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wards the end of his life, dived for the gem; and, having brought it up, replanted it in the earth, to be “ raised,” (not disloyally I hope) to grace a diadem. To the myrtle he made also signal amends, for its long transformation into a flower, by a supplicat, through the chancellor of his university, to have it raised from its metamorphosis to the dignity of the mitre.
Thy liberal heart, thy judging eye,
Thomson's myrtle “ breathes its balmy fragrance o’er the wild ;" Gray's flower “ wastes its sweetness on the desert air." “ Wastes,” in place of “ breathes,” is an improvement; though, whether one air
' Installation Ode.
is more “ desert” than another, the authority of Shakespeare himself will not hinder us to doubt.
It is often highly entertaining to trace imitation. To detect the adopted image, the copied design, the transferred sentiment, the appropriated phrase, and even the acquired manner and frame, under the disguises that mutilation, combination, and accommodation, may have thrown around them, must require both parts and diligence; but it will bring with it no ordinary gratification. A book, professedly on the “ History and Progress of Imitation in Poetry," written by a man of perspicacity, and an adept in the art of discerning likenesses, even when minute; with examples properly selected, and gradations duly marked ; would make an important accession to the store of human literature, and furnish rational curiosity with a high regale.
I remember to have once heard, I know not where, or from whom, that Swift had projected a work of this kind. But Swift was full of projects; and scarcely possessed steadiness or industry sufficient to carry such a design through. I should have had better hopes of its success in the hands of Addison than of Swift. But I return to Gray.
To the expression in some parts of this stanza, certain objections have been proposed. The word “ bear,” is thought to be improperly used, and to have been produced by the exigencies of the rhyme: the caves of ocean“ supporting the precious stones that are formed there,” is said to be an idea inept and insignificant. To this it has been urged in reply, that“ bear,” in this passage, means “produce” in analogy to vegetable birth. But I am not sure that the analogy is not rather to animal production. Thus Waller, in a similar case, speaking of the sea ;
'tis so rockless and so clear,
And of the application of “ born,” also, to the flower, which “ blushes unseen," the same may be the account. It is not metaphysically used, to denote necessity, or fate; but physically, to denote production. The use of “ born” for “ destined,” is too proverbial for poetry.
“ Purest ray serene," has been censured by some as obscure, and by others as redundant. But that an expression, which seems to have been studiously sought, should have had no meaning in the mind of its author, it is scarcely reasonable to suppose. Gray, in the matųrer part of his life, addicted himself to the study of natural history. It is not . impossible that, in some of the writers he had read on these subjects, he had found “ ray serene;" (raggio sereno ;) used, as a technical term, for what, in precious stones, is commonly called the water.
* Loving at First Sight.
“ Purest ray," taken by itself, is the expression of Thomson ; who afterwards calls it “ collected light compact,” according to a mode, not uncommon with him, of thrusting in his noun betwixt two shouldering epithets; in the use of which mode, he and his fellow imitators were, as I have heard Savage humorously observe, kept in countenance by Milton's " human face divine."
Of this stanza, before I conclude the examination, I am willing to gratify the reader with a communication on the sub
* Paradise Lost, Book iii.