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" In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine,
Mr. Gray now applied his mind very sedulously to poetical composition: his Ode to Spring was written early in June to his friend Mr. West, before he received the melancholy news of his death: how our Poet's mind was affected by that melancholy incident, is evidently demonstrated by the lines quoted; the impression, indeed, appears to have been too deep to be soon effaced; and the tenor of the subjects which called for the exertions of his poetical talents subsequent to the production of this Ode, corroborates that observation; these were his Prospect of Eton, "and his Ode to Adversity. It is also supposed, that he began his Elegy in a Country Church-yard about the same time. He passed some weeks at Stoke near Windsor, where his mother and aunt resided, and in that pleasing retirement finished several of his most celebrated Poems.
From thence he returned to Cambridge, which from this period, was his chief residence during the remainder of his life.
In 1742, he was admitted to the degree of Bachelor in the Civil Law. His attention to the classics did not wholly engross his time; for he found leisure to advert to the iguorance and dulness with which he
was surrounded, though situated in the centre of learning. There is only a fragment remaining of what he had written on this subject from which it may be inferred, that it was intended as an Hymn to Ignorance; many of the lines are so pointed in signification, and harmonious in versification, that they will be admitted to display his poetical talents with more brilliancy than appears in many of his lyric productions.
Hail, horrors, hail! ye ever gloomy bowers,
Break out, and flash a momentary day,
Oh sacred age! Oh times for ever lost!
High on her car, behold the grandam ride,
In 1714 he seems to have given up his attention to the Muses. "Mr. Walpole, desirous of preserving what he had already written, as well as perpetuating the merit of their deceased friend West, endeavoured to prevail with Gray, to whom he had previously become reconciled, to publish his own. Poems, together with those of West; hut Gray declined it, conceiving their productions united, would not suffice to fill even a small volume.
In 1747 Gray became acquainted with Mr. Mason, then a scholar of St. John's College, and afterwards Fellow of Pembroke-Hall. Mr. Mason, who was a marr of great learving and ingenuity, had written the year before, his “ Monody on the death of Pope." and his “ Il Bellicoso,” and “ Il Pacefico;" and Gray revised these pieces at the request of a friend. This laid the foundation of a friendship that terminated but with life: and Mr. Mason, after the death of Gray, testified bis regard for him, by superintending the publication of his works.
The same year he wrote a little Ode on the Death of a favourite Cat of Mr. Walpole's: the following year he produced an effort of much more importance; the Fragment of an Essay on the Alliance of Education and Government.
In 1750 he put the finishing stroke to his Elegy written in a Country Church-yard, which was com inunicated first to his friend Mr. Walpole, and by him to many persons of rank and distinction. This beautiful production introduced the author to the
favour of Lady Cobham, and gave occasion to a sin. gular composition, called, A Long Story: in which various effusions of wit and humour are very happily interspersed.
The Elegy having found its way into the “ Maga. zine of Magazines," the author wrote to Mr. Walpole, requesting he would put it in the hands of Mr. Dodsley, and order him to print it immediately, in order to rescue it from the disgrace it miglit have in. curred by its appearance in a Magazine. The Elegy Was the most popular of all our author's productions ; it ran through eleven editions, and was translated into latin by Anstey and Roberts; and in the same gear a version of it was published by Lloyd.
Gray finished his Ode on the Progress of Poetry early in 1755. The Bard also was begun about the same time, and the following beautiful Fragment on the Pleasure arising from Vicissitude, the next year. The merit of the two former pieces was not immediately perceived, nor generally acknowledged. Garrick wrote a few lines in their praise. Lloyd and Colman wrote, in concert, two Odes, to “ Oblivion" and “Obscurity," in which they were ridiculed with much ingenuity,
“ Now the golden morn aloft
** New-born flocks, in rustic dance,
Frisking ply their feeble feet;
Forgetful of their wint’ry trance,
“ And, less'ning from the dazzled sight,
Yesterday the sullen year
“ Smiles on past misfortune's brow
* Still where rosy pleasure leads,
“ See the wretch that long has tost
Our author's reputation as a poet, was so high, that