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Carruthers, Robert / Select Poems of Thomas Gray
Produced by Ron Swanson





SELECT POEMS OF THOMAS GRAY.


EDITED, WITH NOTES,
BY
WILLIAM J. ROLFE, A.M.,
FORMERLY HEAD MASTER OF THE HIGH SCHOOL, CAMBRIDGE, MASS.


_WITH ENGRAVINGS_.




_NEW YORK_:
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
FRANKLIN SQUARE.
1883.




Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1876, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.




PREFACE.


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
proved.[1]

[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.




CONTENTS.

PAGE
THE LIFE OF THOMAS GRAY, BY ROBERT CARRUTHERS . . . . 9

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

ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD . . . . . . . . 23

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

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

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

ON A DISTANT PROSPECT OF ETON COLLEGE . . . . . . . 50

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

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

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

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

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

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




[Illustration: STOKE-POGIS CHURCH.]


THE LIFE OF THOMAS GRAY.

BY ROBERT CARRUTHERS.


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 LinnŠus and other naturalists,
wrote geographical disquisitions on Strabo; and, besides being
familiar with French and Italian literature, was a zealous
archŠological 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
genius.

[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
letter-writer.

* * * * * *

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.]


STOKE-POGIS.

FROM HOWITT'S "HOMES AND HAUNTS OF THE BRITISH POETS."[1]

[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
past.

[Illustration: GRAY'S MONUMENT, STOKE PARK.]




ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.




[Illustration]


ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.


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:

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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!

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]

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,

[Illustration]

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

[Illustration]

"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."

[Illustration]

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.

[Illustration]




MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.




[Illustration]


ON THE SPRING.


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

[Illustration]




[Illustration]


ON THE DEATH OF A FAVOURITE CAT,
_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.




[Illustration]


ON A DISTANT PROSPECT OF ETON COLLEGE.
[Greek: Anthr˘pos, hikanŕ 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.



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