Virgil, _Geo._ ii. 523:

  "Interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati;"

and Mitford adds from Dryden,

  "Whose little arms about thy legs are cast,
   And climbing for a kiss prevent their mother's haste."

Cf. Thomson, _Liberty_, iii. 171:

  "His little children climbing for a kiss."

26. _The stubborn glebe_. Cf. Gay, _Fables_, ii. 15:

  "'Tis mine to tame the stubborn glebe."

_Broke_=broken, as often in poetry, especially in the Elizabethan
writers. See Abbott, _Shakes. Gr._ 343.

27. _Drive their team afield_. Cf. _Lycidas_, 27: "We drove afield;"
and Dryden,_ Virgil's Ecl._ ii. 38: "With me to drive afield."

28. _Their sturdy stroke_. Cf. Spenser, _Shep. Kal._ Feb.:

  "But to the roote bent his sturdy stroake,
   And made many wounds in the wast [wasted] Oake;"

and Dryden, _Geo._ iii. 639:

  "Labour him with many a sturdy stroke."

30. As Mitford remarks, _obscure_ and _poor_ make "a very imperfect
rhyme;" and the same might be said of _toil_ and _smile_.

33. Mitford suggests that Gray had in mind these verses from his
friend West's _Monody on Queen Caroline_:

  "Ah, me! what boots us all our boasted power,
     Our golden treasure, and our purple state;
   They cannot ward the inevitable hour,
     Nor stay the fearful violence of fate."

Hurd compares Cowley:

  "Beauty, and strength, and wit, and wealth, and power,
   Have their short flourishing hour;
   And love to see themselves, and smile,
   And joy in their pre-eminence a while:
       Even so in the same land
   Poor weeds, rich corn, gay flowers together stand;
   Alas! Death mows down all with an impartial hand."

35. _Awaits_. The reading of the ed. of 1768, as of the Pembroke (and
probably the other) MS. _Hour_ is the subject, not the object, of the

36. Hayley, in the Life of Crashaw, _Biographia Britannica_, says
that this line is "literally translated from the Latin prose of
Bartholinus in his Danish Antiquities."

39. _Fretted_. The _fret_ is, strictly, an ornament used in classical
architecture, formed by small fillets intersecting each other at
right angles. Parker (_Glossary of Architecture_) derives the word
from the Latin _fretum_, a strait; and Hales from _ferrum_, iron,
through the Italian _ferrata_, an iron grating. It is more likely
(see Stratmann and Wb.) from the A. S. _frætu_, an ornament.

Cf. _Hamlet_, ii. 2:

  "This majestical roof fretted with golden fire;"

and _Cymbeline_, ii. 4:

  "The roof o' the chamber
   With golden cherubins is fretted."

40. _The pealing anthem_. Cf. _Il Penseroso_, 161:

  "There let the pealing organ blow
   To the full-voiced quire below,
   In service high, and anthem clear," etc.

41. _Storied urn_. Cf. _Il Pens._ 159: "storied windows richly
dight." On _animated bust_, cf. Pope, _Temple of Fame_, 73: "Heroes
in animated marble frown;" and Virgil, _Æn._ vi. 847: "spirantia

43. _Provoke_. Mitford considers this use of the word "unusually
bold, to say the least." It is simply the etymological meaning, _to
call forth_ (Latin, _provocare_). See Wb. Cf. Pope, _Ode_:

  "But when our country's cause provokes to arms."

44. _Dull cold ear_. Cf. Shakes. _Hen. VIII._ iii. 2: "And sleep in
dull, cold marble."

46. _Pregnant with celestial fire_. This phrase has been copied by
Cowper in his _Boadicea_, which is said (see notes of "Globe" ed.) to
have been written after reading Hume's History, in 1780:

  "Such the bard's prophetic words,
     Pregnant with celestial fire,
   Bending as he swept the chords
     Of his sweet but awful lyre."

47. Mitford quotes Ovid, _Ep._ v. 86:

  "Sunt mihi quas possint sceptra decere manus."

48. _Living lyre_. Cf. Cowley:

  "Begin the song, and strike the living lyre;"

and Pope, _Windsor Forest_, 281:

  "Who now shall charm the shades where Cowley strung
   His living harp, and lofty Denham sung?"

50. Cf. Browne, _Religio Medici_: "Rich with the spoils of nature."

51. "_Rage_ is often used in the post-Elizabethan writers of the 17th
century, and in the 18th century writers, for inspiration,
enthusiasm" (Hales). Cf. Cowley:

  "Who brought green poesy to her perfect age,
   And made that art which was a rage?"

and Tickell, _Prol._:

  "How hard the task! How rare the godlike rage!"

Cf. also the use of the Latin _rabies_ for the "divine afflatus," as
in _Æneid_, vi. 49.

53. _Full many a gem_, etc. Cf. Bishop Hall, _Contemplations_: "There
is many a rich stone laid up in the bowells of the earth, many a fair
pearle in the bosome of the sea, that never was seene, nor never
shall bee."

_Purest ray serene_. As Hales remarks, this is a favourite
arrangement of epithets with Milton. Cf. _Hymn on Nativity_:
"flower-inwoven tresses torn;" _Comus_: "beckoning shadows dire;"
"every alley green," etc.; _L'Allegro_: "native wood-notes wild;"
_Lycidas_: "sad occasion dear;" "blest kingdoms meek," etc.

55. _Full many a flower_, etc. Cf. Pope, _Rape of the Lock_, iv. 158:

  "Like roses that in deserts bloom and die."

Mitford cites Chamberlayne, _Pharonida_, ii. 4:

  "Like beauteous flowers which vainly waste their scent
   Of odours in unhaunted deserts;"

and Young, _Univ. Pass._ sat. v.:

  "In distant wilds, by human eyes unseen,
   She rears her flowers, and spreads her velvet green;
   Pure gurgling rills the lonely desert trace,
   And waste their music on the savage race;"

and Philip, _Thule_:

  "Like woodland flowers, which paint the desert glades,
   And waste their sweets in unfrequented shades."

Hales quotes Waller's

                 "Go, lovely rose,
     Tell her that's young
   And shuns to have her graces spied,
     That hadst thou sprung
   In deserts where no men abide
   Thou must have uncommended died."

On _desert air_, cf. _Macbeth_, iv. 3: "That would be howl'd out in
the desert air."

57. It was in 1636 that John Hampden, of Buckinghamshire (a cousin of
Oliver Cromwell), refused to pay the ship-money tax which Charles I.
was levying without the authority of Parliament.

58. _Little tyrant_. Cf. Thomson, _Winter_:

  "With open freedom little tyrants raged."

The artists who have illustrated this passage (see, for instance,
_Favourite English Poems_, p. 305, and _Harper's Monthly_, vol. vii.
p. 3) appear to understand "little" as equivalent to _juvenile_. If
that had been the meaning, the poet would have used some other phrase
than "of his fields," or "his lands," as he first wrote it.

59. _Some mute inglorious Milton_. Cf. Phillips, preface to _Theatrum
Poetarum_: "Even the very names of some who having perhaps been
comparable to Homer for heroic poesy, or to Euripides for tragedy,
yet nevertheless sleep inglorious in the crowd of the forgotten

60. _Some Cromwell_, etc. Hales remarks: "The prejudice against
Cromwell was extremely strong throughout the 18th century, even
amongst the more liberal-minded. That cloud of 'detractions rude,' of
which Milton speaks in his noble sonnet to our 'chief of men' as in
his own day enveloping the great republican leader, still lay thick
and heavy over him. His wise statesmanship, his unceasing
earnestness, his high-minded purpose, were not yet seen."

After this stanza Thomas Edwards, the author of the _Canons of
Criticism_, would add the following, to supply what he deemed a
defect in the poem:

  "Some lovely fair, whose unaffected charms
     Shone with attraction to herself alone;
   Whose beauty might have bless'd a monarch's arms,
     Whose virtue cast a lustre on a throne.

  "That humble beauty warm'd an honest heart,
     And cheer'd the labours of a faithful spouse;
   That virtue form'd for every decent part
     The healthful offspring that adorn'd their house."

Edwards was an able critic, but it is evident that he was no poet.

63. Mitford quotes Tickell:

  "To scatter blessings o'er the British land;"

and Mrs. Behn:

  "Is scattering plenty over all the land."

66. _Their growing virtues_. That is, the growth of their virtues.

67. _To wade through slaughter_, etc. Cf. Pope, _Temp. of Fame_, 347:

  "And swam to empire through the purple flood."

68. Cf. Shakes. _Hen. V._ iii. 3:

  "The gates of mercy shall be all shut up."

70. _To quench the blushes_, etc. Cf. Shakes. _W. T._ iv. 3:

  "Come, quench your blushes, and present yourself."

73. _Far from the madding crowd's_, etc. Rogers quotes Drummond:

  "Far from the madding worldling's hoarse discords."

Mitford points out "the ambiguity of this couplet, which indeed gives
a sense exactly contrary to that intended; to avoid which one must
break the grammatical construction." The poet's meaning is, however,
clear enough.

75. Wakefield quotes Pope, _Epitaph on Fenton_:

  "Foe to loud praise, and friend to learned ease,
   Content with science in the vale of peace."

77. _These bones_. "The bones of these. So _is_ is often used in
Latin, especially by Livy, as in v. 22: '_Ea_ sola pecunia,' the
money derived from that sale, etc." (Hales).

84. _That teach_. Mitford censures _teach_ as ungrammatical; but it
may be justified as a "construction according to sense."

85. Hales remarks: "At the first glance it might seem that _to dumb
Forgetfulness a prey_ was in apposition to _who_, and the meaning
was, 'Who that now lies forgotten,' etc.; in which case the second
line of the stanza must be closely connected with the fourth; for the
question of the passage is not 'Who ever died?' but 'Who ever died
without wishing to be remembered?' But in this way of interpreting
this difficult stanza (i.) there is comparatively little force in the
appositional phrase, and (ii.) there is a certain awkwardness in
deferring so long the clause (virtually adverbal though apparently
coördinate) in which, as has just been noticed, the point of the
question really lies. Perhaps therefore it is better to take the
phrase _to dumb Forgetfulness a prey_ as in fact the completion of
the predicate _resign'd_, and interpret thus: Who ever resigned this
life of his with all its pleasures and all its pains to be utterly
ignored and forgotten?=who ever, when resigning it, reconciled
himself to its being forgotten? In this case the second half of the
stanza echoes the thought of the first half."

We give the note in full, and leave the reader to take his choice of
the two interpretations. For ourself, we incline to the first rather
than the second. We prefer to take _to dumb Forgetfulness a prey_ as
appositional and proleptic, and not as the grammatical complement of
_resigned_: Who, yielding himself up a prey to dumb Forgetfulness,
ever resigned this life without casting a longing, lingering look

90. _Pious_ is used in the sense of the Latin _pius_. Ovid has "piae
lacrimae." Mitford quotes Pope, _Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady_, 49:

  "No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear
   Pleas'd thy pale ghost, or grac'd thy mournful bier;
   By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd."

"In this stanza," says Hales, "he answers in an exquisite manner the
two questions, or rather the one question twice repeated, of the
preceding stanza.... What he would say is that every one while a
spark of life yet remains in him yearns for some kindly loving
remembrance; nay, even after the spark is quenched, even when all is
dust and ashes, that yearning must still be felt."

91, 92. Mitford paraphrases the couplet thus: "The voice of Nature
still cries from the tomb in the language of the epitaph inscribed
upon it, which still endeavours to connect us with the living; the
fires of former affection are still alive beneath our ashes."

Cf. Chaucer, _C. T._ 3880:

  "Yet in our ashen cold is fire yreken."

Gray himself quotes Petrarch, _Sonnet_ 169:

  "Ch'i veggio nel pensier, dolce mio fuoco,
   Fredda una lingua e due begli occhi chiusi,
   Rimaner doppo noi pien di faville,"

translated by Nott as follows:

  "These, my sweet fair, so warns prophetic thought,
   Clos'd thy bright eye, and mute thy poet's tongue,
   E'en after death shall still with sparks be fraught,"

the "these" meaning his love and his songs concerning it. Gray
translated this sonnet into Latin elegiacs, the last line being

  "Ardebitque urna multa favilla mea."

