Images de page

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 wak'd to ecstasy the living lyre :
But knowledge to their eyes her ample page

Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill penury repress'd their noble 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: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

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 bis country's blood. Th' applause of list’ning senates to command,

The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,

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.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,

Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray; Along the cool sequester'd vale of life

They kept the noiseless tenour of their way. Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,

Some frail memorial still erected nigh, With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,

Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. Their name, their years, spelt by th’unletter'd Muse,

The place of fame and elegy supply: And many a holy text around she strews,

That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,

This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd, Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,

Nor cast one longing lingering look behind ? On some fond breast the parting soul relies,

Some pious drops the closing eye requires; Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries,

Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th’unhonour'd dead,

Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; If chance, by lonely contemplation led,

Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,

“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn Brushing with hasty steps the dews away

To meet the sun upon the upland lawn,

“ There at the foot of yonder nodding beech,

That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, His listless length at noontide would he stretch,

And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

“ Him have we seen the greenwood side along,

While o'er the heath we hied, our labour done, Oft as the woodlark pip'd her farewell song,

With wistful eyes pursue the setting sun

“ Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,

Mutt'ring his wayward fancies he would rove; Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,

Or craz’d with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

“ One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,

Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,

up the lawn, nor at the wood was he:

“ The next, with dirges due in sad array Slow through the church-way path we saw him

borne,Approach and read (for thou can'st read) the lay,

Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."

This stanza, which completes the account of the Poet's day, although in the author's MS. has hitherto appeared but in the form of a note; but as Mr. Mason observes, “ without it, we have only his morning walk and hiş noon-tide repose.”

Here rests his head upon the lap of earth

A youth, to fortune and to fame unknown:
Fair science frown'd not on his humble birth,

And melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and bis soul sincere,

Heav'n did a recompense as largely send : He gave to mis’ry (all he had) a tear,

Hegain’d from heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,

Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, (There they alike in trembling hope repose,)

The bosom of his Father and his God.

“ Before the Epitaph, Mr. Gray originally inserted a very beautiful stanza, which was printed in some of the first editions, but afterwards omitted, because he thought that it was too long a parenthesis in this place. The lines however are, in themselves, exquisitely fine, and demand preservation :

- There scatter'd oft, the earliest of the year,

By hands unseen are showers of violets found;
The redbreast loves to build and warble there,

And little footsteps lightly print the ground.''

The Editor of the present edition of the Poet, bas ventured to recall into the Elegy, one stanza (the fourth ) which appears only in the margin of former editions ; upon a hint received from a gentleman resident at Stoke Park, in the following letter: “ I do not see how the edition could saffer, in a critical point of view, by the restoration of that fine stanza of Gray's into the body of the Elegy. It is acknowledged by Mason and others, to be equal to any in the poem; and, certainly it contains more to characterize it than any other. The cause of its unfortunate rejection by the author is manifest, and shows that it was not from his having disapproved it. From two preceding, and a following stanza, which were rejected with it, he withdrew two ideas, and some lines, which he transferred and worked up in other parts of the Elegy, thus leaving this fine stanza insulated ; and because it so became unfitted for the particular place for which he bad first designed it, he dropped it altogether. But yet it contained only an abrupt and sudden reflection ; which was suitable equally to other passages or places, though not employed there. This he appears not to have considered; and he thereby incautiously despoiled his poem of a sentiment, not only fitting, but moreover eminently requisite. Now, this sentiment finds a natural place immediately after the third stanza;after the descriptions of darkness and silence, and before the minuter particulars of the church-yard are entered upon. It would, therefore, I think, most sublimely constitute the fourth stanza of the Elegy. In that place, it would prepare the mind for the solemn sequel, and throw a religious sanctity over it; at the same time correcting and explaining, what bas always given me and others, oftence and pain,—the equivocal expression,

each in bis narrow cell for ever laid : showing, that the Poet only meant · for ever, with reference to the scenes of this present life.


« PrécédentContinuer »