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CAUSE OF OCR PLEASURE IN BEAUTY.
Then tell me, for ye know,
THE SUPERIORITY OF MORAL OVER NATURAL BEAUTY.'
Thus doth beauty dwell
l Our poet 1* exceedingly Infelicitous In giving, Dm an Illustration of tbla flue subject, the bulork-.il
To that eternal origin, who9e power,
Through all th' unbounded symmetry of things,
Like rays effulging from the parent sun,
This endless mixture of her charms diffused.
Mind, mind alone, (bear witness, earth and hearen!)
The living fountains in itself contains
Of beauteous and sublime: here, hand in hand,
Sit paramount the graces; here enthroned,
Celestial Venus, with divinest airs,
Invites the soul to never-fading joy.
Look then abroad through nature, to the range
Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres,
Wheeling unshaken through the void immense;
And speak, O man! does this capacious scene
With half that kindling majesty dilate
The strong conception, as when Brutus rose
Refulgent from the stroke of Casar's fate,
Amid the crowd of patriots; and his arm
Aloft extending, like eternal Jove,
When guilt brings down the thunder, call'd aloud
On Tully's name, and shook his crimson steel,
And bade the father of his country hail?
For lo! the tyrant prostrate on the dust,
And Rome again is free!
What then is taste, but these internal powers Active, and strong, and feelingly alive To each fine impulse? a discerning sense Of decent and sublime, with quick disgust From things deform'd, or disarranged, or gross In species? This, nor gems, nor stores of gold, Nor purple state, nor culture can bestow; But God alone, when first his active hand Imprints the secret bias of the soul. He, mighty Parent! wiso and just in all, Free as the vital breeze or light of heaven, Reveals the charms of nature. Ask the swain Who journeys homeward from a summer day's Long labor, why, forgetful of his toils And due repose, he loiters to behold The sunshine gleaming as through amber clouds, O'er all the western sky; full soon, I ween, His rude expression and untutor'd airs, Beyond the power of language, will unfold The form of beauty smiling at his heart, How lovely! how commanding! But though Heaven In every breast hath sown these early seeds Of Love and admiration, yet in vain, Widiout fair culture's kind parental aid, Without enlivening suns, and genial showers, And shelter from the blast, in vain wo hope The tender plant should rear its blooming head. Or yield the harvest promised in its spring.
Nor yet will every soil with equal stores
Repay the tiller's labor: or attend
His will, obsequious, whether to produce
The olive or the laurel. Different minds
Incline to different objects: one pursues
The vast alone, the wonderful, the wild;
Another sighs for harmony and grace,
And gentlest beauty. Hence, when lightning fires
The arch of heaven, and thunders rock the ground,
When furious whirlwinds rend the howling air,
And ocean, groaning from his lowest bed,
Heaves his tempestuous billows to the sky;
Amid the mighty uproar, while below
The nations tremble, Shakspeare looks abroad
From some high cliff, superior, and enjoys
The elemental war. But Waller longs,
All on the margin of some flowery stream,
To spread his careless limbs amid the cool
Of plantain shades, and to the listening deer
The tale of slighted vows and love's disdain
Resound soft-warbling all the livelong day:
Consenting zephyr sighs; the weeping rill
Joins in his plaint, melodious; mute the groves;
And hill and dale with all their echoes mourn.
Such and so various are the tastes of men.
0! blest of Heaven, whom not the languid songs Of luxury, the siren! not the bribes Of sordid wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils Of pageant honor, can seduce to leave Those ever-blooming sweets, which, from the store Of nature, fair imagination culls To charm lh' enlivened soul! What though not all Of mortal offspring can attain the heights Of envied life; though only few possess Patrician treasures or imperial state; Yet nature's care, to all her children just, Widi richer treasures and an ampler state, Endows, at large, whatever happy man Will deign to use them. His the city's pomp, The rural honors his. Whate'er adorns The princely dome, the column and the arch, The breathing marbles and the sculptured gold, Beyond the proud possessor's narrow claim, His tuneful breast ery'oys. For him, the Spring Distils her dews, and from the silken gem Its lucid leaves unfolds: for him, the hand Of Autumn tinges every fertile branch With blooming gold, and blushes like the morn. Each passing hour sheds tribute from her wings; And sull new beauties meet his lonely walk, And loves unfelt attract him. Not a breeze Flies o'er the meadow, not a cloud imbibes
The setting sun's effulgence, not a strain
From all the tenants of the warbling shade
Ascends, but whence his bosom can partake
Fresh pleasure unreproved. Nor thence partakes
Fresh pleasure only: for th' attentive mind,
By this harmonious action on her powers,
Becomes herself harmonious: wont so oft
In outward things to meditate the charm
Of sacred order, soon she seeks at home
To find a kindred order to exert
Within herself this elegance of love,
This fair inspired delight: her temper'd powers
Refine at length, and every passion wears
A chaster, milder, more attractive mien.
