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The secrets of your bosom? Here then round
From all the tenants of the warbling shade
Inscription for a Statue of Chaucer, at Woodstock. Such was old Chaucer : such the placid mien Of him who first with harmony informed The language of our fathers. Here he dwelt For many a cheerful day. These ancient walls Have often heard him, while his legends blithe He sang; of love, or knighthood, or the wiles Of homely life; through each estate and age, The fashions and the follies of the world With cunning hand portraying. Though perchance | From Blenheim's towers, O stranger, thou art come Glowing with Churchill's trophies; yet in vain Dost thou applaud them, if thy breast be cold To him, this other hero; who in times Dark and untaught, began with charming verse To tame the rudeness of his native land.
On a Sermon Against Glory.—1747.
Is it an offence to own
Towards immortal glory's throne ?
So conciliate reason's choice,
If to spurn at noble praise
Be the passport to thy heaven,
No such law to me was given ;
Than Timoleon's arms acquire,
Inscription for a Monument to Shakspeare. O youths and virgins : O declining eld: O pale misfortune's slaves : 0 ye who dwell Unknown with humble quiet : 'ye who wait In courts, or fill the golden seat of kings: O sons of sport and pleasure: 0 thou wretch That weep'st for jealous love, or the sore wounds Of conscious guilt, or death's rapacious hand, Which left thee void of hope: 0 ye who roam In exile, ye wbo through the embattled field Seek bright renown, or who for nobler palms Contend, the leaders of a public cause, Approach: behold this marble. Know ye not The features? Hath not oft his faithful tongue Told you the fashion of your own estate,
Hagley, the seat of Lord Lyttelton. himself at Eton and Oxford, he went abroad, and passed some time in France and Italy. On his return, he obtained a seat in parliament, and opposed the measures of Sir Robert Walpole. He became secretary to the Prince of Wales, and was thus able to benefit his literary friends, Thomson and Mallet. In 1741 he married Miss Lucy Fortescue of Devonshire, who, dying five years afterwards, afforded a theme for his muse, considered by many the most successful of his poetical efforts. When Walpole and the Whigs were vanquished, Lyttelton
was made one of the lords of the treasury. He was Hence, by fond dreams of fancied power amused, afterwards a privy councillor and chancellor of the When most you tyrannise, you're most abused. exchequer, and was elevated to the peerage. He What is your sex's earliest, latest care, died August 22, 1773, aged sixty-four. Lyttelton | Your heart's supreme ambition ?- To be fair, was author of a short but excellent treatise on The For this, the toilet every thought employs, Conversion of St Paul, which is still regarded as one Hence all the toils of dress, and all the joys : of the subsidiary bulwarks of Christianity. He also For this, hands, lips, and eyes, are put to school, wrote an elaborate History of the Reign of Henry II., And each instructed feature has its rule: to which he brought ample information and a spirit And yet how few have learnt, when this is given, of impartiality and justice. These valuable works. Not to disgrace the partial boon of Heaven! and his patronage of literary men (Fielding, it will | How few with all their pride of form can move ! be recollected, dedicated to him his Tom Jones, and How few are lovely, that are made for love! to Thomson he was a firm friend), constitute the | Do you, my fair, endeavour to possess chief claim of Lyttelton upon the regard of pos- | An elegance of mind, as well as dress ; terity. Gray has praised his Monody on his wife's | Be that your ornament, and know to please death as tender and elegiac: but undoubtedly the | By graceful Nature's unaffected ease. finest poetical effusion of Lyttelton is his Prologue
Nor make to dangerous wit a vain pretence, to Thomson's Tragedy of Coriolanus. Before this
| But wisely rest content with modest sense; play could be brought out, Thomson had paid the
For wit, like wine, intoxicates the brain, debt of nature, and his premature death was deeply 10
| Too strong for feeble woman to sustain: lamented. The tragedy was acted for the benefit
Of those who claim it more than half have none; of the poet's relations, and when Quin spoke the
And half of those who have it are undone. prologue by Lyttelton, many of the audience wept
Be still superior to your sex's arts, at the lines—
Nor think dishonesty a proof of parts:
For you, the plainest is the wisest rule: He loved his friends-forgive this gushing tear: A cunning woman is a knavish fool. Alas! I feel I am no actor here.