93. On a MS. variation of this stanza given by Mitford, see p. 80,

95. _Chance_ is virtually an adverb here = perchance.

98. _The peep of dawn_. Mitford quotes _Comus_, 138:

  "Ere the blabbing eastern scout,
   The nice morn, on the Indian steep
   From her cabin'd loop-hole peep."

99. Cf. Milton, _P. L._ v. 428:

         "though from off the boughs each morn
   We brush mellifluous dews;"

and _Arcades_, 50:

  "And from the boughs brush off the evil dew."

Wakefield quotes Thomson, _Spring_, 103:

  "Oft let me wander o'er the dewy fields,
   Where freshness breathes, and dash the trembling drops
   From the bent brush, as through the verdant maze
   Of sweetbrier hedges I pursue my walk."

100. _Upland lawn_. Cf. Milton, _Lycidas_, 25:

          "Ere the high lawns appear'd
   Under the opening eyelids of the morn."

In _L'Allegro_, 92, we have "upland hamlets," where Hales thinks
"upland=country, as opposed to town." He adds, "Gray in his _Elegy_
seems to use the word loosely for 'on the higher ground;' perhaps he
took it from Milton, without quite understanding in what sense Milton
uses it." We doubt whether Hales understands Milton here. It is true
that _upland_ used to mean country, as _uplanders_ meant countrymen,
and _uplandish_ countrified (see Nares and Wb.), but the other
meaning is older than Milton (see Halliwell's _Dict. of Archaic
Words_), and Johnson, Keightley, and others are probably right in
considering "upland hamlets" an instance of it. Masson, in his recent
edition of Milton (1875), explains the "upland hamlets" as "little
villages among the slopes, away from the river-meadows and the

101. As Mitford remarks, _beech_ and _stretch_ form an imperfect

102. Luke quotes Spenser, _Ruines of Rome_, st. 28:

  "Shewing her wreathed rootes and naked armes."

103. _His listless length_. Hales compares _King Lear_, i. 4: "If you
will measure your lubber's length again, tarry." Cf. also _Brittain's
Ida_ (formerly ascribed to Spenser, but rejected by the best
editors), iii. 2:

  "Her goodly length stretcht on a lilly-bed."

104. Cf. Thomson, _Spring_, 644: "divided by a babbling brook;" and
Horace, _Od._ iii. 13, 15:

          "unde loquaces
   Lymphae desiliunt tuae."

Wakefield quotes _As You Like It_, ii. 1:

                    "As he lay along
   Under an oak whose antique root peeps out
   Upon the brook that brawls along this road."

105. _Smiling as in scorn_. Cf. Shakes. _Pass. Pilgrim_, 14:

  "Yet at my parting sweetly did she smile,
   In scorn or friendship, nill I construe whether."

and Skelton, _Prol. to B. of C._:

         "Smylynge half in scorne
   At our foly."

107. _Woeful-wan_. Mitford says: "_Woeful-wan_ is not a legitimate
compound, and must be divided into two separate words, for such they
are, when released from the _handcuffs_ of the hyphen." The hyphen is
not in the edition of 1768, and we should omit it if it were not
found in the Pembroke MS.

Wakefield quotes Spenser, _Shep. Kal._ Jan.:

  "For pale and wanne he was (alas the while!)
   May seeme he lovd, or els some care he tooke."

108. "_Hopeless_ is here used in a proleptic or anticipatory way"

109. _Custom'd_ is Gray's word, not _'custom'd_, as usually printed.
See either Wb. or Worc. s. v. Cf. Milton, _Ep. Damonis_: "Simul
assueta seditque sub ulmo."

114. _Churchway path_. Cf. Shakes. _M. N. D._ v. 2:

  "Now it is the time of night,
     That the graves all gaping wide,
   Every one lets forth his sprite
     In the churchway paths to glide."

115. _For thou canst read_. The "hoary-headed swain" of course could
_not_ read.

116. _Grav'd_. The old form of the participle is _graven_, but
_graved_ is also in good use. The old preterite _grove_ is obsolete.

117. _The lap of earth_. Cf. Spenser, _F. Q._ v. 7, 9:

  "For other beds the Priests there used none,
   But on their mother Earths deare lap did lie;"

and Milton, _P. L._ x. 777:

         "How glad would lay me down,
   As in my mother's lap!"

Lucretius (i. 291) has "gremium matris terrai." Mitford adds the
pathetic sentence of Pliny, _Hist. Nat._ ii. 63: "Nam terra novissime
complexa gremio jam a reliqua natura abnegatos, tum maxime, ut mater,

123. _He gave to misery all he had, a tear_. This is the pointing of
the line in the MSS. and in all the early editions except that of
Mathias, who seems to be responsible for the change (adopted by the
recent editors, almost without exception) to,

  "He gave to Misery (all he had) a tear."

This alters the meaning, mars the rhythm, and spoils the sentiment.
If one does not see the difference at once, it would be useless to
try to make him see it. Mitford, who ought to have known better, not
only thrusts in the parenthesis, but quotes this from Pope's Homer as
an illustration of it:

  "His fame ('tis all the dead can have) shall live."

126. Mitford says that _Or_ in this line should be _Nor_. Yes, if
"draw" is an imperative, like "seek;" no, if it is an infinitive, in
the same construction as "to disclose." That the latter was the
construction the poet had in mind is evident from the form of the
stanza in the Wrightson MS., where "seek" is repeated:

  "No farther seek his merits to disclose,
     Nor seek to draw them from their dread abode."

127. _In trembling hope_. Gray quotes Petrarch, _Sonnet_ 104:
"paventosa speme." Cf. Lucan, _Pharsalia_, vii. 297: "Spe trepido;"
Mallet, _Funeral Hymn_, 473:

  "With trembling tenderness of hope and fear;"

and Beaumont, _Psyche_, xv. 314:

  "Divided here twixt trembling hope and fear."

Hooker (_Eccl. Pol._ i.) defines hope as "a trembling expectation of
things far removed."



The original manuscript title of this ode was "Noontide." It was
first printed in Dodsley's _Collection_, vol. ii. p. 271, under the
title of "Ode."

1. _The rosy-bosom'd Hours_. Cf. Milton, _Comus_, 984: "The Graces
and the rosy-bosom'd Hours;" and Thomson, _Spring_, 1007:

          "The rosy-bosom'd Spring
   To weeping Fancy pines."

The _Horæ_, or hours, according to the Homeric idea, were the
goddesses of the seasons, the course of which was symbolically
represented by "the dance of the Hours." They were often described,
in connection with the Graces, Hebe, and Aphrodite, as accompanying
with their dancing the songs of the Muses and the lyre of Apollo.
Long after the time of Homer they continued to be regarded as the
givers of the seasons, especially spring and autumn, or "Nature in
her bloom and her maturity." At first there were only two Horæ,
Thallo (or Spring) and Karpo (or Autumn); but later the number was
three, like that of the Graces. In art they are represented as
blooming maidens, bearing the products of the seasons.

2. _Fair Venus' train_. The Hours adorned Aphrodite (Venus) as she
rose from the sea, and are often associated with her by Homer,
Hesiod, and other classical writers. Wakefield remarks: "Venus is
here employed, in conformity to the mythology of the Greeks, as the
source of creation and beauty."

3. _Long-expecting_. Waiting long for the spring. Sometimes
incorrectly printed "long-expected." Cf. Dryden, _Astræa Redux_, 132:
"To flowers that in its womb expecting lie."

4. _The purple year_. Cf. the _Pervigilium Veneris_, 13: "Ipsa gemmis
purpurantem pingit annum floribus;" Pope, _Pastorals_, i. 28: "And
lavish Nature paints the purple year;" and Mallet, _Zephyr_: "Gales
that wake the purple year."

5. _The Attic warbler_. The nightingale, called "the Attic bird,"
either because it was so common in Attica, or from the old legend
that Philomela (or, as some say, Procne), the daughter of a king of
Attica, was changed into a nightingale. Cf. Milton's description of
Athens (_P. R._ iv. 245):

                         "where the Attic bird
   Trills her thick-warbled notes the summer long."

Cf. Ovid, _Hal._ 110: "Attica avis verna sub tempestate queratus;"
and Propertius, ii. 16, 6: "Attica volucris."

_Pours her throat_ is a metonymy. H. p. 85. Cf. Pope, _Essay on Man_,
iii. 33: "Is it for thee the linnet pours her throat?"

6, 7. Cf. Thomson, _Spring_, 577:

  "From the first note the hollow cuckoo sings,
   The symphony of spring."

9, 10. Cf. Milton, _Comus_, 989:

  "And west winds with musky wing
   About the cedarn alleys fling
   Nard and cassia's balmy smells."

12. Cf. Milton, _P. L._ iv. 245: "Where the unpierc'd shade Imbrown'd
the noontide bowers;" Pope, _Eloisa_, 170: "And breathes a browner
horror on the woods;" Thomson, _Castle of Indolence_, i. 38: "Or
Autumn's varied shades imbrown the walls."

According to Ruskin (_Modern Painters_, vol. iii. p. 241, Amer. ed.)
there is no brown in nature. After remarking that Dante "does not
acknowledge the existence of the colour of _brown_ at all," he goes
on to say: "But one day, just when I was puzzling myself about this,
I happened to be sitting by one of our best living modern colourists,
watching him at his work, when he said, suddenly and by mere
accident, after we had been talking about other things, 'Do you know
I have found that there is no _brown_ in nature? What we call brown
is always a variety either of orange or purple. It never can be
represented by umber, unless altered by contrast.' It is curious how
far the significance of this remark extends, how exquisitely it
illustrates and confirms the mediæval sense of hue," etc.

14. _O'ercanopies the glade_. Gray himself quotes Shakes. _M. N. D._
ii. 1: "A bank o'ercanopied with luscious woodbine."[1] Cf. Fletcher,
_Purple Island_, i. 5, 30: "The beech shall yield a cool, safe
canopy;" and Milton, _Comus_, 543: "a bank, With ivy canopied."

[Footnote 1: The reading of the folio of 1623 is:

  "I know a banke where the wilde time blowes,
   Where Oxslips and the nodding Violet growes,
   Quite ouer-cannoped with luscious woodbine."

Dyce and some other modern editors read,

  "Quite overcanopied with lush woodbine."]

15. _Rushy brink_. Cf. _Comus_, 890: "By the rushy-fringed bank."

19, 20. These lines, as first printed, read:

  "How low, how indigent the proud!
     How little are the great!"

22. _The panting herds_. Cf. Pope, _Past._ ii. 87: "To closer shades
the panting flocks remove."

23. _The peopled air_. Cf. Walton, _C. A._: "Now the wing'd people of
the sky shall sing;" Beaumont, _Psyche_: "Every tree empeopled was
with birds of softest throats."

24. _The busy murmur_. Cf. Milton, _P. R._ iv. 248: "bees'
industrious murmur."

25. _The insect youth_. Perhaps suggested by a line in Green's
_Hermitage_, quoted in a letter of Gray to Walpole: "From
maggot-youth through change of state," etc. See on 31 below.

26. _The honied spring_. Cf. Milton, _Il Pens._ 142: "the bee with
honied thigh;" and _Lyc._ 140: "the honied showers."

"There has of late arisen," says Johnson in his Life of Gray, "a
practice of giving to adjectives derived from substantives the
termination of participles, such as the _cultured plain_, the
_daisied bank_; but I am sorry to see in the lines of a scholar like
Gray the _honied_ spring." But, as we have seen, _honied_ is found in
Milton; and Shakespeare also uses it in _Hen. V._ i. 1: "honey'd
sentences." _Mellitus_ is used by Cicero, Horace, and Catullus. The
editor of an English dictionary, as Lord Grenville has remarked,
ought to know "that the ready conversion of our substances into
verbs, participles, and participial adjectives is of the very essence
of our tongue, derived from its Saxon origin, and a main source of
its energy and richness."

27. _The liquid noon_. Gray quotes Virgil, _Geo._ iv. 59: "Nare per
aestatem liquidam."

30. _Quick-glancing to the sun_. Gray quotes Milton, _P. L._ vii.

                 "Sporting with quick glance,
   Show to the sun their waved coats dropt with gold."

