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happiest in the range of poetry. Who has not strayed at sunset into the quiet precincts of a country churchyard? Who has not sought the spot where the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep?" Who has not felt a melancholy pleasure steal upon his soul, as he has stood among the graves, and received the solemn teachings of the scene amid the lingering light ?' The spirit of such reveries, the tone and hues of such a landscape, Gray has caught, and enshrined forever in his verse."
Listen to the sweet, mournful music of some of the stanzas :
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea, The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,' · And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds :
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
This line admits of eighteen different transpositions, without destroying the sense or rhyme.
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
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.
Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure ; 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, Await alike th' inevitable hour :
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.
Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? Can honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or fatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire: Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear ;
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign’d,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind ?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eve requires ;
Even in our ashes live their wonted fires.
It is said that on the evening preceding the memorable battle of the Plains of Abraham, General Wolfe repeated the noble line, “The paths of glory lead but to the grave !" which must have seemed at such a time fraught with mournful meaning; and turning to his officers, said: “Now, gentlemen, I would rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec !"
There are two manuscripts of the Elegy in existence; and they were recently in 1854) sold at auction-one for one hundred pounds, and the other—which contained five additional stanzas, never printed in the published editions—for one hundred and thirty pounds. The old tower of Upton church (Gray's “ivy-mantled tower") is still a most picturesque object, although fast falling into decay. The memory of the bard is, however, even more closely associated with another locality—that of Stoke. It was here he wrote, wandered, and died; and here, all that was mortal of him sleeps, under the vew-tree's shade.
Gray, with a friend, once attended an auction sale of books, where he saw an elegant book-case, filled with a choice collection of French classics, handsomely bound; the price being one hundred
guineas. He had a great longing for this lot, but could not then afford to buy it. The conversation between the poet and his friend being overheard by the Duchess of Northumberland, who was acquainted with the latter, she took the opportunity of ascertaining who his friend was, and was told it was Gray, the poet. Upon their retiring, she bought the book-case, with its contents, and sent it to Gray's lodgings, with a note, importing that she “ was ashamed of sending so small an acknowledgment for the infinite pleasure she had received in reading the Elegy in a Country Churchyard, -of all others her most favourite poem.”
Gray was remarkably fearful of fire, and kept a ladder of ropes in his bed-room. On one occasion, some of his mischievous companions at Cambridge roused him at midnight with the cry of fire, saying the staircase was in Aames. Up went the window, and the poet hastened down his rope-ladder as quickly as possible, but into a tub of cold water placed at the bottom to receive him. This practical joke extinguished his fear of fire, but he would not forgive the trick, and immediately changed his college.
That oft-quoted line, “Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise,” we derive from Gray's Ode to Eton College :
Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
And happiness too swiftly Aies?
'Tis folly to be wise.
Turning reluctantly, however, from this our favourite bard, let us carry with us, like a lingering strain of sweet and solemn music, the opening lines of his beautiful Hymn to Adversity :
Daughter of Jove, relentless power,
Thou tamer of the human breast,
Whose iron scourge and tort'ring hour
The bad affright, afflict the best !
And purple tyrants vainly groan
When first thy sire to send on earth
Virtue, his darling child, design’d,
And bade to form her infant mind.
What sorrow was thou bad’st her know,
Here is a beautiful passage by AKENSIDE, written in the last year of his life :
O ye dales
Of Tyne, and ye most ancient woodlands; where,