Be good yourself, nor think another's shame
Can raise your merit, or adorn your fame. [From the Monody.]
Virtue is amiable, mild, serene;
Without all beauty, and all peace within; In vain I look around
The honour of a prude is rage and storm, O'er all the well-known ground,
'Tis ugliness in its most frightful form ; My Lucy's wonted footsteps to descry;
Fiercely it stands, defying gods and men, Where oft we used to walk,
As fiery monsters guard a giant's den. Where oft in tender talk
Seek to be good, but aim not to be great; We saw the summer sun go down the sky;
A woman's noblest station is retreat ; Nor by yon fountain's side,
Her fairest virtues fly from public sight, Nor where its waters glide
Domestic worth, that shuns too strong a light Along the valley, can she now be found :
To rougher man Ambition's task resign, In all the wide-stretched prospect's ample bound,
'Tis ours in senates or in courts to shine, No more my mournful eye
To labour for a sunk corrupted state, Can aught of her espy,
Or dare the rage of Envy, and be great ; But the sad sacred earth where her dear relics lie.
One only care your gentle breasts should move, Sweet babes, who, like the little playful fawns, The important business of your life is love; Were wont to trip along these verdant lawns,
To this great point direct your constant aim, By your delighted mother's side :
This makes your happiness, and this your fame. Who now your infant steps shall guide ?
Be never cool reserve with passion joined ; Ah! where is now the hand whose tender care
With caution choose! but then be fondly kind. To every virtue would have formed your youth,
The selfish heart, that but by halves is given, And strewed with flowers the thorny ways of truth?
Shall find no place in Love's delightful heaven; O loss beyond repair !
Here sweet extremes alone can truly bless :
The virtue of a lover is excess. O wretched father, left alone
A maid unasked may own a well-placed flame; To weep their dire misfortune and thy own!
Not loving first, but loving wrong, is shame. How shall thy weakened mind, oppressed with wo, Contemn the little pride of giving pain, And drooping o'er thy Lucy's grave,
Nor think that conquest justifies disdain. Perform the duties that you doubly owe,
Short is the period of insulting power; Now she, alas! is gone,
Offended Cupid finds his vengeful hour;
And soon the tyrant shall become the slave.
Blest is the maid, and worthy to be blest,
Whose soul, entire by him she loves possessed, The counsels of a friend, Belinda, hear,
Feels every vanity in fondness lost, Too roughly kind to please a lady's ear,
And asks no power but that of pleasing most : Unlike the flatteries of a lover's pen,
Hers is the bliss, in just return, to prove Such truths as women seldom learn from men.
The honest warmth of undissembled love; Nor think I praise you ill, when thus I show
For her, inconstant man might cease to range, What fernale vanity might fear to know:
And gratitude forbid desire to change. Some merit's mine to dare to be sincere;
But, lest harsh care the lover's peace destroy, But greater yours sincerity to bear.
And roughly blight the tender buds of joy, Hard is the fortune that your sex attends;
Let Reason teach what Passion fain would hide, Women, like princes, find few real friends :
That Hymen's bands by Prudence should be tied; All who approach them their own ends pursue; Venus in vain the wedded pair would crown, Lovers and ministers are seldom true.
If angry Fortune on their union frown: Hence oft from Reason heedless Beauty strays, Soon will the flattering dream of bliss be o'er, And the most trusted guide the most betrays; | And cloyed Imagination cheat no more.