31. Gray here quotes Green, _Grotto_: "While insects from the
threshold preach." In a letter to Walpole, he says: "I send you a bit
of a thing for two reasons: first, because it is of one of your
favourites, Mr. M. Green; and next, because I would do justice. The
thought on which my second Ode turns [this Ode, afterwards placed
first by Gray] is manifestly stole from hence; not that I knew it at
the time, but having seen this many years before, to be sure it
imprinted itself on my memory, and, forgetting the Author, I took it
for my own." Then comes the quotation from Green's _Grotto_. The
passage referring to the insects is as follows:

  "To the mind's ear, and inward sight,
   There silence speaks, and shade gives light:
   While insects from the threshold preach,
   And minds dispos'd to musing teach;
   Proud of strong limbs and painted hues,
   They perish by the slightest bruise;
   Or maladies begun within
   Destroy more slow life's frail machine:
   From maggot-youth, thro' change of state,
   They feel like us the turns of fate:
   Some born to creep have liv'd to fly,
   And chang'd earth's cells for dwellings high:
   And some that did their six wings keep,
   Before they died, been forc'd to creep.
   They politics, like ours, profess;
   The greater prey upon the less.
   Some strain on foot huge loads to bring,
   Some toil incessant on the wing:
   Nor from their vigorous schemes desist
   Till death; and then they are never mist.
   Some frolick, toil, marry, increase,
   Are sick and well, have war and peace;
   And broke with age in half a day,
   Yield to successors, and away."

47. _Painted plumage_. Cf. Pope, _Windsor Forest_, 118: "His painted
wings; and Milton, _P. L._ vii. 433:

  "From branch to branch the smaller birds with song
   Solaced the woods, and spread their painted wings."

See also Virgil, _Geo._ iii. 243, and _Æn._ iv. 525: "pictaeque
volucres;" and Phædrus, _Fab._ iii. 18: "pictisque plumis."



This ode first appeared in Dodsley's _Collection_, vol. ii. p. 274,
with some variations noticed below. Walpole, after the death of Gray,
placed the china vase on a pedestal at Strawberry Hill, with a few
lines of the ode for an inscription.

In a letter to Walpole, dated March 1, 1747, Gray refers to the
subject of the ode in the following jocose strain: "As one ought to
be particularly careful to avoid blunders in a compliment of
condolence, it would be a sensible satisfaction to me (before I
testify my sorrow, and the sincere part I take in your misfortune) to
know for certain who it is I lament. I knew Zara and Selima (Selima,
was it? or Fatima?), or rather I knew them both together; for I
cannot justly say which was which. Then as to your handsome Cat, the
name you distinguish her by, I am no less at a loss, as well knowing
one's handsome cat is always the cat one likes best; or if one be
alive and the other dead, it is usually the latter that is the
handsomest. Besides, if the point were never so clear, I hope you do
not think me so ill-bred or so imprudent as to forfeit all my
interest in the survivor; oh no! I would rather seem to mistake, and
imagine to be sure it must be the tabby one that had met with this
sad accident. Till this affair is a little better determined, you
will excuse me if I do not begin to cry,

   Tempus inane peto, requiem spatiumque doloris.

"... Heigh ho! I feel (as you to be sure have done long since) that I
have very little to say, at least in prose. Somebody will be the
better for it; I do not mean you, but your Cat, feuë Mademoiselle
Selime, whom I am about to immortalize for one week or fortnight, as
follows: [the Ode follows, which we need not reprint here].

"There's a poem for you, it is rather too long for an Epitaph."

2. Cf. Lady M. W. Montagu, _Town Eclogues_:

  "Where the tall jar erects its stately pride,
   With antic shapes in China's azure dyed."

3. _The azure flowers that blow_. Johnson and Wakefield find fault
with this as redundant, but it is no more so than poetic usage
allows. In the _Progress of Poesy_, i. 1, we have again: "The
laughing flowers that round them blow." Cf. _Comus_, 992:

  "Iris there with humid bow
   Waters the odorous banks that blow
   Flowers of more mingled hue
   Than her purfled scarf can shew."

4. _Tabby_. For the derivation of this word from the French _tabis_,
a kind of silk, see Wb. In the first ed. the 5th line preceded the

6. _The lake_. In the mock-heroic vein that runs through the whole

11. _Jet_. This word comes, through the French, from Gagai, a town in
Lycia, where the mineral was first obtained.

14. _Two angel forms_. In the first ed. "two beauteous forms," which
Mitford prefers to the present reading, "as the images of _angel_ and
_genii_ interfere with each other, and bring different associations
to the mind."

16. _Tyrian hue_. Explained by the "purple" in next line; an allusion
to the famous Tyrian dye of the ancients. Cf. Pope, _Windsor Forest_,
142: "with fins of Tyrian dye."

17. Cf. Virgil, _Geo._ iv. 274:

  "_Aureus_ ipse; sed in foliis, quae plurima circum
   Funduntur, violae _sublucet purpura_ nigrae."

See also Pope, _Windsor Forest_, 332: "His shining horns diffus'd a
golden glow;" _Temple of Fame_, 253: "And lucid amber casts a golden

24. In the 1st ed. "What cat's a foe to fish?" and in the next line,
"with eyes intent."

31. _Eight times_. Alluding to the proverbial "nine lives" of the

34. _No dolphin came_. An allusion to the story of Arion, who when
thrown overboard by the sailors for the sake of his wealth was borne
safely to land by a dolphin.

_No Nereid stirr'd_. Cf. Milton, _Lycidas_, 50:

  "Where were ye, Nymphs, when the remorseless deep
   Closed o'er the head of your lov'd Lycidas?"

35, 36. The reading of 1st ed. is,

  "Nor cruel Tom nor Harry heard.
     What favourite has a friend?"

40. The 1st ed. has "Not all that strikes," etc.

42. _Nor all that glisters gold_. A favourite proverb with the old
English poets. Cf. Chaucer, _C. T._ 16430:

  "But all thing which that shineth as the gold
   Ne is no gold, as I have herd it told;"

Spenser, _F. Q._ ii. 8, 14:

  "Yet gold all is not, that doth golden seeme;"

Shakes. _M. of V._ ii. 7:

  "All that glisters is not gold;
   Often have you heard that told;"

Dryden, _Hind and Panther_:

  "All, as they say, that glitters is not gold."

Other examples might be given. _Glisten_ is not found in Shakes. or
Milton, but both use _glister_ several times. See _W. T._ iii. 2;
_Rich. II._ iii. 3; _T. A._ ii. 1, etc.; _Lycidas_, 79; _Comus_, 219;
_P. L._ iii. 550; iv. 645, 653, etc.

[Illustration: ETON COLLEGE.]


This, as Mason informs us, was the first English[1] production of
Gray's that appeared in print. It was published, in folio, in 1747;
and appeared again in Dodsley's _Collection_, vol. ii. p. 267,
without the name of the author.

[Footnote 1: A Latin poem by him, a "Hymeneal" on the Prince of
Wales's Marriage, had appeared in the _Cambridge Collection_ in

Hazlitt (_Lectures on English Poets_) says of this Ode: "It is more
mechanical and commonplace [than the _Elegy_]; but it touches on
certain strings about the heart, that vibrate in unison with it to
our latest breath. No one ever passes by Windsor's 'stately heights,'
or sees the distant spires of Eton College below, without thinking of
Gray. He deserves that we should think of him; for he thought of
others, and turned a trembling, ever-watchful ear to 'the still sad
music of humanity.'"

The writer in the _North American Review_ (vol. xcvi.), after
referring to the publication of this Ode, which, "according to the
custom of the time, was judiciously swathed in folio," adds:

"About this time Gray's portrait was painted, at Walpole's request;
and on the paper which he is represented as holding, Walpole wrote
the title of the Ode, with a line from Lucan:

  'Nec licuit populis parvum te, Nile, videre.'

The poem met with very little attention until it was republished in
1751, with a few other of his Odes. Gray, in speaking of it to
Walpole, in connection with the Ode to Spring, merely says that to
him 'the latter seems not worse than the former.' But the former has
always been the greater favourite--perhaps more from the matter than
the manner. It is the expression of the memories, the thoughts, and
the feelings which arise unbidden in the mind of the man as he looks
once more on the scenes of his boyhood. He feels a new youth in the
presence of those old joys. But the old friends are not there.
Generations have come and gone, and an unknown race now frolic in
boyish glee. His sad, prophetic eye cannot help looking into the
future, and comparing these careless joys with the inevitable ills of
life. Already he sees the fury passions in wait for their little
victims. They seem present to him, like very demons. Our language
contains no finer, more graphic personifications than these almost
tangible shapes. Spenser is more circumstantial, Collins more
vehement, but neither is more real. Though but outlines in miniature,
they are as distinct as Dutch art. Every epithet is a lifelike
picture; not a word could be changed without destroying the tone of
the whole. At last the musing poet asks himself, _Cui bono?_ Why thus
borrow trouble from the future? Why summon so soon the coming
locusts, to poison before their time the glad waters of youth?

  'Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
   Since sorrow never comes too late.
       And happiness too quickly flies?
   Thought would destroy their paradise.
   No more;--where ignorance is bliss,
       'Tis folly to be wise.'

So feeling and the want of feeling come together for once in the
moral. The gay Roman satirist--the apostle of indifferentism--reaches
the same goal, though he has travelled a different road. To
Thaliarchus he says:

  'Quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere: et
   Quem Fors dierum cumque dabit, lucro

The same easy-going philosophy of life forms the key-note of the Ode
to Leuconoë:

  'Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero;'

of that to Quinctius Hirpinus:

               'Quid aeternis minorem
   Consiliis animum fatigas?'

of that to Pompeius Grosphus:

  'Laetus in praesens animus, quod ultra est,
   Oderit curare.'

And so with many others. 'Take no thought of the morrow.'"

Wakefield translates the Greek motto, "Man is an abundant subject of

2. _That crown the watery glade_. Cf. Pope, _Windsor Forest_, 128:
"And lonely woodcocks haunt the watery glade."

4. _Her Henry's holy shade_. Henry the Sixth, founder of the college.
Cf. _The Bard_, ii. 3: "the meek usurper's holy head;" Shakes. _Rich.
III._ v. 1: "Holy King Henry;" _Id._ iv. 4: "When holy Harry died."
The king, though never canonized, was regarded as a saint.

5. _And ye_. Ye "towers;" that is, of Windsor Castle. Cf. Thomson,
_Summer_, 1412:

                       "And now to where
   Majestic Windsor lifts his princely brow."

8. _Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among_. "That is, the
_turf_ of whose _lawn_, the _shade_ of whose _groves_, the _flowers_
of whose mead" (Wakefield). Cf. _Hamlet_, iii. 1: "The courtier's,
soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword."

In Anglo-Saxon and Early English prepositions were often placed after
their objects. In the Elizabethan period the transposition of the
weaker prepositions was not allowed, except in the compounds
_whereto_, _herewith_, etc. (cf. the Latin _quocum_, _secum_), but
the longer forms were still, though rarely, transposed (see _Shakes.
Gr._ 203); and in more recent writers this latter license is
extremely rare. Even the use of the preposition after the relative,
which was very common in Shakespeare's day, is now avoided, except in
colloquial style.

9. _The hoary Thames_. The river-god is pictured in the old classic
fashion. Cf. Milton, _Lycidas_, 103: "Next Camus, reverend sire, went
footing slow." See also quotation from Dryden in note on 21 below.

[Illustration: THE RIVER-GOD TIBER.]

10. _His silver-winding way_. Cf. Thomson, _Summer_, 1425: "The
matchless vale of Thames, Fair-winding up," etc.

12. _Ah, fields belov'd in vain!_ Mitford remarks that this
expression has been considered obscure, and adds the following
explanation: "The poem is written in the character of one who
contemplates this life as a scene of misfortune and sorrow, from
whose fatal power the brief sunshine of youth is supposed to be
exempt. The fields are _beloved_ as the scene of youthful pleasures,
and as affording the promise of happiness to come; but this promise
never was fulfilled. Fate, which dooms man to misery, soon
overclouded these opening prospects of delight. That is in vain
beloved which does not realize the expectations it held out. No fruit
but that of disappointment has followed the blossoms of a thoughtless

13. _Where once my careless childhood stray'd_. Wakefield cites
Thomson, _Winter_, 6:

                  "with frequent foot
   Pleas'd have I, in my cheerful morn of life,
   When nurs'd by careless Solitude I liv'd,
   And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,
   Pleas'd have I wander'd," etc.

