« НазадПродовжити »
written his Elegy; if so, it is indeed properly denominated An Elegy in a Country CAURCH-YARD.
Contemplating with emotion the secluded spot, the opening stanzas of that divine Poem rushed on my mind, and the shades of Evening were alone wanting to complete the incantation :
The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herds wind slowly o’er the lea,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me!
Now fades the glimm’ring 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 Tow'r
The moping Owil does to the Moon complain,
Molest her ancient, solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged Elms, that YBW-TREB's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
The rude Forefathers of the HAMLET sleep!
The Monument of Gray, raised by Mr. Penn, is composed of stone, and consists of a large SarcoPHAQUS, supported upon a square pedestal, having on each side inscriptions. Three are selected from the Ode to Eton College, and the Elegy in a Country Church-yard--the fourth runs thus :
MONUMENT OF GRAY.
« This Monument, in honour of Thomas GRAY, was erected A. D. 1799, among
celebrated by that great Lyric and Elegiac Poet. He died in 1771, and lies unnoticed in the adjoining Churchyard, under the Tomb-stone on which he piously and pathetically recorded the interment of his Aunt and lamented Mother!"' * Some
may deem it strange that the fanie of GRAY should be so illustrious, leaving behind him only one small volume of Poems. But it should be remembered that the inconsiderable number of his productions forms no just impediment to his celebrity. Quality, not quantity, constitutes the basis of solid reputation. In looking over the vast body of English poetry it has often occurred to me, that had the poets been more select in their effusions, the circumstance would have been more indicative of their genius and less unfavourable to their memory. But all that GRAY wrote possessed distinguished merit. Not one indifferent piece can be pointed out by way of foil to the others. The fire of his imagination is ever glowing--the coruscations of his genius blaze forth in every direction! The eye is delighted, and the heart thrilled by the perusal of the purest and most polished effusions of poetical inspiration.
* It is (I bave understood) one of this respectable family of the Penns, that is author of The Christian's Historic Survey, and of The Moral Bioscope, two ingenious and interesting publications.
GRAY'S BIRTH AND EDUCATION..
Thomas GRAY was born December 26, 1716, in Cornbill, London. His parents were reputable citizens. His father had many children, of whom Thomas was the fifth born. All died in infancy except himself, who had a kind of miraculous preservation. His biographer tells us that he narrowly escaped suffocation (owing to too great a fullness of blood, which destroyed the rest,) and would certainly have been cut off early had not his mother, with a courage remarkable for one of her sex, and withal so tender a parent, ventured to open a vein with her own hand, which instantly removed the paroxysm !
Educated at Eton, he, in 1743, entered at Peter House, Cambridge, but soon removed to Pembroke College ; the reason assigned is, that he was offended by the noise and bustle of his fellow pupils. There is a traditionary account that the poet was scared by the wanton cry of fire at midnight; and when at Cambridge, some years ago, a window in the third story of Peter House was pointed out to me, whence the affrighted bard let himself down to avoid the ravages of the merciless conflagration.
At College, Mr. Gray commenced an acquaintance with Mr. Horace Walpole and Mr. West, which continued through life. The latter soon died; the former (of whom and his seat at STRAWBERRY HILL a long account has been given) survived him many years, the intimacy terminating only with the decease of his friend.
Mr. Gray, now residing at Cambridge, pursued
ODE ON ETON COLLEGE.
the study of his beloved Classics without intermission, curiously remarking in one of his letters to his friend West, who was at Oxford—“ Must I plunge into Metaphysics? Alas! I cannot see in the dark ; nature hath not furnished me with the optics of a cat. Must I pore upon Mathematics ? Alas! I am no eagle; I cannot see in too much light!” Indeed, though Gray is said to have been one of the most learned men in Europe, yet his chief delight was the study of the Greek and Roman CLASSICS, whilst his soul was, at times, absorbed in the divine strains of poesy. To his friend, West, however, he makes this sad confession :-“ Low spirits are my true and faithful companions; they get up with me, go to bed with me, make journeys, and return as I do; nay, and pay
visits, and will even affect to be jocose, and force a feeble laugh with me, but most commonly we sit alone together, and are the prettiest insipid company
in the world !” Under these sombrous feelings, even at this early period of life, we cease to wonder at the sentiments with which the afflicted poet concludes his Ode on a distant prospect of Eton COLLEGE:
Lo! in the vale of Years, beneath
A grissly troop, are seen
More hideous than their queen;
Those in the deeper vitals rage,
And slow-consuming Age!
Condemn'd alike to groan, .
Th' unfeeling for his'own.
And happiness too swiftly flies-
'Tis Folly—to be Wise! These doleful communications of Mr. Gray respecting his low spirits, must have been acceptable to his friend West, who was of a similar temperament, for he remarks, in one of his letters ::-" Alas! GRAY, you cannot imagine how miserably my time passes away. My health and nerves and spirits are, thank my stars, the very worst, I think, in Oxford. Four and twenty hours of pure unalloyed health together are as unknown to me as the 400,000 characters in the Chinese vocabulary !” And the same complaint is reiterated by the same gentleman in poetry :
Or real pains, or those which fancy raise,
Thus, in a series of letters, did these kindred spirits