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VIII.

THOMAS GRAY.

1716-1771.

“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.

GRAY'S POEMS.

ODES.

I. ON THE SPRING.

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1 Lo! where the rosy-bosom’d Hours,

Fair Venus' train, appear,
Disclose the long-expecting flowers,

And wake the purple year!
The Attic warbler pours her throat
Responsive to the cuckoo's note,

The untaught harmony of Spring;
While, whispering pleasure as they fly,
Cool Zephyrs through the clear blue sky

Their gather'd fragrance fling. 2 Where'er the oak's thick branches stretch

A broader, browner shade,
Where'er the rude and moss-grown beech

O’ercanopies the glade,
Beside some water's rushy brink
With me the Muse shall sit, and think

(At ease reclined in rustic state)
How vain the ardour of the crowd,
How low, how little, are the proud,

How indigent the great!
3 Still is the toiling hand of Care,

The panting herds repose;
Yet hark! how through the peopled air

The busy murmur glows!
Five Centuries.

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The insect'youth are on the 'wing,
Eager to taste the honied spring,

And float amid the liquid noon;
Some lightly o'er the current skim,
Some show their gaily gilded trim,

Quick glancing to the sun.
4 To Contemplation's sober eye,

Such is the race of Man,
And they that creep, and they that fly,

Shall end where they began.
Alike the busy and the gay
But flutter through life's little day,

In Fortune's varying colours dress'd;
Brush'd by the hand of rough Mischance,
Or chill’d by Age, their airy dance

They leave, in dust to rest.
5 Methinks I hear, in accents low,

The sportive kind reply:
Poor Moralist! and what art thou?

A solitary fly!
Thy joys no glittering female meets,
No bive hast thou of hoarded sweets,

No painted plumage to display:
On hasty wings thy youth is flown,
Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone -

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,
Where China's gayest art had dyed

The azure flowers that blow,
Demurest of the tabhy kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,

Gazed on the lake below.

2 Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,

The velvet of her paws,
Her coat that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,

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;
Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue,
Through richest purple, to the view

Betray'd a golden gleam.
4 The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first, and then a claw,

With many an ardent wish,
She stretch'd in vain to reach the prize;
What female heart can gold despise?

What cat's averse to fish ?
5 Presumptuous maid! with looks intent,
Again she stretch'd, again she bent,

Nor knew the gulf between; Malignant Fate sat by and smiled; The slippery verge her feet beguiled

She tumbled headlong in.
6 Eight times emerging from the flood,
She mew'd to every watery god

Some speedy aid to send.
No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr'd,
Nor cruel Tom or Susan heard:

A favourite has no friend!
7 From hence, ye beauties! undeceived,
Know one false step is ne'er retrieved,

And be with caution bold; Not all that tempts your wandering eyes, And heedless hearts, is lawful prize,

Nor all that glisters gold.

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