Изображения страниц


St. 3 Hybla: near Syracuse. Her whose ... woe.
the nightingale, ‘for which Sophocles seems to have
entertained a peculiar fondness' ; Collins here refers
to the famous chorus in the Oedipus at Colonus.
St. 4 Cephisus: the stream encircling Athens on the
north and west, passing Colonus. St. 6 stay'd to
sing; stayed her song when Imperial tyranny was
established at Rome. St. 7 refers to the Italian
amourist poetry of the Renaissance : In Collins'
day, Dante was almost unknown in England. St
8 meeting soul : which moves sympathetically to.
wards simplicity as she comes to inspire the poet.
St. 9 Of these : Taste and Genius.
The Bard. In 1757, when this splendid ode was
completed, so very little had been printed, whether
in Wales or in England, in regard to Welsh poetry,
that it is hard to discover whence Gray drew his
Cymric allusions. The fabled massacre of the Bards
(shown to be wholly groundless in Stephens' Litera-
ture of the Kymry) appears first in the family history
of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir (cir. 1600), not published
till 1773 ; but the story seems to have passed in MS.
to Carte's History, whence it may have been taken
by Gray. The references to high-born Hoel and soft
Llewellyn ; to Cadwallo and Urien ; may, similarly,
have been derived from the 'Specimens' of early
Welsh poetry, by the Rev. E. Evans :-as, although
not published till 1764, the MS., we learn from
a letter to Dr. Wharton, was in Gray's hands by
July 1760, and may have reached him by 1757. It
is, however, doubtful whether Gray (of whose ac-
quaintance with Welsh we have no evidence) must
not have been also aided by some Welsh scholar. He
is one of the poets least likely to scatter epithets at
random : 'soft'or gentle is the epithet emphatically
and specially given to Llewelyn in contemporary
Welsh poetry, and is hence here used with particular
propriety. Yet, without such assistance as we have
suggested, Gray could hardly have selected the
epithet, although applied to the King (p. 141-3)
among a crowd of others, in Llygad Gwr's Ode,
printed by Evans.-After lamenting his comrades
(st. 2, 3) the Bard prophesies the fate of Edward II,
and the conquests of Edward III (4): his death
and that of the Black Prince (5): of Richard II, with
the wars of York and Lancaster, the murder of
Henry VI (the meek usurper), and of Edward V and
his brother (6). He turns to the glory and pros-
perity following the accession of the Tudors (7),
through Elizabeth's reign (8): and concludes with a

vision of the poetry of Shakespeare and Milton. (40 159 1. 13 Glo'ster : Gilbert de Clare, son-in-law to Edward

Mortimer, one of the Lords Marchers of Wales.

141 159 High-born Hoel, soft Llewellyn (1. 15); the Dissertati

de Bardis of Evans names the first as son to the King
Owain Gwynedd: Llewelyn, last King of North
Wales, was murdered 1282. L. 16 Cadwallo: Cad
wallon (died 631) and Urien Rheged (early kings of
Gwynedd and Cumbria respectively) are mentioned
by Evans (p. 78) as bards none of whose poetry is ex-
tant. L. 20 Modred : Evans supplies no data for this
name which Gray (it has been supposed) uses for
Merlin (Myrddin Wyllt), held prophet as well as
poet. -The Italicized lines mark where the Bard's
song is joined by that of his predecessors departed.
L 22 Arvon : the shores of Carnarvonshire opposite
Anglesey. Whether intentionally or through ig-
norance of the real dates, Gray here seems to
represent the Bard as speaking of these poets,
all of earlier days, Llewelyn excepted, as his own
contemporaries at the close of the thirteenth cen.
Gray, whose penetrating and powerful genius ren.
dered him in many ways an initiator in advance of
his age, is probably the first of our poets who made
some acquaintance with the rich and admirable
poetry in which Wales from the Sixth Century has
been fertile,-before and since his time so barbar-
ously neglected, not in England only. Hence it has
been thought worth while here to enter into a little

detail upon his Cymric allusions. 142 1. 5 She-wolf: Isabel of France, adulterous Queen of

Edward II.-L. 35 Towers of Julius: the Tower of
London, built in part, according to tradition, by

