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(242) 1. Aeolian: "Pindar styles his own poetry, with its musical accompaniments, Αἰοληὶς μολπὴ, Αἰολίδες χορδαὶ, Αἰολίδων πνοαὶ αὐλῶν, Tolian song, olian strings, the breath of the Æolian flute. The subject and simile, as usual with Pindar, are united. The various sources of poetry, which gives life and luster to all it touches. are here described; its quiet majestic progress enriching every subject (otherwise dry and barren) with a pomp of diction and luxuriant harmony of numbers; and its more rapid and irresistible course, when swollen and hurried away by the conflict of tumultuous passions."-G. ¶ 10. amain=with force, violently. ¶ 13-24. "Power of harmony to calm the turbulent sallies of the soul. The thoughts are borrowed from the first Pythian of Pindar."-G. ¶ 14. solemn-breathing airs: cf. Milton's Comus, l. 555, “At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound." ¶ 15. shell: the lyre; according to legend, Hermes invented the lyre by stretching cords across a tortoise shell. ¶ 17. On Thracia's hills: Thrace was considered to be especially the domain of Mars, perhaps because the Thracians were so warlike.
(243) 21. the feathered king: Jove's eagle. ¶ 25-41. "Power of harmony to produce all the graces of motion in the body."-G. ¶ 27. Idalia's: Idalia was a town in Cyprus famous for the worship of Venus. ¶ 29. Cytherea's: Venus was called Cytherea from the island of Cythera, where she was fabled to have landed after arising from the foam of the sea. 4 35. Gray compares the Odyssey, viii. 265: Μαρμαρυγὰς θηεῖτο ποδῶν· θαύμαζε δὲ θυμῷ, "He gazed at the twinklings of the feet, and marveled in his heart." ¶ 41. Gray compares Phrynichus as quoted in Athenæus:
Λάμπει δ' ἐπὶ πορφυρέῃσι
"On the purple cheeks shines the light of love." ¶42-53. "To compensate the real and imaginary ills of life, the Muse was given to mankind by the same Providence that sends the Day, by its cheerful presence, to dispel the gloom and terrors of the Night."-G. ¶ 52, 53. Gray compares Cowley's Pindaric ode, “Brutus” (1656), ll. 56, 57:
Or seen her [Morning's] well-appointed star
154-65. "Extensive influence of poetic genius over the remotest and most uncivilized nations, its connection with liberty, and the virtues that naturally attend on it. (See the Erse, Norwegian, and Welsh fragments, the Lapland, and American songs.)"-G. ¶54. beyond the solar road: Gray compares the Æneid, vi, 796, "Extra anni solisque vias," "Beyond the paths of the year and the sun"; and also Petrarch, Canzone 2, "Tutta lontana dal camin del sole," "All distant from the road of the sun."
(244) 66-82. "Progress of poetry from Greece to Italy, and from Italy to England. Chaucer was not unacquainted with the writings of Dante or of Petrarch. The Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt had travelled in Italy, and formed their taste there; Spenser imitated the Italian writers; Milton improved on them; but this school expired soon after the Restoration, and a new one arose on the French model, which has subsisted ever since."-G. ¶ 66. Delphi's steep: Mt. Parnassus, in Greece, the fabled abode of the Muses: Delphi, where was the oracle of Apollo, lay at the base of the mountain. 67. Ægean deep: the sea between Greece and Asia Minor, covered with islands famous for their connection with the history and literature of Greece. 68. Ilissus: a river flowing through Athens. ¶69. Mæander's: the Mæander is a very winding river in Asia Minor, flowing into the Egean Sea. ¶ 77. Greece's evil hour: when Grecian civilization deteriorated politically and morally; cf. ll. 79, 80. 84. Nature's darling: "Shakespeare."-G.
