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“Gray is one of the few, the very few of our greatest poets, who deserves to be studied in every line for the apprehension of that wonderful sweetness, power and splendour of versification, which has made him (scholastic and difficult as he is) one of the most popular of writers, though his rhymes are occasionally flat and his phrases heathen Greek to ordinary readers. The secret of his supremacy consists principally in the consummate art with which his diction is elaborated into the most melodious concatenation of syllables to form lines; and those lines so to implicate and evolve in progression, that the strain of one of Händel's Overtures is not more consecutively ordered to carry the mind onward, through every bar, to the march at the conclusion, when the hearer has been wrought to such a state of exaltation, that he feels as though he could mount the scaffold to the beaten time of such music."
James MONTGOMERY in his “Lectures on
Poetry” &c. p. 203.
I. ON THE SPRING.
1 Lo! where the rosy-bosom’d Hours,
Fair Venus' train, appear,
And wake the purple year!
The untaught harmony of Spring;
Their gather'd fragrance fling. 2 Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch
A broader, browner shade,
O’ercanopies the glade,
(At ease reclined in rustic state)
How indigent the great!
The panting herds repose;
The busy murmur glows!
The insect'youth are on the 'wing,
And float amid the liquid noon;
Quick glancing to the sun.
Such is the race of Man,
Shall end where they began.
In Fortune's varying colours dress'd;
They leave, in dust to rest.
The sportive kind reply:
A solitary fly!
No painted plumage to display:
We frolic while 'tis May.
II. ON THE DEATH OF A FAVOURITE CAT,
DROWNED IN A CHINA TUB OF GOLD FISHES.
1 'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
The azure flowers that blow,
Gazed on the lake below.
2 Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The velvet of her paws,
She saw, and purr'd applause. 3 Still had she gazed, but, 'midst the tide, Two angel-forms were seen to glide,
The Genii of the stream;
Betray'd a golden gleam.
With many an ardent wish,
What cat's averse to fish ?
Nor knew the gulf between; Malignant Fate sat by and smiled; The slippery verge her feet beguiled
She tumbled headlong in.
Some speedy aid to send.
A favourite has no friend!
And be with caution bold; Not all that tempts your wandering eyes, And heedless hearts, is lawful prize,
Nor all that glisters gold.