If to those friends your kind regard shall give
To the ‘Castle of Indolence,' Lyttelton contributed the following excellent stanza, containing a portrait of Thomson :
A bard here dwelt, more fat than bard beseems,
Oft moralising sage: his ditty sweet
Then, waking to the sense of lasting pain,
Than the sad knowledge of each other's care. || Yet may you rather feel that virtuous pain,
Than sell your violated charms for gain,
Before his eye perceives one beauty gone : | E'en o'er your cold, your ever-sacred urn,
His constant flame shall unextinguished burn.
Against the power of those already known;
With gentle force the captivated mind;
[Prologue to the Tragedy of Coriolanus-Spoken by
on by Milton's father ; but though a 'respectable O manners gently firm, and nobly plain !
citizen,' the parent of Gray was a man of harsh O sympathising love of others' bliss
and violent disposition. His wife was forced to Where will you find another breast like his !
separate from him; and it was to the exertions of Such was the man: the poet well you know;
this excellent woman, as partner with her sister in Oft has he touched your hearts with tender wo;
a millinery business, that the poet owed the advanOft in this crowded house, with just applause,
tages of a learned education, first at Eton, and afterYou heard him teach fair Virtue's purest laws;
wards at Cambridge. The painful domestic circumFor his chaste muse employed her heaven-taught lyre
stances of his youth gave a tinge of melancholy and None but the noblest passions to inspire;
pensive reflection to Gray, which is visible in his Not one immoral, one corrupted thought,
poetry. At Eton, the young student had made the One line which, dying, he could wish to blot.
friendship of Horace Walpole, son of the prime O may to-night your favourable doom
minister; and when his college education was comAnother laurel add to grace his tomb:
pleted, Walpole induced him to accompany him in Whilst he, superior now to praise or blame,
a tour through France and Italy. They had been Hears not the feeble voice of human fame.
about a twelvemonth together, exploring the natural Yet if to those whom most on earth he loved,
beauties, antiquities, and picture galleries of Rome, | From whom his pious care is now removed,
Florence, Naples, &c., when a quarrel took place With whom his liberal hand, and bounteous heart, between them at Reggio, and the travellers sepa!! Shared all his little fortune could impart:
I rated, Gray returning to England. Walpole took
the blame of this difference on himself, as he was he saw' in correspondence with his friends, and occa. vain and volatile, and not disposed to trust in the sionally ventured into the realms of poetry and imabetter knowledge and the somewhat fastidious tastes gination. He had studied the Greek poets with such and habits of his associate. Gray went to Cam intense devotion and critical care, that their spirit bridge, to take his degree in civil law, but without and essence seem to have sunk into his mind, and intending to follow up the profession. His father coloured all his efforts at original composition. At had died his mother's fortune was small, and the the same time, his knowledge of human nature, poet was more intent on learning than on riches. and his sympathy with the world, were varied and He had, however, enough for his wants. He fixed profound. Tears fell unbidden among the classic his residence at Cambridge; and amidst its noble flowers of fancy, and in his almost monastic cell, libraries and learned society, passed the greater his heart vibrated to the finest tones of humanity. part of his remaining life. He hated mathematical | Gray's first public appearance as a poet was and metaphysical pursuits, but was ardently de- made in 1747, when his Ode to Eton College was voted to classical learning, to which he added the published by Dodsley. Two years afterwards, his study of architecture, antiquities, natural history, | Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard was printed, and other branches of knowledge. His retired life and immediately became popular. His Pindaric was varied by occasional residence in London, Odes appeared in 1757, but met with little success. where he revelled among the treasures of the His name, however, was now so well known, that British Museum ; and by frequent excursions to he was offered the situation of poet-laureate, vacant the country on visits to a few learned and attached by the death of Colley Cibber. Gray declined the friends. At Cambridge Gray was considered as an appointment; but shortly afterwards he obtained unduly fastidious man, and this gave occasion to the more reputable and lucrative situation of Propractical jokes being played off upon him by his fessor of Modern History, which brought him in fellow-inmates of St Peter's college, one of which about £400 per annum. For some years he had a false alarm of fire, by which he was induced to been subject to hereditary gout, and as his circumdescend from his window to the ground by a rope stances improved, his health declined. While at was the cause of his removing (1756) to Pembroke dinner one day in the college hall, he was seized Hall. In 1765 he took a journey into Scotland, with an attack in the stomach, which was so vio
lent, as to resist all the efforts of medicine, and after six days of suffering, he expired on the 30th of July 1771, in the fifty-fifth year of his age. He was buried, according to his desire, by the side of his mother, at Stoke, near Eton--adding one more poetical association to that beautiful and classic district of England.
