Billeder på siden

Also with Scott, Marmion, iii. 13:—

"Seemed in mine ear a death-peal rung,

Such as in nunneries they toll

For some departing sister's soul."

2. wind. This is generally printed winds, but it was not so written by Gray. — ploughman. Compare with Burns, Cotter's Saturday Night, 14:

The toil-worn Cotter frae his labor goes."

Also with Pope, Pastorals, iii.:

"While laboring oxen spent with toil and heat,

In their loose traces from the fields retreat :

While curling smoke from village-tops are seen,
And fleet shades glide o'er the dusky green."

3. This line in prose would read: “And a solemn stillness holds all the air."

4. beetle. Compare Shakespeare, Macbeth, iii. 2: —

[blocks in formation]

6. the turf. Compare this, and indeed the entire stanza, with In Memoriam, x.

7. rude. Uncultured. Milton would probably say uncouth; as,

"uncouth swain," Lycidas, 186.

8. incense-breathing morn. See Milton, Arcades, 156:

"And early, ere the odorous breath of morn

Awakes the slumbering leaves."

Also Paradise Lost, iv. 641:

"Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet."

[blocks in formation]

Also Hamlet, i. 1 : —

"The cock that is the trumpet to the morn."

And Kyd's England's Parnassus :

"The cheerful cock, the sad night's trumpeter,

Waiting upon the rising of the sun."

10. lowly bed. There no figurative meaning in these words. 11. ply her evening care. "This is probably the kind of phrase which led Wordsworth to pronounce the language of the Elegy unintelligible. Compare his own

"And she I cherished turned her wheel

Beside an English fire'"— Hales.

12. Compare with Burns, Cotter's Saturday Night, 21:

"Th' expectant wee things toddlin', stacher thro'
To meet their dad, wi' flichterin noise an' glee."

or climb his knees. Compare with the same, 25:—

"The lisping infant prattling on his knee,

Does a' his weary carking cares beguile."

Also with Thomson, Liberty, iii. 171:—


His little children climbing for a kiss."

13. glebe. Turf. From Lat. gleba, clod:

""Tis mine to tame the stubborn glebe." — Gay.

14. afield. See Lycidas, 27.

15. sturdy stroke. See The Shepheards Calender, February :

[ocr errors][merged small]

16. Burns uses this stanza as an introduction to his Cotter's Saturday Night.

17. Compare with this stanza from the Monody on Queen Caroline (1737), written by Gray's friend, Richard West:

"Ah me! what boots us all our boasted power,

Our golden treasure, and our purple state;

They cannot ward the inevitable hour,

Nor stay the fearful violence of fate."

Lossing relates the following story of General Wolfe on the eve of the battle of Quebec (1759): "At past midnight, when the heavens were

hung with black clouds, and the boats were floating silently back with the tide to the intended landing-place at the chosen ascent to the Plains of Abraham, he repeated in a low tone to the officers around him this touching stanza of Gray's Elegy. Now, gentlemen,' said Wolfe, 'I would rather be the author of that poem than the possessor of the glory of beating the French to-morrow.' He fell the next day, and expired just as the shouts of victory of the English fell upon his almost unconscious ears.” — awaits. In prose the first sentence would read, "The inevitable hour awaits alike the boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, and all that beauty or wealth e'er gave."

18. aisle. Fr. aile; originally written so in English, and meaning, as here, a little wing, or lateral division of the church. Now used to designate the alley, or passage-way, into which the pews open. Compare this line with Milton, Il Penseroso, 155:

"But let my due feet never fail

To walk the studious cloister's pale,
And love the high embowed roof,

With antique pillars massy proof."

fretted. Ornamented with frets or interlacing bands. Compare with Shakespeare, Hamlet, ii. 2:—

"This majestical roof fretted with golden fire."

19. pealing anthem. See Il Penseroso, 161:

"There let the pealing organ blow

To the full-voiced quire below,

In service high, and anthem clear."

20. storied urn. See Il Penseroso, 159:·

"And storied windows richly dight."

animated bust.

