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With boisterous revel-rout and wild uproar;
For well may freedom erst so dearly won,
Enjoy, poor imps ! enjoy your sportive trade,
Deluded wight! who weens fair Peace can spring Beneath the pompous dome of kesar or of king.
My banks they are furnish'd with bees,
Whose murmur invites one to sleep;
hills are white over with sheep.
Such health do my fountains bestow :
Where the hare-bells and violets grow.
But with tendrils of woodbine is bound :
But a sweet-brier entwines it around.
More charms than my cattle unfold;
But it glitters with fishes of gold.
To the bower I have labour'd to rear;
But I hasted and planted it there.
With the lilac to render it gay!
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.
So much I her accents adore,
Methinks I should love her the more.
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.
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.
Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
That crown the wat’ry glade,
Her Henry's holy shade;
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
His silver-winding way.
Ah, happy hills, ah, pleasing shade,
Ah, fields belov'd in vain,
A stranger yet to pain!
As waving fresh their gladsome wing,
To breathe a second spring.
Say, father Thames, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race
The paths of pleasure trace,
The captive linnet which enthral?
Or urge the flying ball ?
While some on earnest business bent
Their murmuring labours ply
To sweeten liberty ;
And unknown regions dare descry:
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.