Julius Cæsar. 143 1. 2 bristled boar : the badge of Richard III. L. 7

Half of thy heart: Queen Eleanor died soon after the conquest of Wales. L. 18 Arthur : Henry VII named his eldest son thus, in deference to native feeling and

story. 144 161 The Highlanders called the battle of Culloden,

Drumossie. 145 162 lilting, singing blithely:loaning, broad lane : bughts,

pens : scorning, rallying: dowie, dreary: daffin' and gabbin', joking and chatting : leglin, milkpail: shearing, reaping : bandsters, sheaf-binders :lyart, grizzled: runkled, wrinkled : fleeching, coaxing: gloaming,

twilight: bogle, ghost : dool, sorrow. 147 164 The Editor has found no authoritative text of this

poem, to his mind superior to any other of its clasa in melody and pathos. Part is probably not later than the seventeenth century: in other stanzas a more modern hand, much resembling Scott's, is traceable. Logan's poem (163) exhibits a knowledge rather of the old legend than of the old verses. Hecht, promised ; the obsolete hight: mavis, thrush:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


ilka, every: lav'rock, lark : haughs, valley-meadows:

twined, parted from : marrow, mate : syne, then. 148 165 The Royal George, of 108 guns, whilst undergoing a

partial careening at Spithead, was overset about 10 A.M. Aug. 29, 1782. The total loss was believed to be nearly 1000 souls.—This little poem might be called one of our trial-pieces, in regard to taste. The reader who feels the vigour of description and the force of pathos underlying Cowper's bare and truly Greek simplicity of phrase, may assure himself se valde

profecisse in poetry. 151 167 A little masterpiece in a very difficult style: Catullus

himself could hardly have bettered it. In grace, tenderness, simplicity, and humour, it is worthy of the Ancients: and even more so, from the complete

ness and unity of the picture presented. 155 172 Perhaps no writer who has given such strong proofs

of the poetic nature has left less satisfactory poetry than Thomson. Yet this song, with ‘Rule Britannia' and a few others, must make us regret that he did not more seriously apply himself to

lyrical writing. 156 174 With what insight and tenderness, yet in how few

words, has this painter-poet here himself told Love's

Secret! 157 177 I. 1 Aeolian lyre: the Greeks ascribed the origin of

their Lyrical Poetry to the Colonies of Aeolis in Asia

Minor. 158 Thracia's hills (1. 9) supposed a favourite resort of

Mars. Feather'd king (1. 13) the Eagle of Jupiter, admirably described by Pindar in a passage here imitated by Gray. Idalia (l. 19) in Cyprus, where

Cytherea (Venus) was especially worshipped. 159 1. 6 Hyperion : the Sun. St. 6-8 allude to the Poets

of the Islands and Mainland of Greece, to those of

Rome and of England. 160 1. 27 Theban Eagle: Pindar. 163 178 1. 5 chaste-eyed Queen : Diana. 164 179 From that wild rhapsody of mingled grandeur, ten

derness, and obscurity, that 'medley between inspiration and possession, which poor Smart is believed to have written whilst in confinement for

madness. 165 181 the dreadful light : of life and experience. 166 182 Attic warbler : the nightingale. 168 184 sleekit, sleek : bickering brattle, flittering flight:laith,

loth: pattle, ploughstaff : whyles, at times : a daimenicker, a corn-ear now and then : thrave, shock: lave, rest: foggage, after-grass : snell, biting: but hald, without dwelling-place : thole, bear :cranreuch, hoarfrost: thy lane, alone : a-gley, off the right lin

awry. 17, 188 stoure, dust-storm ; braw, smart. 176 189 scaith, hurt: tent, guard i ster, molest.