The poetry of Gray is all comprised in a few pages, yet he appears worthy to rank in quality with the first order of poets. His two great odes, The Progress of Poesy, and The Bard, are the most splendid compositions we possess in the Pindaric style and measure. They surpass the odes of Cola lins in fire and energy, in boldness of imagination, and in condensed and brilliant expression. Collins is as purely and entirely poetical, but he is less commanding and sublime. Gray's stanzas, notwithstanding their varied and complicated versification, flow with lyrical ease and perfect harmony. Each presents rich personification, striking thoughts, or happy imagery
Sublime their starry fronts they rear.
In climes beyond the solar road,
To cheer the shivering native's dull abode.
Of Chili's boundless forests laid,
She deigns to hear the savage youth repeat,
In loose numbers wildly sweet, and met his brother poet Dr Beattie, at Glammis | Their feather-cinctured chiefs and dusky lores. castle. He also penetrated into Wales, and made Her track, where'er the goddess roves, a journey to Cumberland and Westmoreland, to see
Glory pursue and generous shame, the scenery of the lakes. His letters describing | The unconquerable mind and Freedom's holy flame. these excursions are remarkable for elegance and precision, for correct and extensive observation, and | Or the poetical characters of Shakspeare, Milton, for a dry scholastic humour peculiar to the poet. and Dryden : On returning from these agreeable holidays, Gray Far from the sun and summer gale, set himself calmly down in his college retreat-pored In thy green lap was Nature's darling laid, over his favourite authors, compiled tables of chro- What time, where lucid Avon strayed, dology or botany, moralised on all he felt and all | To him the mighty mother did unveil
Her awful face: the dauntless child
feeling, with a touch of the gossip, and sometimes Stretched forth his little arms, and smiled.
not over fastidious in his allusions and remarks. *This pencil take,' she said, whose colours clear He was indolent, yet a severe student-hating CamRichly paint the vernal year:
bridge and its college discipline, yet constantly reThine, too, these golden keys, immortal boy!
siding there. He loved intellectual ease and luxury, This can unlock the gates of Joy;
and wished, as a sort of Mohammedan paradise, to Of Horror that, and thrilling Fears,
lie on a sofa, and read eternal new romances of Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic Tears.' Marivaux and Crebillon.' Yet all he could say of Nor second he, that rode sublime
Thomson's Castle of Indolence,' when it was first Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstacy,
published, was, that there were some good verses in The secrets of the abyss to spy.
it! Akenside, too, whom he was so well fitted to He passed the flaming bounds of space and time:
appreciate, he thought often obscure, and even unThe living throne, the sapphire-blaze,
intelligible. As a poet, Gray studied in the school Where angels tremble while they gaze,
of the ancient and Italian poets, labouring like an He saw; but blasted with excess of light,
artist to infuse part of their spirit, their melody, and Closed his eyes in endless night.
even some of their expressions, into his inimitable Behold where Dryden's less presumptuous car
Mosaic work, over which he breathed the life and Wide o'er the fields of glory bear
fragrance of eternal spring. In his country tours, Two coursers of ethereal race,
the poet carried with him a plano-convex mirror, With Decks in thunder clothed, and long-resounding
which, in surveying landscapes, gathers into one pace.
