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Mr. Mason has added, from his own knowledge, that though Gray was poor, he was not eager of money; and that, out of the little that he had, he was very willing to help the necessitous.
As a writer he had this peculiarity, that he did not write his pieces first Tudely, and then correct them, but laboured every line as it arose in the train of composition; and he had a notion not very peculiar, that he could not write but at certain times, or at happy moments; a fantaftick foppery, to which my kindness for a man of learning and of virtue wishes him to have been superior.
GRAY'S Poetry is now to be confidered; and I hope not to be looked on as an enemy to his name, if I confess that I contemplate it with less pleasure than his life.
His ode on Spring has something poetical, both in the language and the thought; but the language is too luxuriant, and the thoughts have nothing new. There has of late arisen a praca tice of giving to adjectives, derived from substantives, the termination of participles; such as the cultured plain, the dafied bank; but I was sorry to see, in the lines of a scholar like Gray, the bonied Spring. The morality is natu«
ral, but too ftale; the conclusion is pretty.
The poem on the Cat was doubtless by its author considered as a trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza the azure flowers that blow, shew resolutely a rhyme is sometimes made when it cannot easily be found. Selima, the Cat, is called a nymph, with some violence both to language and sense ; but there is good use made of it when it is done; for of the two lines, What female heart can gold despise ?
What cat's averse to fish? . the first relates merely to the nymph, and the second only to the cat. The fixth stanza contains a melancholy truth, that a favourite has no friend; but the
last ends in a pointed sentence of no relation to the purpose; if what glistered had been gold, the cat would not have gone into the water; and, if she had, would not less have been drowned.
The Prospect of Eaton College suggests nothing to Gray, which every beholder does not equally think and feel. His fupplication to father Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop or tofses the ball, is useless and puerile. Father Thames has no better means of knowing than himself. His epithet buxom health is not elegant; he seems not to understand the word. Gray thought his language more poetical as it was more remote from common use: finding in Dryden honey, redolent of Spring, an expresB 4.
fion that reaches the utmost limits of our language, Gray drove it a little more beyond common apprehenfion, by making gales to be redolent of joy and
Of the Ode on Adversity, the hint was at first taken from 0 Diva, gralum qua regis Antium; but Gray has excelled his original by the variety of his sentiments, and by their moral application. Of this piece, at once poetical and rational, I will not by flight objections violate the dignity.
My process has now brought me to the wonderful Wonder of IVonders, the two Sister Odes; by which, though either vulgar ignorance or common sense at first universally rejected them, many