15. _That from ye blow_. In Early English _ye_ is nominative, _you_
accusative (objective). This distinction, though observed in our
version of the Bible, was disregarded by Elizabethan writers (Shakes.
_Gr._ 236), as it has occasionally been by the poets even to our own
day. Cf. Shakes. _Hen. VIII._ iii. 1: "The more shame for ye; holy
men I thought ye;" Milton, _Comus_, 216: "I see ye visibly," etc.
Dryden, in a couplet quoted by Guest, uses both forms in the same

  "What gain you by forbidding it to tease ye?
   It now can neither trouble _you_ nor please ye."

19. Gray quotes Dryden, _Fable on Pythag. Syst._: "And bees their
honey redolent of spring."

21. _Say, father Thames_, etc. This invocation is taken from Green's

  "Say, father Thames, whose gentle pace
   Gives leave to view, what beauties grace
   Your flowery banks, if you have seen."

Cf. Dryden, _Annus Mirabilis_, st. 232: "Old father Thames raised up
his reverend head."

Dr. Johnson, in his hypercritical comments on this Ode, says: "His
supplication to Father Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop or
tosses the ball, is useless and puerile. Father Thames has no better
means of knowing than himself." To which Mitford replies by asking,
"Are we by this rule to judge the following passage in the twentieth
chapter of _Rasselas_? 'As they were sitting together, the princess
cast her eyes on the river that flowed before her: "Answer," said
she, "great Father of Waters, thou that rollest thy floods through
eighty nations, to the invocation of the daughter of thy native king.
Tell me, if thou waterest, through all thy course, a single
habitation from which thou dost not hear the murmurs of complaint."'"

23. _Margent green_. Cf. _Comus_, 232: "By slow Mæander's margent

24. Cf. Pope, _Essay on Man_, iii. 233: "To Virtue, in the paths of
Pleasure, trod."

26. _Thy glassy wave_. Cf. _Comus_, 861: "Under the glassy, cool,
translucent wave."

27. _The captive linnet_. The adjective is redundant and "proleptic,"
as the bird must be "enthralled" before it can be called "captive."

28. In the MS. this line reads, "To chase the hoop's illusive speed,"
which seems to us better than the revised form in the text.

30. Cf. Pope, _Dunciad_, iv. 592: "The senator at cricket urge the

37. Cf. Cowley, _Ode to Hobbes_, iv. 7: "Till unknown regions it

40. _A fearful joy_. Wakefield quotes _Matt._ xxviii. 8 and _Psalms_
ii. 11. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ i. 513:

  "Obstupuit simul ipse simul perculsus Achates
   Laetitiaque metuque."

See also _Lear_, v. 3: "'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and

44. Cf. Pope, _Eloisa_, 209: "Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind;"
and _Essay on Man_, iv. 168: "The soul's calm sunshine, and the
heartfelt joy."

45. _Buxom_. Used here in its modern sense. It originally meant
pliant, flexible, yielding (from A. S. _búgan_, to bow); then, gay,
frolicsome, lively; and at last it became associated with the
"cheerful comeliness" of vigorous health. Chaucer has "buxom to ther
lawe," and Spenser (_State of Ireland_), "more tractable and buxome
to his government." Cf. also _F. Q._ i. 11, 37: "the buxome aire;" an
expression which Milton uses twice (_P. L._ ii. 842, v. 270). In
_L'Allegro_, 24: "So buxom, blithe, and debonaire;" the only other
instance in which he uses the word, it means sprightly or "free" (as
in "Come thou goddess, fair and free," a few lines before). Cf.
Shakes. _Pericles_, i. prologue:

  "So buxom, blithe, and full of face,
   As heaven had lent her all his grace."

The word occurs nowhere else in Shakes. except _Hen. V._ iii. 6: "Of
buxom valour;" that is, lively valour.

Dr. Johnson appears to have had in mind the original meaning of
_buxom_ in his comment on this passage: "His epithet _buxom health_
is not elegant; he seems not to understand the word."

47. _Lively cheer_. Cf. Spenser, _Shep. Kal._ Apr.: "In either cheeke
depeincten lively chere;" Milton, _Ps._ lxxxiv. 27: "With joy and
gladsome cheer."

49. Wakefield quotes Milton, _P. L._ v. 3:

  "When Adam wak'd, so custom'd; for his sleep
   Was airy light, from pure digestion bred,
   And temperate vapours bland."

51. _Regardless of their doom_. Collins, in the _first manuscript_ of
his _Ode on the Death of Col. Ross_, has

  "E'en now, regardful of his doom,
   Applauding Honour haunts his tomb."[2]

[Footnote 2: Mitford gives the first line as "E'en now, _regardless_
of his doom;" and just below, on verse 61, he makes the line from
Pope read, "The fury Passions from that _flood_ began." We have
verified his quotations as far as possible, and have corrected scores
of errors in them. Quite likely there are some errors in those we
have not been able to verify.]

55. _Yet see_, etc. Mitford cites Broome, _Ode on Melancholy_:

  "While round stern ministers of fate,
   Pain and Disease and Sorrow, wait;"

and Otway, _Alcibiades_, v. 2: "Then enter, ye grim ministers of
fate." See also _Progress of Poesy_, ii. 1: "Man's feeble race," etc.

59. _Murtherous_. The obsolete spelling of _murderous_, still used in
Gray's time.

61. _The fury Passions_. The passions, fierce and cruel as the
mythical Furies. Cf. Pope, _Essay on Man_, iii. 167: "The fury
Passions from that blood began."

66. Mitford quotes Spenser, _F. Q._:

  "But gnawing Jealousy out of their sight,
   Sitting alone, his bitter lips did bite."

68. Wakefield quotes Milton, _Sonnet to Mr. Lawes_: "With praise
enough for Envy to look wan."

69. _Grim-visag'd, comfortless Despair_. Cf. Shakes. _Rich. III_. i.
1: "Grim-visag'd War;" and _C. of E._ v. 1: "grim and comfortless

76. _Unkindness' altered eye_. "An ungraceful elision" of the
possessive inflection, as Mason calls it. Cf. Dryden, _Hind and
Panther_, iii.: "Affected Kindness with an alter'd face."

79. Gray quotes Dryden, _Pal. and Arc._: "Madness laughing in his
ireful mood." Cf. Shakes. _Hen. VI._ iv. 2: "But rather moody mad;"
and iii. 1: "Moody discontented fury."

81. _The vale of years_. Cf. _Othello_, iii. 3: "Declin'd Into the
vale of years."

82. _Grisly_. Not to be confounded with _grizzly_. See Wb.

83. _The painful family of death_. Cf. Pope, _Essay on Man_, ii. 118:
"Hate, Fear, and Grief, the family of Pain;" and Dryden, _State of
Innocence_, v. 1: "With all the numerous family of Death." On the
whole passage cf. Milton, _P. L._ xi. 477-493. See also Virgil, _Æn._
vi. 275.

86. _That every labouring sinew strains_. An example of the
"correspondence of sound with sense." As Pope says (_Essay on
Criticism_, 371),

  "The line too labours, and the words move slow."

90. _Slow-consuming Age_. Cf. Shenstone, _Love and Honour_: "His
slow-consuming fires."

95. As Wakefield remarks, we meet with the same thought in _Comus_,

  "Peace, brother, be not over-exquisite
   To cast the fashion of uncertain evils;
   For grant they be so, while they rest unknown
   What need a man forestall his date of grief,
   And run to meet what he would most avoid?"

97. _Happiness too swiftly flies_. Perhaps a reminiscence of Virgil,
_Geo._ iii. 66:

  "Optima quaeque dies miseris mortalibus aevi
   Prima fugit."

98. _Thought would destroy their paradise_. Wakefield quotes
Sophocles, _Ajax_, 554: [Greek: En tôi phronein gar mêden hêdistos
bios] ("Absence of thought is prime felicity").

99. Cf. Prior, _Ep. to Montague_, st. 9:

  "From ignorance our comfort flows,
   The only wretched are the wise."

and Davenant, _Just Italian_: "Since knowledge is but sorrow's spy,
it is not safe to know."


[Illustration: HOMER ENTHRONED.]


This Ode, as we learn from one of Gray's letters to Walpole, was
finished, with the exception of a few lines, in 1755. It was not
published until 1757, when it appeared with _The Bard_ in a quarto
volume, which was the first issue of Walpole's press at Strawberry
Hill. In one of his letters Walpole writes: "I send you two copies of
a very honourable opening of my press--two amazing odes of Mr. Gray.
They are Greek, they are Pindaric, they are sublime, consequently I
fear a little obscure; the second particularly, by the confinement of
the measure and the nature of prophetic vision, is mysterious. I
could not persuade him to add more notes." In another letter Walpole
says: "I found Gray in town last week; he had brought his two odes to
be printed. I snatched them out of Dodsley's hands, and they are to
be the first-fruits of my press." The title-page of the volume is as

  for R. and J. DODSLEY in Pall-Mall.

Both Odes were coldly received at first. "Even my friends," writes
Gray, in a letter to Hurd, Aug. 25, 1757, "tell me they do not
_succeed_, and write me moving topics of consolation on that head. In
short, I have heard of nobody but an Actor [Garrick] and a Doctor of
Divinity [Warburton] that profess their esteem for them. Oh yes, a
Lady of quality (a friend of Mason's) who is a great reader. She knew
there was a compliment to Dryden, but never suspected there was
anything said about Shakespeare or Milton, till it was explained to
her, and wishes that there had been titles prefixed to tell what they
were about."[1] In a letter to Dr. Wharton, dated Aug. 17, 1757, he
says: "I hear we are not at all popular. The great objection is
obscurity, nobody knows what we would be at. One man (a Peer) I have
been told of, that thinks the last stanza of the 2d Ode relates to
Charles the First and Oliver Cromwell; in short, the [Greek: Sunetoi]
appear to be still fewer than even I expected." A writer in the
_Critical Review_ thought that "Æolian lyre" meant the Æolian harp.
Coleman the elder and Robert Lloyd wrote parodies entitled Odes to
Obscurity and Oblivion. Gray finally had to add explanatory notes,
though he intimates that his readers ought not to have needed

[Footnote 1: Forster remarks that Gray might have added to the
admirers of the Odes "the poor monthly critic of _The
Dunciad_"--Oliver Goldsmith, then beginning his London career as a
bookseller's hack. In a review of the Odes in the _London Monthly
Review_ for Sept., 1757, after citing certain passages of _The Bard_,
he says that they "will give as much pleasure to those who relish
this species of composition as anything that has hitherto appeared in
our language, the odes of Dryden himself not excepted."]

[Footnote 2: In a foot-note he says: "When the author first published
this and the following Ode, he was advised, even by his friends, to
subjoin some few explanatory notes; but had too much respect for the
understanding of his readers to take that liberty."

In a letter to Beattie, dated Feb. 1, 1768, referring to the new
edition of his poems, he says: "As to the notes, I do it out of
spite, because the public did not understand the two Odes (which I
have called Pindaric), though the first was not very dark, and the
second alluded to a few common facts to be found in any sixpenny
history of England, by way of question and answer, for the use of
children." And in a letter to Walpole, Feb. 25, 1768, he says he has
added "certain little Notes, partly from justice (to acknowledge the
debt where I had borrowed anything), partly from ill temper, just to
tell the gentle reader that Edward I. was not Oliver Cromwell, nor
Queen Elizabeth the Witch of Endor."

Mr. Fox, afterwards Lord Holland, said that "if the Bard recited his
Ode only _once_ to Edward, he was sure he could not understand it."
When this was told to Gray, he said, "If he had recited it twenty
times, Edward would not have been a bit wiser; but that was no reason
why Mr. Fox should not."]