confined glance the forms and tints of the surround
ing scene. His imagination performed a similar The • Ode to Eton College,' the 'Ode to Adversity,'| operation in collecting, fixing, and appropriating and the far-famed • Elegy, present the same careful the materials of poetry. All is bright, natural, and and elaborate finishing; but the thoughts and ima- interesting-rich or nagnificent-but it is scen but gery are more simple, natural, and touching. A for a moment. Yet, despite his classic taste and train of moral feelings, and solemn or affecting asso- models, Gray was among the first to welcome and ciations, is presented to the mind, in connection admire the Celtic strains of Macpherson's Ossian; with beautiful natural scenery and objects of real and he could also delight in the wild superstitions of life. In a letter to Beattie, Gray remarks—As to the Gothic nations : in translating from the Norse description, I have always thought that it made the tongue the Fatal Sisters and the Descent of Odin, most graceful ornament of poetry, but never ought he called up the martial fire, the rude energy and to make the subject. He practised what he taught; abruptness of the ancient ballad minstrels. Had for there is always some sentiment or reflection his situation and circumstances been different, the arising out of the poet's descriptive passages. These genius of this accomplished and admirable poet are generally grave, tender, or pathetic. The cast of would in all probability have expanded, so as to rmhis own mind, and the comparative loneliness of his brace subjects of wider and more varied interestsituation and studies, nursed a sort of philosophic of greater length and diversity of character. spleen, and led him to moralise on the vanity of The subdued humour and fancy of Gray are perlife. Byron and others have attached inordinate petually breaking out in his letters, with brief Yalne to the Elegy,' as the main prop of Grav's picturesque touches that mark the poet and man of reputation. It is, doubtless, the most frequently taste. The advantages of travelling and of taking read and repeated of all his productions, because it notes on the spot, he has playfully but admirably is connected with ordinary existence and genuine summed up in a letter to a friend, then engaged in feeling, and describes, in exquisite harmonious verse, making a tour in Scotland : Do not you think what all persons must, at some time or other, have a man may be the wiser (I had almost said the felt or imagined. But the highest poetry can never better) for going a hundred or two of miles; and be very extensively popular. A simple ballad air that the mind has more room in it than liost will convey pleasure to a greater number of persons people seem to think, if you will but furnish the than the most successful efforts of accomplished apartments ? I almost envy your last month, being musical taste and genius; and, in like manner, in a very insipid situation myself; and desire you poetry which deals with subjects of familiar life, would not fail to send me some furniture for my must find more readers than those inspired flights Gothic apartment, which is very cold at present. of imagination, or recondite allusions, however It will be the easier task, as you have nothing graced with the charms of poetry, which can only to do but transcribe your little red books, if they be enjoyed by persons of fine sensibility, and some are not rubbed out; for I conclude you have not thing of kindred taste and knowledge. Gray's trusted everything to memory, which is ten times classical diction, his historical and mythological worse than a lead pencil. Half a word fixed upon personifications, must ever be lost on the multi- or near the spot is worth a cartload of recollection. tude. Even Dr Johnson was tempted into a coarse When we trust to the picture that objects draw and unjust criticism of Gray, chiefly because the of themselves on our mind, we deceive ourselves, critic admired no poetry which did not contain without accurate and particular observation, it is some weighty moral truth, or some chain of rea- but ill-drawn at first, the outlines are soon blurred, soning. To restrict poetical excellence to this the colours every day grow fainter, and at last, standard, would be to blot out Spenser from the when we would produce it to anybody, we are list of high poets, and to curtail Shakspeare and forced to supply its defects with a few strokes of our Milton of more than half their glory. Let us own imagination, recollect with another poet — the author of the Impressed with the opinion he here inculcatos, Night Thoughts—that 'a fixed star is as much in the poet was a careful note-taker, and his delineathe bounds of nature as a flower of the field, though tions are all fresh and distinct. Thus, he writes in less obvious, and of far greater dignity.'
the following graceful strain to his friend Nicholls, In the character of Gray there are some seeming in commemoration of a tour which he made to inconsistencies. As a man, he was nice, reserved, Southampton and Netley Abbey: - My health and proud--a haughty retired scholar; yet we find is much improved by the sea, not that I drank him in his letters full of English idiom and English l it or bathed in it, as the common people do: