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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,
3. This line in prose would read: “And a solemn stillness holds all the air."
4. beetle. Compare Shakespeare, Macbeth, iii. 2: —
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."
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'
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 :
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,
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."
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:—
And then at last, when homeward I shall drive
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,
Mitford compares with Chamberlayne's Pharronida (1659): —
'Like beauteous flowers which vainly waste their scent
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
To linger in the gloomy Walks of Fate
"Hark how the sacred Calm, that broods around
No more with Reason & thyself at Strife
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