"The metre of these Odes is constructed on Greek models. It is not
uniform but symmetrical. The nine stanzas of each ode form three
groups. A slight examination will show that the 1st, 4th, and 7th
stanzas are exactly inter-correspondent; so the 2d, 5th, and 8th; and
so the remaining three. The technical Greek names for these three
parts were [Greek: strophê] (strophe), [Greek: antistrophê]
(antistrophe), and [Greek: epôdos] (epodos)--the Turn, the
Counter-turn, and the After-song--names derived from the theatre; the
Turn denoting the movement of the Chorus from one side of the [Greek:
orchêstra] (orchestra), or Dance-stage, to the other, the
Counter-turn the reverse movement, the After-song something sung
after two such movements. Odes thus constructed were called by the
Greeks Epodic. Congreve is said to have been the first who so
constructed English odes. This system cannot be said to have
prospered with us. Perhaps no English ear would instinctively
recognize that correspondence between distant parts which is the
secret of it. Certainly very many readers of _The Progress of Poesy_
are wholly unconscious of any such harmony" (Hales).


1. _Awake, Æolian lyre_. The blunder of the Critical Reviewers who
supposed the "harp of Æolus" to be meant led Gray to insert this
note: "Pindar styles his own poetry with its musical accompaniments,
[Greek: Aiolis molpê, Aiolides chordai, Aiolidôn pnoai aulôn], Æolian
song, Æolian strings, the breath of the Æolian flute."

Cf. Cowley, _Ode of David_: "Awake, awake, my lyre!" Gray himself
quotes _Ps._ lvii. 8. The first reading of the line in the MS. was,
"Awake, my lyre: my glory, wake." Gray also adds the following note:
"The subject and simile, as usual with Pindar, are united. The
various sources of poetry, which gives life and lustre to all it
touches, are here described; its quiet majestic progress enriching
every subject (otherwise dry and barren) with a pomp of diction and
luxuriant harmony of numbers; and its more rapid and irresistible
course, when swollen and hurried away by the conflict of tumultuous

2. _And give to rapture_. The first reading of the MS. was "give to

3. _Helicon's harmonious springs_. In the mountain range of Helicon,
in Boeotia, there were two fountains sacred to the Muses, Aganippe
and Hippocrene, of which the former was the more famous.

7. Cf. Pope, _Hor. Epist._ ii. 2, 171:

  "Pour the full tide of eloquence along,
   Serenely pure, and yet divinely strong;"

and _Ode on St. Cecilia's Day_, 11:

  "The deep, majestic, solemn organs blow;"

also Thomson, _Liberty_, ii. 257:

  "In thy full language speaking mighty things,
   Like a clear torrent close, or else diffus'd
   A broad majestic stream, and rolling on
   Through all the winding harmony of sound."

9. Cf. Shenstone, _Inscr._: "Verdant vales and fountains bright;"
also Virgil, _Geo._ i. 96: "Flava Ceres;" and Homer, _Il._ v. 499:
[Greek: xanthê Dêmêtêr].

10. _Rolling_. Spelled "rowling" in the 1st and other early editions.

_Amain_. Cf. _Lycidas_, 111: "The golden opes, the iron shuts amain;"
_P. L._ ii. 165: "when we fled amain," etc. Also Shakes. _Temp._ iv.
1: "Her peacocks fly amain," etc. The word means literally _with
main_ (which we still use in "might and main"), that is, with force
or strength. Cf. Horace, _Od._ iv. 2, 8: "Immensusque ruit profundo
Pindarus ore."

11. The first MS. reading was, "With torrent rapture see it pour."

12. Cf. Dryden, _Virgil's Geo._ i.: "And rocks the bellowing voice of
boiling seas resound;" Pope, _Iliad_: "Rocks rebellow to the roar."

13. "Power of harmony to calm the turbulent sallies of the soul. The
thoughts are borrowed from the first Pythian of Pindar" (Gray).

14. _Solemn-breathing airs_. Cf. _Comus_, 555: "a soft and
solemn-breathing sound."

15. _Enchanting shell_. That is, lyre; alluding to the myth of the
origin of the instrument, which Mercury was said to have made from
the shell of a tortoise. Cf. Collins, _Passions_, 3: "The Passions
oft, to hear her shell," etc.

17. _On Thracia's hills_. Thrace was one of the chief seats of the
worship of Mars. Cf. Ovid, _Ars Am._ ii. 588: "Mars Thracen occupat."
See also Virgil, _Æn._ iii. 35, etc.

19. _His thirsty lance_. Cf. Spenser, _F. Q._ i. 5, 15: "his thristy
[thirsty] blade."

20. Gray says, "This is a weak imitation of some beautiful lines in
the same ode;" that is, in "the first Pythian of Pindar," referred to
in the note on 13. The passage is an address to the lyre, and is
translated by Wakefield thus:

  "On Jove's imperial rod the king of birds
   Drops down his flagging wings; thy thrilling sounds
   Soothe his fierce beak, and pour a sable cloud
   Of slumber on his eyelids: up he lifts
   His flexile back, shot by thy piercing darts.
   Mars smooths his rugged brow, and nerveless drops
   His lance, relenting at the choral song."

21. _The feather'd king_. Cf. Shakes. _Phoenix and Turtle_:

  "Every fowl of tyrant wing,
   Save the eagle, feather'd king."

23. _Dark clouds_. The first reading of MS. was "black clouds."

24. _The terror_. This is the reading of the first ed. and also of
that of 1768. Most of the modern eds. have "terrors."

25. "Power of harmony to produce all the graces of motion in the
body" (Gray).

26. _Temper'd_. Modulated, "set." Cf. _Lycidas_, 33: "Tempered to the
oaten flute;" Fletcher, _Purple Island_: "Tempering their sweetest
notes unto thy lay," etc.

27. _O'er Idalia's velvet-green_. _Idalia_ appears to be used for
_Idalium_, which was a town in Cyprus, and a favourite seat of Venus,
who was sometimes called _Idalia_. Pope likewise uses _Idalia_ for
the place, in his _First Pastoral_, 65: "Celestial Venus haunts
Idalia's groves."

Dr. Johnson finds fault with _velvet-green_, apparently supposing it
to be a compound of Gray's own making. But Young had used it in his
_Love of Fame_: "She rears her flowers, and spreads her
velvet-green." It is also among the expressions of Pope which are
ridiculed in the _Alexandriad_.

29. _Cytherea_ was a name of Venus, derived from _Cythera_, an island
in the Ægean Sea, one of the favourite residences of Aphrodite, or
Venus. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ i. 680: "super alta Cythera Aut super
Idalium, sacrata sede," etc.

30. _With antic Sports_. This is the reading of the 1st ed. and also
of the ed. of 1768. Some eds. have "sport."

_Antic_ is the same word as _antique_. The association between what
is old or old-fashioned and what is odd, fantastic, or grotesque is
obvious enough. Cf. Milton, _Il Pens._ 158: "With antick pillars
massy-proof." In _S. A._ 1325 he uses the word as a noun: "Jugglers
and dancers, anticks, mummers, mimicks." Shakes. makes it a verb in
_A. and C._ ii. 7: "the wild disguise hath almost Antick'd us all."

31. Cf. Thomson, _Spring_, 835: "In friskful glee Their frolics

32, 33. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ v. 580 foll.

35. Gray quotes Homer, _Od._ ix. 265: [Greek: marmarugas thêeito
podôn thaumaze de thumôi]. Cf. Catullus's "fulgentem plantam." See
also Thomson, _Spring_, 158: "the many-twinkling leaves Of aspin

36. _Slow-melting strains_, etc. Cf. a poem by Barton Booth,
published in 1733:

  "Now to a slow and melting air she moves,
   So like in air, in shape, in mien,
   She passes for the Paphian queen;
   The Graces all around her play,
   The wondering gazers die away;
   Whether her easy body bend,
   Or her fair bosom heave with sighs;
   Whether her graceful arms extend,
   Or gently fall, or slowly rise;
   Or returning or advancing,
   Swimming round, or sidelong glancing,
   Strange force of motion that subdues the soul."

37. Cf. Dryden, _Flower and Leaf_, 191: "For wheresoe'er she turn'd
her face, they bow'd."

39. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ i. 405: "Incessu patuit dea." The gods were
represented as gliding or sailing along without moving their feet.

41. _Purple light of love_. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ i. 590: "lumenque
juventae Purpureum." Gray quotes Phrynichus, _apud_ Athenæum:

  [Greek: lampei d' epi porphureêisi
          pareiêisi phôs erôtos.]

See also Dryden, _Brit. Red._ 133: "and her own purple light."

42. "To compensate the real and imaginary ills of life, the Muse was
given to mankind by the same Providence that sends the day by its
cheerful presence to dispel the gloom and terrors of the night"

43 foll. See on _Eton Coll._ 83. Cf. Horace, _Od._ i. 3, 29-33.

46. _Fond complaint_. Foolish complaint. Cf. Shakes. _M. of V._ iii.

                  "I do wonder,
   Thou naughty gaoler, that thou art so fond
   To come abroad with him at his request;"

Milton, _S. A._ 812: "fond and reasonless," etc. This appears to be
the original meaning of the word. In Wiclif's Bible. 1 _Cor._ i. 27,
we have "the thingis that ben _fonnyd_ of the world." In _Twelfth
Night_, ii. 2, the word is used as a verb=dote:

  "And I, poor monster, fond as much on him,
   As she, mistaken, seems to dote on me."

49. Hurd quotes Cowley:

  "Night and her ugly subjects thou dost fright,
   And Sleep, the lazy owl of night;
   Asham'd and fearful to appear,
   They screen their horrid shapes with the black hemisphere."

Wakefield cites Milton, _Hymn on Nativity_, 233 foll.: "The flocking
shadows pale," etc. See also _P. R._ iv. 419-431.

50. _Birds of boding cry_. Cf. Green's _Grotto_: "news the boding
night-birds tell."

52. Gray refers to Cowley, _Brutus_:

  "One would have thought 't had heard the morning crow,
   Or seen her well-appointed star.
   Come marching up the eastern hill afar."

The following variations on 52 and 53 are found in the MS.:

   Till fierce Hyperion from afar
   Pours on their scatter'd rear, |
   Hurls at   "   flying     "    | his glittering shafts of war.
     "   o'er "   scatter'd  "    |
     "    "   "   shadowy    "    |
   Till   "   "      "       "   from far
   Hyperion hurls around his, etc.

The accent of _Hyperion_ is properly on the penult, which is long in
quantity, but the English poets, with rare exceptions, have thrown it
back upon the antepenult. It is thus in the six instances in which
Shakes. uses the word: e.g. _Hamlet_, iii. 4: "Hyperion's curls; the
front of Jove himself." The word does not occur in Milton. It is
correctly accented by Drummond (of Hawthornden), _Wand. Muses_:

  "That Hyperion far beyond his bed
   Doth see our lions ramp, our roses spread;"

by West, _Pindar's Ol._ viii. 22:

  "Then Hyperion's son, pure fount of day,
   Did to his children the strange tale reveal;"

also by Akenside, and by the author of the old play _Fuimus Troes_
(A.D. 1633):

       "Blow, gentle Africus,
   Play on our poops when Hyperion's son
   Shall couch in west."

Hyperion was a Titan, the father of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the
Moon), and Eos (the Dawn). He was represented with the attributes of
beauty and splendor afterwards ascribed to Apollo. His "glittering
shafts" are of course the sunbeams, the "lucida tela diei" of
Lucretius. Cf. a very beautiful description of the dawn in Lowell's
_Above and Below_:

  "'Tis from these heights alone your eyes
     The advancing spears of day can see,
   Which o'er the eastern hill-tops rise,
     To break your long captivity."

We may quote also his _Vision of Sir Launfal_:

  "It seemed the dark castle had gathered all
   Those shafts the fierce sun had shot over its wall
     In his siege of three hundred summers long," etc.

54. Gray's note here is as follows: "Extensive influence of poetic
genius over the remotest and most uncivilized nations; its connection
with liberty and the virtues that naturally attend on it. [See the
Erse, Norwegian, and Welsh fragments; the Lapland and American
songs.]" He also quotes Virgil, _Æn._ vi. 796: "Extra anni solisque
vias," and Petrarch, _Canz._ 2: "Tutta lontana dal camin del sole."
Cf. also Dryden, _Thren. August._ 353: "Out of the solar walk and
Heaven's highway;" _Ann. Mirab._ st. 160: "Beyond the year, and out
of Heaven's highway;" _Brit. Red._: "Beyond the sunny walks and
circling year;" also Pope, _Essay on Man_, i. 102: "Far as the solar
walk and milky way."

56. _Twilight gloom_. Wakefield quotes Milton, _Hymn on Nativ._ 188:
"The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn."