Life-like bust, or monument.


21. provoke. From Lat. pro and voco, to call forth, and here used in

its original meaning.

22. Compare with Cowper, Boadicea, 33:

"Such the bard's prophetic words,

Pregnant with celestial fire,

Bending as he swept the chords

Of his sweet but awful lyre."

23. page . . . unroll.

Ancient books were in the form of rolls.

Hence we have volume, from Lat. volvere, to roll. - rich with the spoils of time. Compare with Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, i. 13:—

[ocr errors]

And then at last, when homeward I shall drive
Rich with the spoils of nature," etc.

24. rage. Enthusiasm, inspiration. See Collins, The Passions, 110: —


Thy humblest reed could more prevail,

Had more of strength, diviner rage,

Than all which charms this Laggard age."

25. Compare these two lines with the following passage in Bishop Hall's Contemplations, written more than a hundred years earlier: “There is many a rich stone laid up in the bowells of the earth, many a fair pearle in the bosom of the sea, that never was seene nor never shall bee." 26. Compare these two lines with Waller (1650):· :

"Go, lovely rose,... Tell her that's young

And shuns to have her graces spied,

That hadst thou sprung

In deserts, where no men abide,

Thou must have uncommended died."

Also with Pope, Rape of the Locke, iv. 158:-

"There kept my charms conceal'd from every eye,
Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die."

[ocr errors]

Mitford compares with Chamberlayne's Pharronida (1659): —

'Like beauteous flowers which vainly waste their scent
Of odours in unhaunted deserts."

27. This stanza was at first written thus:

"Some Village Cato who with dauntless Breast

The little Tyrant of his Fields withstood;

Some mute inglorious Tully here may rest;

Some Cæsar guiltless of his Country's Blood."

For the proper names, Hampden, Milton, Cromwell, consult some English history of the seventeenth century.

28. Hales says: "The great age of Parliamentary oratory was just dawning when the Elegy was published. The elder Pitt was already famous for his eloquence."

29. Compare with the following by Tickell:

"To scatter blessings o'er the British land,"

or with this by Mrs. Behn:

"Is scattering plenty over all the land."

30. Reference is here made to the fawning adulation for great men common at that time. In Gray's first copy of the poem, the remaining stanzas were as follows: :

"The thoughtless World to Majesty may bow Exalt the brave, & idolize Success

But more to Innocence their Safety owe

Than Power & Genius e'er conspir'd to bless

"And thou, who mindful of the unhonour'd Dead
Dost in these Notes their artless Tale relate
By Night & lonely Contemplation led

To linger in the gloomy Walks of Fate

"Hark how the sacred Calm, that broods around
Bids ev'ry fierce tumultuous Passion cease
In still small Accents whisp'ring from the Ground
A grateful Earnest of eternal Peace

No more with Reason & thyself at Strife
Give anxious Cares & endless Wishes room
But thro the cool sequester'd Vale of Life
Pursue the silent Tenour of thy Doom."

It will be noticed that the second of these stanzas, with some revisions, is retained in the poem (see the sixth stanza, below). Also that the last two lines of the fourth (altered) appear at the end of the first stanza, below. 31. madding. Exciting, disturbed, raging. Compare with Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes, 39:—

"Let hist'ry tell where rival kings command,

And dubious title shakes the madded land."

And with Drummond, Praise of a Solitary Life:

"Thrice happy he who by some shady grove

Far from the clamorous world doth live his own."

32. tenor of their way. So Beilby Porteus (1731-1808), in his poem on Death, says:

"The venerable patriarch guileless held

The tenor of his way."

33. uncouth rhymes. Untaught, unknown, unlearned. Milton has "uncouth cell," "uncouth swain," etc.

34. Compare with Lycidas, 19–22.

35. elegy. Hales says: "This was an age much given to elaborate epitaphs and elegies. Gray himself had contributed to this funeral literature. See also Pope's works, Goldsmith's, etc., and the walls and monu

« ForrigeFortsæt »