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Not dull art thou as undiscerning Night!
But studious only to remove from sight
To the rude Briton, when, in wolf-skin vest,
Here roving wild, he laid him down to rest On the bare rock, or through a leafy bower
Looked ere his eyes were closed. By him was seen
At thy meek bidding, shadowy Power, brought forth :-
TO THE NIGHTINGALE. SWEET bird ! thou sing’st away the early hours !
Of winters past or coming void of care,
Well pleased with delights which present are,—
And what dear gifts” on thee he did not spare.
What soul can be so sick, which by thy songs,
Quite to forget earth’s turmoils, spites, and wrongs,
Sweet artless songster! thou my mind dost raise
(1) The writer of this and the following beautiful sonnet was a friend and contemporary of Ben Jonson.
(2) And what dear gifts, &c.--. e. and the precious gifts that he lavished on thee.
(3) Oh slain, &c.--Oh what a reproach to men is the sin which debases ("lowers") them, and prevents their praising God as you do.
(1) dirs of spheres—the fancied music of the spheres.
THE PLEASURES OF RETIREMENT.
Far from the clamorous world, doth live his own :1
Though solitary, who is not alone,
Oh, how more sweet is bird's harmonious moan,
Than those smooth whisperings near a prince's throne,
Oh, how more sweet is zephyr's wholesome breath,
Than that applause vain honour doth bequeath!
The world is full of horrors, troubles, slights-
DIRGE OVER FIDELE'S TOMB.3
Soft maids and village hinds shall bring
And rifle all the breathing Spring.
To vex with shrieks this quiet grove :
And melting virgins own their love.
No goblins lead their nightly crew;
And dress thy grave with pearly dew!
(1) His own—by himself.
(3) This exquisite poem seems to have been suggested by the funeral chant over the body of Imogen, under the assumed name of Fidele, in Shakspere's “Cymbeline.” Sir E. Brydges commends its “simplicity and pathos,” its “ highly poetical thought and tone,” its "exquisite polish, without one super. fluous, one prosaic word.” He continues thus:--“The extreme transparency of the words and thoughts would induce a vulgar reader to consider them (such poems] trite, while they are the expression of a genius so refined as to be all essence of spirit.”
The redbreast oft,' at evening hours,
Shall kindly lend his little aid,
To deck the ground where thou art laid.
In tempests shake the sylvan cell;
The tender thought on thee shall dwell;
For thee the tear be duly shed;
And mourned, till Pity's self be dead.
THOUGH many suns have risen and set
Since thou, blithe May, wert born,
Thy gifts, thy beauty scorn,
Confine not harp and voice,
Are grateful and rejoice.
If yon ethereal blue
The heavens have felt it too.
Partakes a livelier cheer;
Let fall a brightened tear.
(1) The redbreast, &c.— It is thought that Gray was indebted to this stanza for the lines in the “Elegy” (see p. 65) beginning
“ There scattered oft," &c. (2) Among the many beautiful poems of the same author, there is not perhaps a more finished composition than this--not one more noticeable for the "curiosa felicitas"—that “grace beyond the reach of art,”-which evinces the perfect mastery of the artist.
Since thy return, through days and weeks
Of hope that grew by stealth,
many wan and faded cheeks
“Another year is ours !”
Have smiled upon thy flowers.
Amid his playful peers ?
A prisoner of fond fears;
Is quiet in its sheath,
Earth's sweetness in thy breath.
Are patient of thy rule;
Loitering in glassy pool:
Such gentle mists as glide,
On that green mountain's side.
Through which yon House of God
By few but shepherds trod !
No sooner stand attired
Peep forth, and are admired.
Permit not for one hour,
Nor add to it a flower!
(1) Gurgling, &c.-In one line of this couplet we may almost hear the " gurgling," and in the other almost feel the stillness, of the water.
(2) Curling, &c.-One of those “felicities” of phrase alluded to in the first pote,
Keep, lovely May,' as if by touch
of self-restraining art,
Part seen, imagined part !
Nature, exerting an unwearied power,
(1) Keep lovely May, &c.— The most satisfactory test of superlative excellence, in point of composition, of such lines as this and the following, would be afforded by the attempt to improve them by the alteration or addition of even a single word. The success of Horace himself in such an endeavour would have been extremely doubtful.
(2) Mantuan swan—Virgil, so called because he was born at Mantua, in Italy. A particular species of swans had the reputation among the ancients of singing very beautifully-hence poets were figuratively styled swans.
(3) “ Colours dipt in heaven"-an expression borrowed from “Paradise Lost."