But if to ampler prospects, if to gaze
On nature's form, where, negligent of all
These lesser graces, she assumes the port
Of that eternal majesty that weigh'd
The world's foundations; if to these the mind
Exalts her daring eye; then mightier far
Will be the change, and nobler. Would the forms
Of servile custom cramp her generous powers 1
Would sordid policies, the barbarous growth
Of ignorance and rapine, bow her down
To tame pursuits, to indolence and fear 3
Lo! she appeals to nature, to the winds
And rolling waves, the sun's unwearied course,
The elements and seasons: all declare
For what th' eternal Maker has ordain'd
The powers of man: we feel within ourselves
His energy divine: he tells the heart,
He meant, he made us to behold and love
What he beholds and loves, the general orb
Of life and being; to be great like him,
Beneficent and active. Thus die men
Whom nature's works can charm, with God himself
Hold converse; grow familiar, day by day,
With his conceptions, act upon his plan;
And form to his the relish of their souls.
THOMAS GRAY. 1716—1771.
This most eminent poet and distinguished scholar was born in London m 1"? 16. After receiving the first portion of his classical education at Eton, he entered the University of Cambridge, where he continued five years; after which he travelled, as companion with Horaco Wulpole, through France and pan of Italy. At Reggio, however, these ill-assorted friends parted in mutual dislike, and Gray proceeded alone to Venice, and there remained only till he was provided with the means of returning to England. As to the cause of the separation, Walpole was afterwards content to bear the blame. "Gray," said lie, « was too serious a companion for me: he was for antiq litics, &c., while I was for perpetual balls and plays; the fault was mine."
Two months after his return to England, his father died in embarrassed circumstances, and Gray returned to Cambridge, where he prosecuted his studies, with an ardor and industry seldom equalled, to the end of his life. In 17452 he produced his "Ode to Spring," and in the autumn of the same year he wrote the "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College," and the "Hymn to Adversity;" but he did not publish them till some years after. They were circulated among his friends, who were, of course, delighted, with them, and they received from their gifted author touches and re-touches, till they were brought to the perfection in which we now have them. So slow was he in poetical composition, that his next ode, "On the Death of a favorite Cat," was not written till 1747. In 1750 appeared his most celebrated poem, the "Elegy written in a Country Churchyard." Few poems were ever so popular. It soon ran through eleven editions, and has ever since been one of those few, favorite pieces that every one has by heart
In 1757 the office of poet-laureate, made vacant by the death of Cibber, was offered to Gray, but declined. The same year he published his two odea on "The Progress of Poesy," nnd "The Bard." Though they showed to a still higher degree the power and the genius of the poet, and were felt to be magnificent productions, they were not so popular, because they were less understood.1 In 1768, the Professorship of History at Cambridge becoming vacant, it was conferred upon our poet, than whom a person of greater and more extensive scholarship could not be found at that time in England. But his habitual indolence in writing unfitted him for the office; for though he retained it nil his death, he delivered no lectures. In the spring of 1770 illness overtook him, as he was projecting a tour in Wales; but recovering, he was able to effect the tour in the autumn. But the next year, 1771, on the 24th of July, he was seized with an attack of gout in the stomach, from which, as an hereditary complaint, he had long suffered; and died on the 30th of the same month, in the fifty-fifth year of his age.
The life of Gray is one singularly devoid of interest and variety, even foi an author. It is the life of a student giving himself up to learning, accounting it as an end itself, and "its own exceeding great reward." He devoted his time almost exclusively to reading: writing was with him an exception, and that, too, a rare one. His life was spent in the acquisition of knowledge. At the time of his death, "he was perhaps the most learned man in Europe. He was equally acquainted with the elegant and profound parts of science, and that not superficially, but thoroughly. Ho knew every branch of history, both natural and civil; hail read all the original historians of England, France, and Italy; and was a great antiquary. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, made a principal part of his plan of study; voyages and travels of all sorts were his favorite amusement: and he had a fine taste in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening."8
As a poet, though we cannot assent to the enthusiastic encomium of his ardent admirer and biographer, Mr. Matthias,' that he is "second to none,"
1 He himself prefixed to them a quotation from Pindar, ^u.vovra (twvitmo-iv, "vocal to the Intelligent alone."
- From a sketch of his life by the Rev. William Temple. "I am sorry," says the excellent Dr. Bertlip. in writing to a friend, "you did not see Mr. Clniy on his return: you would have been ■niit'li jiU ;tM'd wail Mm. ScitliiK aside hi* merit as a poet, which, however. In niy opinion, is greater t.lrin any of Ills eoi.tiiuporarli-s tan boast, in this or any other nnUon, I found huu possessed of the most exuet taste, the soundest Judgment, and most extensive learning." Work::, by T J. Matthias, 2 vols, quarto; Mie hot edition.