Abbildungen der Seite

With boisterous revel-rout and wild uproar;
A thousand ways in wanton rings they run,
Heaven shield their short-liv'd pastimes, I implore !

For well may freedom erst so dearly won,
Appear to British elf more gladsome than the sun.

Enjoy, poor imps ! enjoy your sportive trade,
And chase gay flies, and cull the fairest flowers;
For when my bones in grass-green sods are laid,
For never may ye taste more careless hours
In knightly castles, or in ladies' bowers.
O vain to seek delight in earthly thing !
But most in courts where proud Ambition towers;

Deluded wight! who weens fair Peace can spring Beneath the pompous dome of kesar or of king.

[blocks in formation]

My banks they are furnish'd with bees,

Whose murmur invites one to sleep;
My grottoes are shaded with trees,

hills are white over with sheep.
I seldom have met with a loss,

Such health do my fountains bestow :
My fountains all border'd with moss,

Where the hare-bells and violets grow.
Not a pine in my grove is there seen,

But with tendrils of woodbine is bound :
Not a beech's more beautiful green,

But a sweet-brier entwines it around.
Not my fields, in the prime of the year,

More charms than my cattle unfold;
Not a brook that is limpid and clear,

But it glitters with fishes of gold.
One would think she might like to retire

To the bower I have labour'd to rear;
Not a shrub that I heard her admire,

But I hasted and planted it there.
O how sudden the jessamine strove

With the lilac to render it gay!
Already it calls for my love,

To prune the wild branches away.


From the plains, from the woodlands and groves,

What strains of wild melody flow! How the nightingales warble their loves

From thickets of roses that blow ! And when her bright form shall appear,

Each bird shall harmoniously join In a concert so soft and so clear,

As—she may not be fond to resign. I have found out a gift for my

I have found where the wood-pigeons breed : But let me that plunder forbear,

She will say 't was a barbarous deed. For he ne'er could be true, she averr'd,

Who would rob a poor bird of its young: And I lov'd her the more when I heard

Such tenderness fall from her tongue. I have heard her with sweetness unfold

How that pity was due to—a dove: That it ever attended the bold;

And she call'd it the sister of love.
But her words such a pleasure convey,

So much I her accents adore,
Let her speak, and whatever she say,

Methinks I should love her the more.
Can a bosom so gentle remain

Unmov'd when her Corydon sighs ? Will a nymph that is fond of the plain,

These plains and this valley despise ? Dear regions of silence and shade!

Soft scenes of contentment and ease! Where I could have pleasingly stray'd,

If aught, in her absence, could please. But where does my Phillida stray ?

And where are her grots and her bowers ? Are the groves and the valleys as gay,

And the shepherds as gentle as ours? The

groves may perhaps be as fair, And the face of the valleys as fine; The swains may in manners compare,

But their love is not equal to mine.

[ocr errors]


Thomas Gray, the son of Philip Gray, a scrivener of London, was born in Cornhill, on the 26th of November, 1716. He received his education at Eton, under the care of his uncle, Mr. Antrobus, who was one of the College tutors; and when he left school, in 1734, was entered as a Pensioner at Peter House, in Cambridge, where he subsequently took a degree in Civil Law. Horace Walpole was his school-fellow at Eton, and his chum at Cambridge; and, in 1739, after five years' residence at the University, they travelled together upon the continent. In the course of their travel, a disagreement of temper arose, which separated them for five or six years. It is difficult to fancy any long continuance of agreement between the thoughtless vivacity of Walpole, and the pensive thoughtfulness of Gray. On the return of the latter to England, he again went to Cambridge, where, with a very few intervals of absence, he passed the remainder of his life. His writings, up to the period of his return, had been restricted to an occasional though very elegant Latin poem, and to those most delightful letters which are dated from abroad; but now, under the immediate influence of some domestic sorrows which fell upon him, he commenced his career as an English poet. His Odes to “Spring,” on the “Prospect of Eton College," and to “ Adversity,” were succeeded by some Latin verses ; and by the pleasant Ode on the Death of Walpole's Cat. The Elegy in a Country Church-yard, which next appeared, won for him at once a high reputation. Nothing could stir him, however, from his easy habits of scholastic luxury, and he did not write the more poetry because he found his poetry was ardently sought after. His muse, indeed, he suffered to glide into an idle sleep, while he himself dreamily read and thought, and wrote to his friends, with careless and inimitable grace, of all that he had been reading and thinking.

It was after some interval of public silence that his “ Progress of Poetry" and “Bard" appeared. The unused singularity of their style startled the literary world. Some praised; some blamed; some spoke of them with an air of profound doubt; and some with the grave certainty of a regenerated Pindar. But all agreed that their author deserved the vacant office of Poet Laureate,-except Gray himself, who respectfully declined the proffered honour. After this his health became weak, and he resorted to travel. On his return he accepted the Professorship of History, but he found himself unequal to its duties, while the notion of neglecting them rexed still more his now rapidly declining health. Again he resorted to travel, and the memorials of that last tour are among the most delightful of his writings. He died in 1771.

Gray had the reputation, in his time, of being the most learned scholar in Europe. He was, it is understood, equally and thoroughly acquainted with the elegant and the profound parts of science, and his taste in the fine arts was considered to be infallible. The only defect that has been remarked in the character of this excellent and virtuous man, was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effeminacy. He is described to have worn a muff at the University; and it has been said, that if he went to a coffee-house, he would tell the waiter, in a tone the most effeminate, to give him " that silly paper-book," meaning the Gentleman's Magazine. In this, however, may easily be discerned the conscious gaucherie of a scholastic man, exposing itself in its effort at concealment. Gray was never at home when he moved from the contemplative indolence of his closet. With the reputation of the most learned man in Europe, he added nothing to the stores of learning; and with a poetical faculty of a very high order, he suffered some twenty pages to include all his poetry. His hopes of Paradise have happily expressed his character and temper. "Be it mine to lie upon a sofa all day long, and read eternal new romances of Marivaux and Crebillon!"

Gray narrowly escaped the fame of the founder of a new "school" in poetry. His “Pindaric Odes” have passages of true inspiration, with snatches of that Gothic style, if it may be so called, which we have seen most eminently successful in our own day.' These passages, however, do not redeem the poems, considered as models of the art, from a pedantic coldness into which Gray's indolent sense of the classical proprieties unfortunately betrayed him. His master-pieces accordingly are his humbler efforts : his Ode on Eton College, and his Elegy in the Country Church-yard;which will be read and loved as long as the “still sad music of humanity" vibrates through the hearts of men.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,

That crown the wat’ry 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,

As waving fresh their gladsome wing,
My weary soul they seem to soothe,
And, redolent of joy and youth,

To breathe a second spring.

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
With pliant arm thy glassy wave ?

The captive linnet which enthral?
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed,

Or urge the flying ball ?

While some on earnest business bent

Their murmuring labours ply
'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint

To sweeten liberty ;
Some bold adventurers disdain
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.


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 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.

« ZurückWeiter »