57. Wakefield says, "It almost chills one to read this verse." The
MS. variations are "buried native's" and "chill abode."

60. _Repeat_ [_their chiefs_, etc.]. Sing of them again and again.

61. _In loose numbers_, etc. Cf. Milton, _L'All._ 133:

  "Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
   Warble his native wood-notes wild;"

and Horace, _Od._ iv. 2, 11:

            "numerisque fertur
   Lege solutis."

62. _Their feather-cinctur'd chiefs_. Cf. _P. L._ ix. 1115:

                    "Such of late
   Columbus found the American, so girt
   With feather'd cincture."

64. _Glory pursue_. Wakefield remarks that this use of a plural verb
after the first of a series of subjects is in Pindar's manner. Warton
compares Homer, _Il._ v. 774:

  [Greek: hêchi rhoas Simoeis sumballeton êde Skamandros.]

Dugald Stewart (_Philos. of Human Mind_) says: "I cannot help
remarking the effect of the solemn and uniform flow of verse in this
exquisite stanza, in retarding the pronunciation of the reader, so as
to arrest his attention to every successive picture, till it has time
to produce its proper impression."

65. _Freedom's holy flame_. Cf. Akenside, _Pleas. of Imag._ i. 468:
"Love's holy flame."

[Illustration: THE VALE OF TEMPE.]

66. "Progress of Poetry from Greece to Italy, and from Italy to
England. Chaucer was not unacquainted with the writings of Dante or
of Petrarch. The Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt had travelled in
Italy, and formed their taste there; Spenser imitated the Italian
writers; Milton improved on them: but this school expired soon after
the Restoration, and a new one arose on the French model, which has
subsisted ever since" (Gray).

_Delphi's steep_. Cf. Milton, _Hymn on Nativ._ 178: "the steep of
Delphos;" _P. L._ i. 517: "the Delphian cliff." Both Shakes. and
Milton prefer the mediæval form _Delphos_ to the more usual _Delphi_.
Delphi was at the foot of the southern uplands of Parnassus which end
"in a precipitous cliff, 2000 feet high, rising to a double peak
named the Phædriades, from their glittering appearance as they faced
the rays of the sun" (Smith's _Anc. Geog._).

67. _Isles_, etc. Cf. Byron:

  "The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
     Where burning Sappho loved and sung," etc.

68. _Ilissus_. This river, rising on the northern slope of Hymettus,
flows through the east side of Athens.

69. _Mæander's amber waves_. Cf. Milton, _P. L._ iii. 359: "Rolls
o'er Elysian flowers her amber stream;" _P. R._ iii. 288: "There Susa
by Choaspes, amber stream." See also Virgil, _Geo._ iii. 520: "Purior
electro campum petit amnis." Callimachus (_Cer._ 29) has [Greek:
alektrinon hudôr].

70. Ovid, _Met._ viii. 162, describes the Mæander thus:

  "Non secus ac liquidis Phrygiis Maeandros in arvis
   Ludit, et ambiguo lapsu refluitque fluitque."

Cf. also Virgil's description of the Mincius (_Geo._ iii. 15):

           --"tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat

"The first great metropolis of Hellenic intellectual life was Miletus
on the Mæander. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximines, Cadmus, Hecatæus,
etc., were all Milesians" (Hales).

71 foll. Cf. Milton, _Hymn on Nativ._ 181:

        "The lonely mountains o'er,
         And the resounding shore,
   A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
         From haunted spring and dale,
         Edged with poplar pale,
   The parting Genius is with sighing sent:" etc.

75. _Hallowed fountain_. Cf. Virgil, _Ecl._ i. 53: "fontes sacros."

76. The MS. has "Murmur'd a celestial sound."

80. _Vice that revels in her chains_. In his _Ode for Music_, 6, Gray
has "Servitude that hugs her chain."

81. Hales quotes Collins, _Ode to Simplicity_:

        "While Rome could none esteem
         But Virtue's patriot theme,
   You lov'd her hills, and led her laureate band;
         But staid to sing alone
         To one distinguish'd throne,
   And turn'd thy face, and fled her alter'd land."

84. _Nature's darling_. "Shakespeare" (Gray). Cf. Cleveland, _Poems_:

  "Here lies within this stony shade
   Nature's darling; whom she made
   Her fairest model, her brief story,
   In him heaping all her glory."

On _green lap_, cf. Milton, _Song on May Morning_:

  "The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
   The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose."

85. _Lucid Avon_. Cf. Seneca, _Thyest._ 129: "gelido flumine lucidus

86. _The mighty mother_. That is, Nature. Pope, in the _Dunciad_, i.
1, uses the same expression in a satirical way:

  "The Mighty Mother, and her Son, who brings
   The Smithfield Muses to the ear of kings,
   I sing."

See also Dryden, _Georgics_, i. 466:

  "On the green turf thy careless limbs display,
   And celebrate the mighty mother's day."

87. _The dauntless child_. Cf. Horace, _Od._ iii. 4, 20: "non sine
dis animosus infans." Wakefield quotes Virgil, _Ecl._ iv. 60:
"Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem." Mitford points out that
the identical expression occurs in Sandys's translation of Ovid,
_Met._ iv. 515:

                                   "the child
   Stretch'd forth its little arms, and on him smil'd."

See also Catullus, _In Nupt. Jun. et Manl._ 216:

  "Torquatus volo parvulus
   Matris e gremio suae
   Porrigens teneras manus,
   Dulce rideat."

91. _These golden keys_. Cf. Young, _Resig._:

  "Nature, which favours to the few
     All art beyond imparts,
   To him presented at his birth
     The key of human hearts."

Wakefield cites _Comus_, 12:

  "Yet some there be, that with due steps aspire
   To lay their hands upon that golden key
   That opes the palace of eternity."

See also _Lycidas_, 110:

  "Two massy keys he bore of metals twain;
   The golden opes, the iron shuts amain."

93. _Of horror_. A MS. variation is "Of terror."

94. _Or ope the sacred source_. In a letter to Dr. Wharton, Sept. 7,
1757, Gray mentions, among other criticisms upon this ode, that "Dr.
Akenside criticises opening a _source_ with a _key_." But, as Mitford
remarks, Akenside himself in his _Ode on Lyric Poetry_ has, "While I
so late _unlock_ thy purer _springs_," and in his _Pleasures of
Imagination_, "I _unlock_ the _springs_ of ancient wisdom."

95. _Nor second he_, etc. "Milton" (Gray).

96, 97. Cf. Milton, _P. L._ vii. 12:

                    "Up led by thee,
   Into the heaven of heavens I have presumed,
   An earthly guest, and drawn empyreal air."

98. _The flaming bounds_, etc. Gray quotes Lucretius, i. 74:
"Flammantia moenia mundi." Cf. also Horace, _Epist._ i. 14, 9: "amat
spatiis obstantia rumpere claustra."

99. Gray quotes _Ezekiel_ i. 20, 26, 28. See also Milton, _At a
Solemn Music_, 7: "Aye sung before the sapphire-colour'd throne;" _Il
Pens._ 53: "the fiery-wheeled throne;" _P. L._ vi. 758:

  "Whereon a sapphire throne, inlaid with pure
   Amber, and colours of the showery arch;"

and _id._ vi. 771:

  "He on the wings of cherub rode sublime,
   On the crystalline sky, in sapphire throned."

101. _Blasted with excess of light_. Cf. _P. L._ iii. 380: "Dark with
excessive bright thy skirts appear."

102. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ x. 746: "in aeternam clauduntur lumina
noctem," which Dryden translates, "And closed her lids at last in
endless night." Gray quotes Homer, _Od._ viii. 64:

   [Greek: Ophthalmôn men amerses, didou d' hêdeian aoidên.]

103. Gray, according to Mason, "admired Dryden almost beyond

[Footnote 3: In a journey through Scotland in 1765, Gray became
acquainted with Beattie, to whom he commended the study of Dryden,
adding that "if there was any excellence in his own numbers, he had
learned it wholly from the great poet."]

105. "Meant to express the stately march and sounding energy of
Dryden's rhymes" (Gray). Cf. Pope, _Imit. of Hor. Ep._ ii. 1, 267:

  "Waller was smooth: but Dryden taught to join
   The varying verse, the full-resounding line,
   The long majestic march, and energy divine."

106. Gray quotes _Job_ xxxix. 19: "Hast thou clothed his neck with

108. _Bright-eyed_. The MS. has "full-plumed."

110. Gray quotes Cowley, _Prophet_: "Words that weep, and tears that

Dugald Stewart remarks upon this line: "I have sometimes thought that
Gray had in view the two different effects of words already
described; the effect of some in awakening the powers of conception
and imagination; and that of others in exciting associated emotions."

111. "We have had in our language no other odes of the sublime kind
than that of Dryden on St. Cecilia's Day; for Cowley (who had his
merit) yet wanted judgment, style, and harmony, for such a task. That
of Pope is not worthy of so great a man. Mr. Mason, indeed, of late
days, has touched the true chords, and with a masterly hand, in some
of his choruses; above all in the last of _Caractacus_:

  'Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread!' etc." (Gray).

113. _Wakes thee now_. Cf. _Elegy_, 48: "Or wak'd to ecstasy the
living lyre."

115. "[Greek: Dios pros ornicha theion]. _Olymp._ ii. 159. Pindar
compares himself to that bird, and his enemies to ravens that croak
and clamour in vain below, while it pursues its flight, regardless of
their noise" (Gray).

Cf. Spenser, _F. Q._ v. 4, 42:

  "Like to an Eagle, in his kingly pride
   Soring through his wide Empire of the aire,
   To weather his brode sailes."

Cowley, in his translation of Horace, _Od._ iv. 2, calls Pindar "the
Theban swan" ("Dircaeum cycnum"):

  "Lo! how the obsequious wind and swelling air
   The Theban Swan does upward bear."

117. _Azure deep of air_. Cf. Euripides, _Med._ 1294: [Greek: es
aitheros bathos]; and Lucretius, ii. 151: "Aëris in magnum fertur
mare." Cowley has "Row through the trackless ocean of air;" and
Shakes. (_T. of A._ iv. 2), "this sea of air."

118, 119. The MS. reads:

  "Yet when they first were open'd on the day
   Before his visionary eyes would run."

D. Stewart (_Philos. of Human Mind_) remarks that "Gray, in
describing the infantine reveries of poetical genius, has fixed with
exquisite judgment on that class of our conceptions which are derived
from _visible_ objects."

120. _With orient hues_. Cf. Milton, _P. L._ i. 546: "with orient
colours waving."

122. The MS. has "Yet never can he fear a vulgar fate."

123. Cf. K. Philips: "Still shew'd how much the good outshone the

We append, as a curiosity of criticism, Dr. Johnson's comments on
this ode, from his _Lives of the Poets_. The Life of Gray has been
called "the worst in the series," and perhaps this is the worst part
of it:[4]

"My process has now brought me to the _wonderful_ 'Wonder of
Wonders,' the two Sister Odes, by which, though either vulgar
ignorance or common-sense at first universally rejected them, many
have been since persuaded to think themselves delighted. I am one of
those that are willing to be pleased, and therefore would gladly find
the meaning of the first stanza of 'The Progress of Poetry.'

"Gray seems in his rapture to confound the images of spreading sound
and running water. A 'stream of music' may be allowed; but where does
'music,' however 'smooth and strong,' after having visited the
'verdant vales, roll down the steep amain,' so as that 'rocks and
nodding groves rebellow to the roar?' If this be said of music, it is
nonsense; if it be said of water, it is nothing to the purpose.

"The second stanza, exhibiting Mars's car and Jove's eagle, is
unworthy of further notice. Criticism disdains to chase a schoolboy
to his commonplaces.

"To the third it may likewise be objected that it is drawn from
mythology, though such as may be more easily assimilated to real
life. Idalia's 'velvet-green' has something of cant. An epithet or
metaphor drawn from Nature ennobles Art; an epithet or metaphor drawn
from Art degrades Nature. Gray is too fond of words arbitrarily
compounded. 'Many-twinkling' was formerly censured as not analogical;
we may say 'many-spotted,' but scarcely 'many-spotting.' This stanza,
however, has something pleasing.

"Of the second ternary of stanzas, the first endeavours to tell
something, and would have told it, had it not been crossed by
Hyperion; the second describes well enough the universal prevalence
of poetry; but I am afraid that the conclusion will not arise from
the premises. The caverns of the North and the plains of Chili are
not the residences of 'Glory and generous Shame.' But that Poetry and
Virtue go always together is an opinion so pleasing that I can
forgive him who resolves to think it true.

"The third stanza sounds big with 'Delphi,' and 'Ægean,' and
'Ilissus,' and 'Mæander,' and with 'hallowed fountains,' and 'solemn
sound;' but in all Gray's odes there is a kind of cumbrous splendour
which we wish away. His position is at last false: in the time of
Dante and Petrarch, from whom we derive our first school of poetry,
Italy was overrun by 'tyrant power' and 'coward vice;' nor was our
state much better when we first borrowed the Italian arts.

"Of the third ternary, the first gives a mythological birth of
Shakespeare. What is said of that mighty genius is true; but it is
not said happily: the real effects of this poetical power are put out
of sight by the pomp of machinery. Where truth is sufficient to fill
the mind, fiction is worse than useless; the counterfeit debases the

"His account of Milton's blindness, if we suppose it caused by study
in the formation of his poem, a supposition surely allowable, is
poetically true and happily imagined. But the _car_ of Dryden, with
his _two coursers_, has nothing in it peculiar; it is a car in which
any other rider may be placed."

[Footnote 4: Sir James Mackintosh well says of Johnson's criticisms:
"Wherever understanding alone is sufficient for poetical criticism,
the decisions of Johnson are generally right. But the beauties of
poetry must be _felt_ before their causes are investigated. There is
a poetical sensibility, which in the progress of the mind becomes as
distinct a power as a musical ear or a picturesque eye. Without a
considerable degree of this sensibility, it is as vain for a man of
the greatest understanding to speak of the higher beauties of poetry
as it is for a blind man to speak of colours. To adopt the warmest
sentiments of poetry, to realize its boldest imagery, to yield to
every impulse of enthusiasm, to submit to the illusions of fancy, to
retire with the poet into his ideal worlds, were dispositions wholly
foreign from the worldly sagacity and stern shrewdness of Johnson. As
in his judgment of life and character, so in his criticism on poetry,
he was a sort of Free-thinker. He suspected the refined of
affectation, he rejected the enthusiastic as absurd, and he took it
for granted that the mysterious was unintelligible. He came into the
world when the school of Dryden and Pope gave the law to English
poetry. In that school he had himself learned to be a lofty and
vigorous declaimer in harmonious verse; beyond that school his
unforced admiration perhaps scarcely soared; and his highest effort
of criticism was accordingly the noble panegyric on Dryden."

W. H. Prescott, the historian, also remarks that Johnson, as a
critic, "was certainly deficient in sensibility to the more delicate,
the minor beauties of poetic sentiment. He analyzes verse in the
cold-blooded spirit of a chemist, until all the aroma which
constituted its principal charm escapes in the decomposition. By this
kind of process, some of the finest fancies of the Muse, the lofty
dithyrambics of Gray, the ethereal effusions of Collins, and of
Milton too, are rendered sufficiently vapid."]

[Illustration: PINDAR.]

[Illustration: EDWARD I.]


"This ode is founded on a tradition current in Wales that Edward the
First, when he completed the conquest of that country, ordered all
the bards that fell into his hands to be put to death" (Gray).

The original argument of the ode, as Gray had set it down in his
commonplace-book, was as follows: "The army of Edward I., as they
march through a deep valley, and approach Mount Snowdon, are suddenly
stopped by the appearance of a venerable figure seated on the summit
of an inaccessible rock, who, with a voice more than human,
reproaches the king with all the desolation and misery which he had
brought on his country; foretells the misfortunes of the Norman race,
and with prophetic spirit declares that all his cruelty shall never
extinguish the noble ardour of poetic genius in this island; and that
men shall never be wanting to celebrate true virtue and valour in
immortal strains, to expose vice and infamous pleasure, and boldly
censure tyranny and oppression. His song ended, he precipitates
himself from the mountain, and is swallowed up by the river that
rolls at its feet."

Mitford, in his "Essay on the Poetry of Gray," says of this Ode: "The
tendency of _The Bard_ is to show the retributive justice that
follows an act of tyranny and wickedness; to denounce on Edward, in
his person and his progeny, the effect of the crime he had committed
in the massacre of the bards; to convince him that neither his power
nor situation could save him from the natural and necessary
consequences of his guilt; that not even the virtues which he
possessed could atone for the vices with which they were accompanied:

  'Helm nor hauberk's twisted mail,
   Nor e'en thy _virtues_, tyrant, shall avail.'

This is the real tendency of the poem; and well worthy it was of
being adorned and heightened by such a profusion of splendid images
and beautiful machinery. We must also observe how much this moral
feeling increases as we approach the close; how the poem rises in
dignity; and by what a fine gradation the solemnity of the subject
ascends. The Bard commenced his song with feelings of sorrow for his
departed brethren and his desolate country. This despondence,
however, has given way to emotions of a nobler and more exalted
nature. What can be more magnificent than the vision which opens
before him to display the triumph of justice and the final glory of
his cause? And it may be added, what can be more forcible or emphatic
than the language in which it is conveyed?

  'But oh! what solemn scenes on Snowdon's height,
     Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?
   Visions of glory, spare my aching sight!
     _Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!_'

The fine apostrophe to the shade of Taliessin completes the picture
of exultation:

  'Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;
     They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.'

The triumph of justice, therefore, is now complete. The vanquished
has risen superior to his conqueror, and the reader closes the poem
with feelings of content and satisfaction. He has seen the Bard
uplifted both by a divine energy and by the natural superiority of
virtue; and the conqueror has shrunk into a creature of hatred and

  'Be thine despair, and sceptred care;
     To triumph, and to die, are mine.'"

With regard to the _obscurity_ of the poem, the same writer remarks
that "it is such only as of necessity arises from the plan and
conduct of a prophecy." "In the prophetic poem," he adds, "one point
of history alone is told, and the rest is to be acquired previously
by the reader; as in the contemplation of an historical picture,
which commands only one moment of time, our memory must supply us
with the necessary links of knowledge; and that point of time
selected by the painter must be illustrated by the spectator's
knowledge of the past or future, of the cause or the consequences."

He refers, for corroboration of this opinion, to Dr. Campbell, who in
his "Philosophy of Rhetoric," says: "I know no style to which
darkness of a certain sort is more suited than to the prophetical:
many reasons might be assigned which render it improper that prophecy
should be perfectly understood before it be accomplished. Besides, we
are certain that a prediction may be very dark before the
accomplishment, and yet so plain afterwards as scarcely to admit a
doubt in regard to the events suggested. It does not belong to
critics to give laws to prophets, nor does it fall within the
confines of any human art to lay down rules for a species of
composition so far above art. Thus far, however, we may warrantably
observe, that when the prophetic style is imitated in poetry, the
piece ought, as much as possible, to possess the character above
mentioned. This character, in my opinion, is possessed in a very
eminent degree by Mr. Gray's ode called _The Bard_. It is all
darkness to one who knows nothing of the English history posterior to
the reign of Edward the First, and all light to one who is acquainted
with that history. But this is a kind of writing whose peculiarities
can scarcely be considered as exceptions from ordinary rules."

Farther on in the same essay, Mitford remarks: "The skill of Gray is,
I think, eminently shown in the superior distinctness with which he
has marked those parts of his prophecies which are speedily to be
accomplished; and in the gradations by which, as he descends, he has
insensibly melted the more remote into the deeper and deeper
shadowings of general language. The first prophecy is the fate of
Edward the Second. In that the Bard has pointed out the very night in
which he is to be destroyed; has named the river that flowed around
his prison, and the castle that was the scene of his sufferings:

  'Mark the _year_, and mark the _night_,
   When _Severn_ shall re-echo with affright
   The shrieks of death thro' Berkeley's roofs that ring,
   Shrieks of an agonizing king.'

How different is the imagery when Richard the Second is described;
and how indistinctly is the luxurious monarch marked out in the form
of the morning, and his country in the figure of the vessel!

  'The swarm that in thy noontide beam were born?
   Gone to salute the rising morn.
   Fair laughs the morn,' etc.

The last prophecy is that of the civil wars, and of the death of the
two young princes. No place, no name is now noted: and all is seen
through the dimness of figurative expression:

  'Above, below, the rose of snow,
     Twin'd with her blushing foe, we spread:
   The bristled boar in infant gore
     Wallows beneath the thorny shade.'"

Hales remarks: "It is perhaps scarcely now necessary to say that the
tradition on which _The Bard_ is founded is wholly groundless. Edward
I. never did massacre Welsh bards. Their name is legion in the
beginning of the 14th century. Miss Williams, the latest historian of
Wales, does not even mention the old story."[1]

[Footnote 1: The _Saturday Review_, for June 19, 1875, in the article
from which we have elsewhere quoted (p. 79, foot-note), refers to
this point as follows:

"Gray was one of the first writers to show that earlier parts of
English history were not only worth attending to, but were capable of
poetic treatment. We can almost forgive him for dressing up in his
splendid verse a foul and baseless calumny against Edward the First,
when we remember that to most of Gray's contemporaries Edward the
First must have seemed a person almost mythical, a benighted Popish
savage, of whom there was very little to know, and that little hardly
worth knowing. Our feeling towards Gray in this matter is much the
same as our feeling towards Mitford in the matter of Greek history.
We are angry with Mitford for misrepresenting Demosthenes and a crowd
of other Athenian worthies, but we do not forget that he was the
first to deal with Demosthenes and his fellows, neither as mere names
nor as demi-gods, but as real living men like ourselves. It was a
pity to misrepresent Demosthenes, but even the misrepresentation was
something; it showed that Demosthenes could be made the subject of
human feeling one way or another. It is unpleasant to hear the King
whose praise it was that

  'Velox est ad veniam, ad vindictam tardus,'

spoken of as 'ruthless,' and the rest of it. But Gray at least felt
that Edward was a real man, while to most of his contemporaries he
could have been little more than 'the figure of an old Gothic king,'
such as Sir Roger de Coverley looked when he sat in Edward's own

1. A good example of alliteration.

2. Cf. Shakes. _K. John_, iv. 2: "and vast confusion waits."

4. Gray quotes _K. John_, v. 1: "Mocking the air with colours idly

5. "The hauberk was a texture of steel ringlets, or rings interwoven,
forming a coat of mail that sat close to the body, and adapted itself
to every motion" (Gray).

Cf. Robert of Gloucester: "With helm and hauberk;" and Dryden, _Pal.
and Arc._ iii. 603: "Hauberks and helms are hewed with many a wound."

7. _Nightly_. Nocturnal, as often in poetry. Cf. _Il Pens._ 84, etc.

9. _The crested pride_. Gray quotes Dryden, _Indian Queen_: "The
crested adder's pride."

11. "Snowdon was a name given by the Saxons to that mountainous tract
which the Welsh themselves call _Craigian-eryri_: it included all the
highlands of Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire, as far east as the
river Conway. R. Hygden, speaking of the castle of Conway, built by
King Edward the First, says: 'Ad ortum amnis Conway ad clivum montis
Erery;' and Matthew of Westminster (ad ann. 1283), 'Apud Aberconway
ad pedes montis Snowdoniae fecit erigi castrum forte'" (Gray).

It was in the spring of 1283 that English troops at last forced their
way among the defiles of Snowdon. Llewellyn had preserved those
passes and heights intact until his death in the preceding December.
The surrender of Dolbadern in the April following that dispiriting
event opened a way for the invader; and William de Beauchamp, Earl of
Warwick, at once advanced by it (Hales).

The epithet _shaggy_ is highly appropriate, as Leland (_Itin._) says
that great woods clothed the mountain in his time. Cf. Dyer, _Ruins
of Rome_:

                   "as Britannia's oaks
   On Merlin's mount, or Snowdon's rugged sides,
   Stand in the clouds."

See also _Lycidas_, 54: "Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high;" and _P.
L._ vi. 645: "the shaggy tops."

13. _Stout Gloster_. "Gilbert de Clare, surnamed the Red, Earl of
Gloucester and Hereford, son-in-law to King Edward" (Gray). He had,
in 1282, conducted the war in South Wales; and after overthrowing the
enemy near Llandeilo Fawr, had reinforced the king in the northwest.