[ocr errors]


177 191 drumlie, muddy: birk, birch. 178 192 greet, cry: duurna, dare not.-There can hardly

exist a poem more truly tragic in the highest sense than this: nor, perhaps, Sappho excepted, has any

Poetess equalled it. 180 193 fou, merry with drink: coost, carried : unco skeigh,

very proud: gart, forced : abeigh, aside : Ailsa craig, a rock in the Firth of Clyde : grat his een bleert, cried till his eyes were bleared : lowpin, leaping linn, waterfall: sair, sore : smoor'd, smothered :

crouse and canty, blithe and gay. 181 194 Burns justly named this one of the most beautiful

songs in the Scots or any other language.' One stanza, interpolated by Beattie, is here omitted :-it contains two good lines, but is out of harmony with the original poem. Bigonet, little cap: probably altered

from béguinette : thraw, twist : caller, fresh. 182 195 Burns himself, despite two attempts, failed to im

prove this little absolute masterpiece of music, tenderness, and simplicity: this 'Romance of a life'in

eight lines.-Eerie : strictly, scared : uneasy. 183 196 airts, quarters : row, roll : shaw, small wood in a

hollow, spinney: knowes, knolls. The last two

stanzas are not by Burns. 184 197 jo, sweetheart: brent, smooth : pow, head.

198 leal, faithful. St. 3 fain, happy. 185 199 Henry VI founded Eton. 188 200 Written in 1773, towards the beginning of Cowper's

second attack of melancholy madness--a time when he altogether gave up prayer, saying, For him to implore mercy would only anger God the more.' Yet had he given it up when sane, it would have

been 'maior insania.' 191 203 The Editor would venture to class in the very first

rank this Sonnet, which, with 204, records Cowper's gratitude to the Lady whose affectionate care for many years gave what sweetness he could enjoy to a life radically wretched. Petrarch's sonnets have a more ethereal grace and a more perfect finish ; Shakespeare's more passion ; Milton's stand supreme in stateliness; Wordsworth's in depth and delicacy. But Cowper's unites with an exquisiteness in the turn of thought which the ancients would have called Irony, an intensity of pathetic tenderness peculiar to his loving and ingenuous nature. There is much mannerism, much that is unimportant or of now exhausted interest in his poems : but where he is great, it is with that elementary greatness which rests on the most universal human feelings.

Cowper is our highest master in simple pathos. 193 205 Cowper's last original poem, founded upon a story

told in Anson's Voyages.' ' It was written March

1799 ; he died in next year's April. 195 206 Very little except his name appears recoverable with


regard to the author of this truly noble poem, which appeared in the 'Scripscrapologia, Collins Doggerel Dish of All Sorts,' with three or four other pieces of merit, Birmingham, 1804.-Everlasting: used with side-allusion to a cloth so named, at the time when Collins wrote.


Summary of Book Fourth

It proves sufficiently the lavish wealth of our own age in Poetry, that the pieces which, without conscious departure from the Standard of Excellence, render this Book by far the longest, were with very few exceptions composed during the first thirty years of the Nineteenth century. Exhaustive reasons can hardly be given for the strangely sudden appear. ance of individual genius: that, however, which assigns the splendid national achievements of our recent poetry to an im. pulse from the France of the first Republic and Empire is inadequate. The first French Revolution was rather one result, the most conspicuous, indeed, yet itself in great measure essentially retrogressive, -of that wider and more potent spirit which through enquiry and attempt, through strength and weakness, sweeps mankind round the circles (not, as some too confidently argue, of Advance, but) of gradual Transformation : and it is to this that we must trace the literature of Modern Europe. But, without attempting discussion on the motive causes of Scott, Wordsworth, Shelley, and others, we may observe that these Poets carried to further perfection the later tendencies of the Century preceding, in simplicity of narrative, reverence for human Passion and Character in every sphere, and love of Nature for herself :that, whilst maintaining on the whole the advances in art made since the Restoration, they renewed the half-forgotten melody and depth of tone which marked the best Elizabethan writers : --that, lastly, to what was thus inherited they added a richness in language and a variety in metre, a force and fire in narrative, a tenderness and bloom in feeling, an insight into the finer passages of the Soul and the inner meanings of the landscape, a larger sense of Humanity,--hitherto scarcely attained, and perhaps unattainable even by predecessors of not inferior individual genius. In a word, the Nation which, after the Greeks in their glory, may fairly claim that during six centuries it has proved itself the most richly gifted of all nations for Poetry, expressed in these men the highest strength and prodigality of its nature. They interpreted the age to itself-hence the many phases of thought and style they present :—to sympathise with each, fervently and impartially, without fear and without fancifulness, is no doubtful step in the higher education of the soul. For purity in taste is al

proportionate to strength-and when once the mind has raised itself to grasp and to delight in excellence, those who love most will be found to love most wisely.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »