Page images

Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,

That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around,
And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue,

And plantain ribb'd, that heals the reaper's wound.
And marjoram sweet, in shepherd's posy found,
And lavender, whose spikes of azure-bloom
Shall be, erewhile, in arid bundles bound,
To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,

And crown her kerchiefs clean with mickle rare perfume.

And here trim rosemarine, that whilom crown'd
The daintiest garden of the proudest peer,

Ere, driven from its envied site, it found

A sacred shelter for its branches here,

Where edg'd with gold its glittering skirts appear.
Oh wassal days! O customs meet and well!

Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere;

Simplicity then sought this humble cell,

Nor ever would she more with thane and lordling dwell.

Here oft the dame, on sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 't were, she to her hearth did cleave,
But in her garden found a summer-seat:
Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foe-men did a song entreat,
All for the nonce untuning every string,

Uphung their useless lyres-small heart had they to sing.

For she was just, and friend to virtuous lore,
And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
And in those elfins' ears would oft deplore
The times when Truth by Popish rage did bleed,
And tortious death was true Devotion's meed;
And simple Faith in iron chains did mourn,
That n' ould on wooden image place her creed;
And lawny saints in smouldering flames did burn:
Ah! dearest lord! forfend, thilk days should e'er return.

[blocks in formation]

Right well she knew each temper to descry,
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise,
Some with vile copper prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise,
And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays:
Ev'n absent, she the reins of power doth hold,
While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewar'd, if little bird their pranks behold,

'T will whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.

Lo, now with state she utters the command!
Eftsoon the urchins to their tasks repair,
Their books of stature small they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn secured are,
To save from finger wet the letters fair;
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St. George's high achievements does declare,
On which thilk wight that has y'gazing been
Kens the forth coming rod; unpleasing sight, I ween!


But now Dan Phoebus gains the middle sky,
And Liberty unbars her prison-door,
And like a rushing torrent out they fly,
And now the grassy cirque han cover'd o'er
With boisterous revel-rout and wild uproar;
A thousand ways in wanton rings they run,
Heaven shield their short-liv'd pastime, 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.

See in each sprite some various bent appear!
These rudely carol, most incondite lay;
Those sauntering on the green, with jocund leer
Salute the stranger passing on his way ;
Some builden fragile tenements of clay,
Some to the standing lake their courses bend,
With pebbles smooth at duck and drake to play;
Thilk to the huckster's savoury cottage tend,

In pastry kings and queens th' allotted mite to spend.

[ocr errors]

Here as each season yields a different store,
Each season's stores in order ranged been,
Apples with cabbage-net y'cover'd o'er,

Galling full sore th' unmoney'd wight, are seen,
And gooseberry, clad in livery red or green;
And here of lovely dye the catherine pear,
Fine pear! as lovely for thy juice I ween!
O may no wight e'er pennyless come there,

Lest smit with ardent love he pine with hopeless care!

See! cherries here, ere cherries yet abound,
With thread so white in tempting posies tied,
Scattering like blooming maid their glances round,
With pamper'd look draw little eyes aside,
And must be bought, though penury betide;
The plum all azure, and the nut all brown,
And here, each season, do those cakes abide,
Whose honour'd names th' inventive city own,
Rendering through Britain's isle Salopia's praises known.


Born 1716-Died 1771.

GRAY was born at London, and was educated at the University of Cambridge, which he entered at the age of eighteen. After remaining here five years, he travelled through France and Italy in company with Horace Walpole, but at Florence the two friends having parted, Gray afterwards continued his journey alone. He returned to England in 1741, and became bachelor of civil law in Cambridge, where, except a short residence at London, he passed the remainder of his life.

Poetry was with him only an occasional study, for he believed he could not write but at particular times and in happy moments. He published in 1742 the Ode to Spring, the Prospect of Eton, and the Ode to Adversity. In 1750 he wrote the Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and in 1757 published The Progress of Poetry and The Bard. In 1768 he was made professor of Modern History in Cambridge, but never delivered any lectures, for after some additional study, with alternate travelling to restore his decaying health, he died in 1771, aged 55.

Except a volume of admirable letters and a few pieces of exquisite poetry, Gray, who has been called the most learned man in Europe, has left to posterity no record of his extensive literary acquisitions, his refined taste, and his lofty genius. His odes are remarkable for their sublimity, their mingled majesty, softness and melody of versification, and for the elaborate manner in which they seem to have been wrought and polished. He was accustomed to finish every line before committing it to paper. His elegy is a combination of simple beauties, both in natural description and pathetic sentiment, which deeply affect the heart of every reader. His poetry is pure in its moral influence, and abounds in the richest personifications, the noblest images, and often in the sweetest thoughts.


"In order to distinguish the positive merits of Gray from the oftier excellence ascribed to him by his editor," (Mr. Mathias,

who speaks of him as "second to none,") "it is unnecessary to resort to the criticisms of Dr. Johnson. Some of them may be just, but their general spirit is malignant and exaggerated. When we look to such beautiful passages in Gray's odes, as his Indian poet amidst the forests of Chili, or his prophet bard scattering dismay on the array of Edward and his awe-struck chieftains, on the side of Snowdon-when we regard his elegant taste, not only gathering classical flowers from the Arno and Ilyssus, but revealing glimpses of Barbaric grandeur amidst the darkness of Runic Mythology-when we recollect his 'thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,' his rich personifications, his broad and prominent images, and the crowning charm of his versification, we may safely pronounce that Johnson's critical fulminations have passed over his lyrical character with more noise than destruction." (Campbell.)


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 murm'ring 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 possess'd;
The tear forgot as soon as shed,
The sunshine of the breast:
Theirs buxom Health, of rosy hue,
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.

Alas! regardless of their doom
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond to-day:

Yet see, how all around them wait
The ministers of human fate,

And black misfortune's baleful train! Ah, show them where in ambush stand, To seize their prey, the murd'rous band! Ah, tell them they are men!

These shall the fury passions tear,
The vultures of the mind,
Disdainful anger, pallid fear,

And shame that skulks behind;
Or pining love shall waste their youth,
Or Jealousy, with rankling tooth,
That inly knaws the secret heart:
And envy wan, and faded care,
Grim visag'd comfortless despair,
And sorrow's piercing dart.

Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high,
To bitter scorn a sacrifice,

And grinning infamy.

The stings of falsehood those shall try,

And hard unkindness' alter'd eye,

That mocks the tear it forc'd to flow;

« PreviousContinue »