14. _Mortimer_. "Edmond de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore" (Gray). It was
by one of his knights, named Adam de Francton, that Llewellyn, not at
first known to be he, was slain near Pont Orewyn (Hales).

On _quivering lance_, cf. Virgil, _Æn._ xii. 94: "hastam quassatque

15. _On a rock whose haughty brow_. Cf. Daniel, _Civil Wars_: "A huge
aspiring rock, whose surly brow."

The _rock_ is probably meant for Penmaen-mawr, the northern
termination of the Snowdon range. It is a mass of rock, 1545 feet
high, a few miles from the mouth of the Conway, the valley of which
it overlooks. Towards the sea it presents a rugged and almost
perpendicular front. On its summit is Braich-y-Dinas, an ancient
fortified post, regarded as the strongest hold of the Britons in the
district of Snowdon. Here the reduced bands of the Welsh army were
stationed during the negotiation between their prince Llewellyn and
Edward I. Within the inner enclosure is a never-failing well of pure
water. The rock is now pierced with a tunnel 1890 feet long for the
Chester and Holyhead railway.

17. _Rob'd in the sable garb of woe_. It would appear that Wharton
had criticised this line, for in a letter to him, dated Aug. 21,
1757, Gray writes: "You may alter that '_Robed in_ the sable,' etc.,
almost in your own words, thus,

  'With fury pale, and pale with woe,
     Secure of Fate, the Poet stood,' etc.

Though _haggard_, which conveys to you the idea of a _witch_, is
indeed only a metaphor taken from an unreclaimed hawk, which is
called a _haggard_, and looks wild and _farouche_, and jealous of its
liberty." Gray seems to have afterwards returned to his first (and we
think better) reading.

19. "The image was taken from a well-known picture of Raphael,
representing the Supreme Being in the vision of Ezekiel. There are
two of these paintings (both believed originals), one at Florence,
the other in the Duke of Orleans's collection at Paris" (Gray).

20. _Like a meteor_. Gray quotes _P. L._ i. 537: "Shone like a meteor
streaming to the wind."

21, 22. Wakefield remarks: "This is poetical language in perfection;
and breathes the sublime spirit of Hebrew poetry, which delights in
this grand rhetorical substitution."

23. _Desert caves_. Cf. _Lycidas_, 39: "The woods and desert caves."

26. _Hoarser murmurs_. That is, perhaps, with continually increasing
hoarseness, hoarser and hoarser; or it may mean with unwonted
hoarseness, like the comparative sometimes in Latin (Hales).

28. Hoel is called _high-born_, being the son of Owen Gwynedd, prince
of North Wales, by Finnog, an Irish damsel. He was one of his
father's generals in his wars against the English, Flemings, and
Normans, in South Wales; and was a famous bard, as his poems that are
extant testify.

_Soft Llewellyn's lay_. "The lay celebrating the mild Llewellyn,"
says Hales, though he afterwards remarks that, "looking at the
context, it would be better to take _Llewellyn_ here for a bard."
Many bards celebrated the warlike prowess and princely qualities of
Llewellyn. A poem by Einion the son of Guigan calls him "a
tender-hearted prince;" and another, by Llywarch Brydydd y Moch,
says: "Llewellyn, though in battle he killed with fury, though he
burned like an outrageous fire, yet was a mild prince when the
mead-horns were distributed." In an ode by Llygard Gwr he is also
called "Llewellyn the mild."

29. Cadwallo and Urien were bards of whose songs nothing has been
preserved. Taliessin (see 121 below) dedicated many poems to the
latter, and wrote an elegy on his death: he was slain by treachery in
the year 560.

30. _That hush'd the stormy main_. Cf. Shakes. _M. N. D._ ii. 2:

  "Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
   That the rude sea grew civil at her song."

33. _Modred_. This name is not found in the lists of the old bards.
It may have been borrowed from the Arthurian legends; or, as Mitford
suggests, it may refer to "the famous Myrddin ab Morvyn, called
Merlyn the Wild, a disciple of Taliessin, the form of the name being
changed for the sake of euphony."

34. _Plinlimmon_. One of the loftiest of the Welsh mountains, being
2463 feet in height. It is really a group of mountains, three of
which tower high above the others, and on each of these is a
_carnedd_, or pile of stones. The highest of the three is further
divided into two peaks, and on these, as well as on another prominent
part of the same height, are other piles of stones. These five piles,
according to the common tradition, mark the graves of slain warriors,
and serve as memorials of their exploits; but some believe that they
were intended as landmarks or military signals, and that from them
the mountain was called _Pump-lumon_ or _Pum-lumon_, "the five
beacons"--a name somehow corrupted into _Plinlimmon_. Five rivers
take their rise in the recesses of Plinlimmon--the Wye, the Severn,
the Rheidol, the Llyfnant, and the Clywedog.

35. _Arvon's shore_. "The shores of Caernarvonshire, opposite the
isle of Anglesey" (Gray). _Caernarvon_, or _Caer yn Arvon_, means the
camp in Arvon.

38. "Camden and others observe that eagles used annually to build
their aerie among the rocks of Snowdon, which from thence (as some
think) were named by the Welsh _Craigian-eryri_, or the crags of the
eagles. At this day (I am told) the highest point of Snowdon is
called _the Eagle's Nest_. That bird is certainly no stranger to this
island, as the Scots, and the people of Cumberland, Westmoreland,
etc., can testify; it even has built its nest in the peak of
Derbyshire [see Willoughby's Ornithology, published by Ray]" (Gray).

40. _Dear as the light_. Cf. Virgil, _Æn._ iv. 31: "O luce magis
dilecta sorori."

41. _Dear as the ruddy drops_. Gray quotes Shakes. _J. C._ ii. 1:

  "As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
   That visit my sad heart."

Cf. also Otway, _Venice Preserved_:

  "Dear as the vital warmth that feeds my life,
   Dear as these eyes that weep in fondness o'er thee."

42. Wakefield quotes Pope: "And greatly falling with a fallen state;"
and Dryden: "And couldst not fall but with thy country's fate."

44. _Grisly_. See on _Eton Coll._ 82. Cf. _Lycidas_, 52:

                        "the steep
   Where your old bards, the famous Druids, lie."

48. "See the Norwegian ode that follows" (Gray). This ode (_The Fatal
Sisters_, translated from the Norse) describes the _Valkyriur_, "the
choosers of the slain," or warlike Fates of the Gothic mythology, as
weaving the destinies of those who were doomed to perish in battle.
It begins thus:

  "Now the storm begins to lower
     (Haste, the loom of hell prepare),
   Iron sleet of arrowy shower
     Hurtles in the darken'd air.

  "Glittering lances are the loom,
     Where the dusky warp we strain,
   Weaving many a soldier's doom,
     Orkney's woe, and Randver's bane.

   *     *     *     *     *     *

  "Shafts for shuttles, dipt in gore,
     Shoot the trembling cords along;
   Swords, that once a monarch bore,
     Keep the tissue close and strong.

   *     *     *     *     *     *

  "(Weave the crimson web of war)
     Let us go, and let us fly,
   Where our friends the conflict share,
     Where they triumph, where they die."

51. Cf. Dryden, _Sebastian_, i. 1:

  "I have a soul that, like an ample shield,
   Can take in all, and verge enough for more."

55. "Edward the Second, cruelly butchered in Berkeley Castle" (Gray).
The 1st ed. and that of 1768 have "roofs;" the modern eds. "roof."

Berkeley Castle is on the southeast side of the town of Berkeley, on
a height commanding a fine view of the Severn and the surrounding
country, and is in a state of perfect preservation. It is said to
have been founded by Roger de Berkeley soon after the Norman
Conquest. About the year 1150 it was granted by Henry II. to Robert
Fitzhardinge, Governor of Bristol, who strengthened and enlarged it.
On the right of the great staircase leading to the keep, and
approached by a gallery, is the room in which it is supposed that
Edward II. was murdered, Sept. 21, 1327. The king, during his
captivity here, composed a dolorous poem, of which the following is
an extract:

  "Moste blessed Jesu,
   Roote of all vertue,
   Graunte I may the sue,
   In all humylyte,
   Sen thou for our good,
   Lyste to shede thy blood,
   An stretche the upon the rood,
   For our iniquyte.
   I the beseche,
   Most holsome leche,
   That thou wylt seche
   For me such grace,
   That when my body vyle
   My soule shall exyle
   Thou brynge in short wyle
   It in reste and peace."

Walpole, who visited the place in 1774, says: "The room shown for the
murder of Edward II., and the shrieks of an agonizing king, I verily
believe to be genuine. It is a dismal chamber, almost at the top of
the house, quite detached, and to be approached only by a kind of
foot-bridge, and from that descends a large flight of steps, that
terminates on strong gates; exactly a situation for a _corps de

56. Cf. Hume's description: "The screams with which the agonizing
king filled the castle."

57. _She-wolf of France_. "Isabel of France, Edward the Second's
adulterous queen" (Gray). Cf. Shakes. 3 _Hen. VI._ i. 4: "She-wolf of
France, but worse than wolves of France;" and read the context.

60. "Triumphs of Edward the Third in France" (Gray).

61. Cf. Cowley: "Ruin behind him stalks, and empty desolation;" and
Oldham, _Ode to Homer_:

  "Where'er he does his dreadful standard bear,
   Horror stalks in the van, and slaughter in the rear."

63. For _victor_ the MS. has "conqueror;" also in next line "the" for
_his_; and in 65, "what ... what" for _no_ ... _no_.

64. "Death of that king, abandoned by his children, and even robbed
in his last moments by his courtiers and his mistress" (Gray).

67. "Edward the Black Prince, dead some time before his father"

69. The MS. has "hover'd in thy noontide ray," and in the next line
"the rising day."

In _Agrippina_, a fragment of a tragedy, published among the
posthumous poems of Gray, we have the same figure:

                      "around thee call
   The gilded swarm that wantons in the sunshine
   Of thy full favour."

71. "Magnificence of Richard the Second's reign. See Froissard and
other contemporary writers" (Gray).

For this line and the remainder of the stanza, the MS. has the

  "Mirrors of Saxon truth and loyalty,
   Your helpless, old, expiring master view!
   They hear not: scarce religion does supply
   Her mutter'd requiems, and her holy dew.
   Yet thou, proud boy, from Pomfret's walls shalt send
   A sigh, and envy oft thy happy grandsire's end."

On the passage as it stands, cf. Shakes. _M. of V._ ii. 6:

  "How like a younger, or a prodigal,
   The scarfed bark puts from her native bay," etc.

Also Spenser, _Visions of World's Vanitie_, ix:

  "Looking far foorth into the Ocean wide,
   A goodly ship with banners bravely dight,
   And flag in her top-gallant, I espide
   Through the maine sea making her merry flight.
   Faire blew the winde into her bosome right;
   And th' heavens looked lovely all the while
   That she did seeme to daunce, as in delight,
   And at her owne felicitie did smile," etc.;

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;" _Æn._ 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

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 Cæsar" (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).

[Illustration: HENRY V.]

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 chère 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

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

143. Cf. Virgil, _Ecl._ viii. 59:

  "Praeceps aërii 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

"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

"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."

[Illustration: "Ye towers of Julius, London's lasting shame!"]

[Illustration: HEAD OF OLYMPIAN JOVE.]


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 Æschylus 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 Æschylus have the reading, [Greek: ton (some, tôi)
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: Atê], 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 thugatêr Atê, hê pantas aatai).
Perhaps, however, Gray only alluded to the passage of Æschylus 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 Æschylus, _Prom. Vinct._
vi.: [Greek: Adamantinôn desmôn en arrêktois 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 Cæsar_, 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, _Æn._ i. 630: "Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere

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

"_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 _Æn._ 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

[Illustration: "Now rolling down the steep amain,
                Headlong, impetuous, see it pour;
                The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar."
                                        _The Progress of Poesy_, 10.]


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

"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 'Æneid' 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."

[Illustration: CLIO, THE MUSE OF HISTORY.]


Æolian, 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.

Horæ, 94.

Hyperion, 112.

Idalia, 110.

Ilissus, 114.

jet, 99.

leaden (eye), 136.

lion-port, 132.

little (=petty), 89.

Llewellyn, 124.

long-expecting, 95.

Mæander, 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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