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"GRAY'S Elegy is perhaps the most widely known poem in our language. The reason of this extensive popularity is perhaps to be sought in the fact that it expresses in an exquisite manner feelings and thoughts that are universal. In the current ideas of the Elegy there is perhaps nothing that is rare, or exceptional, or out of the common way. The musings are of the most rational and obvious character possible; it is difficult to conceive of any one musing under similar circumstances who should not muse so; but they are not the less deep and moving on this account. The mystery of life does not become clearer, or less solemn and awful, for any amount of contemplation. Such inevitable, such everlasting questions as rise in the mind when one lingers in the precincts of Death can never lose their freshness, never cease to fascinate and to move. It is with such questions, that would have been commonplace long ages since if they could ever be so, that the Elegy deals. It deals with them in no lofty philosophical manner, but in a simple, humble, unpretentious way, always with the truest and broadest humanity. The poet's thoughts turn to the poor; he forgets the fine tombs inside the church, and thinks only of the mouldering heaps' in the churchyard. Hence the problem that especially suggests itself is the potential greatness, when they lived, of the rude forefathers' that now lie at his feet. He does not and cannot solve it, though he finds considerations to mitigate the sadness it must inspire; but he expresses it in all its awfulness in the most effective language and with the deepest feeling; and his expression of it has become a living part of our language." — Rev. J. W. HALES.




THE curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd 2 wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.


Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,3
Save where the 4 beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:


Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower,

The moping owl does to the moon complain Of such as, wandering near her secret bower, Molest her ancient solitary 5 reign.


Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade, Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap, Each in his narrow cell forever laid,

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.


The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,

The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed, The cock's shrill 9 clarion, or the echoing horn,

No more shall rouse them from their 10 lowly bed.


For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife 11 ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,12

Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.


Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,

Their furrow oft the stubborn 13 glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team 14 afield!

How bow'd the woods beneath their 15 sturdy stroke!


Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,

Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile The short and simple annals of the poor.16

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The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.17.


Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,

If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise, Where, through the long-drawn 18 aisle and fretted vault, The 19 pealing anthem swells the note of praise.


Can 20 storied urn or animated bust

Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honor's voice 21 provoke the silent dust?
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death ?


Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd, Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:



But Knowledge to their eyes her ample 23 page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble 24 rage,

And froze the genial current of the soul.


Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear; 25
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.26


Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,

Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.27


Th' applause of listening senates to command,28
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,29

And read their history in a nation's eyes,


Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone

Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd; Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne, And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,


The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride

With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.30

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