(245) 95. he: "Milton."-G. ¶95, 96. rode sublime Upon the seraph wings: cf. Paradise Lost, VI. 771, "He on the wings of cherub rode sublime." ¶98. Gray compares Lucretius, De rerum natura, i. 73, "flammantia moenia mundi," "the flaming walls of the world." ¶99. Gray compares Ezekiel 1:20, 26, 28, including the words, "a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone." ¶ 102. Gray compares the Odyssey, viii. 64: 'Opladμôv
μὲν ἄμερσε· δίδου δ' ἡδεῖαν ἀοιδήν, “She [the Muse] deprived him of his eyes, but gave him sweet song." ¶ 105, 106. "Meant to express the stately march and sounding energy of Dryden's rhymes."-G. With necks in thunder clothed: Gray compares Job 39:19, "Hast thou clothed his [the horse's] neck with thunder?" ¶ 115. Theban: Pindar was a native of Thebes. Eagle: "Pindar compares himself to that bird, and his enemies to ravens that croak and clamor in vain below, while it pursues its flight, regardless of their noise."-G. ¶ 120. orient=bright, shining, like the dawn.
(245) THE BARD. Gray worked at the ode by fits during the years 1754-57. The completion of it was due to the inspiration which the poet received from the songs of a blind Welsh harper who visited Cambridge in 1757: "Mr. Parry has been here and scratched out such ravishing blind harmony, such tunes of a thousand years old, with names enough to choke you, as have set all this learned body a-dancing, and inspired them with due reverence for Odikle ["The Bard"] whenever it shall appear. Mr. Parry (you must know) it was that has put Odikle in motion again, and with much exercise it has got a slender tail grown, like Scroddles, and here it is."-Gray, in a letter to Mason, May, 1757. Gray prefixed an "Advertisement": "The following ode is founded on a tradition current in Wales that Edward the First, when he completed the conquest of that country, ordered all the bards that fell into his hands to be put to death."
14. Gray compares King John, V. i. 72, "Mocking the
(246) 5. hauberk's: "The hauberk was a texture of steel ringlets, or rings interwoven, forming a coat of mail, that sat close to the body, and adapted itself to every motion.”—G. 18. Cambria's: Cambria was the Romans' name for Wales, from Welsh "Cymru." ¶9. crested pride: Gray compares Dryden's Indian Queen, III. i, "the crested adders' pride" (see p. 14). 10. the first Edward: Edward I invaded Wales, for the complete conquest of it, in 1282. 11. Snowdon's: " 'Snowdon' was a name given by the Saxons to that mountainous tract which the Welsh themselves call Craigian-eryri; it included all the highlands of Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire, as far east as the river Conway."-G. ¶13. Glo'ster: "Gilbert de Clare, surnamed the Red, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, son-in-law to King Edward."-G. ¶ 14. Mortimer: "Edmond de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore. They both were Lords-Marchers, whose lands lay on the borders of Wales, and probably accompanied the king in this expedition."-G. ¶ 19, 20. "The image was taken from a well-known picture of Raphael, representing the Supreme Being in the vision of Ezekiel. There are two of these paintings (both believed original), one at Florence, the other at Paris."-G. ¶ 20. Gray compares Paradise Lost, I. 537, "Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind." ¶ 28. soft Llewellyn's lay: i. e., the lay about Llewellyn, a Welsh prince of mild and gentle spirit. 35. Arvon's shore: "The shores of Caernarvonshire opposite to the isle of Anglesey."—G. 40, 41. Gray compares Julius Caesar, II. i. 289, 290:
(245) 2. Confusion=defeat. air with colours idly spread."
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops
(247) 48. "See the Norwegian ode ["The Fatal Sisters," p. 251] that follows."—G. ¶ 49. The "griesly band" of the spirits of the murdered poets here join in the terrible prophecy. ¶54. Severn: a river in Wales. ¶56. an agonizing king: "Edward the Second, cruelly butchered in Berkley Castle."-G. 57. She Wolf of France: "Isabel of France, Edward the Second's adulterous queen."-G. Shakspere (3 Henry VI., I. iv. 111) has the same phrase. 159. "Triumphs of Edward the Third in France."-G. be born: supply "one" as the subject. ¶64. "Death of that king, abandoned by his children, and even robbed in his last moments by his courtiers and his mistress."-G. ¶67. "Edward, the Black Prince, dead some time before his father."-G. ¶ 70. "Magnificence of Richard the Second's reign."-G.
(248) 77-82. "Richard the Second
was starved to death."-G. ¶83-86.
"Ruinous civil wars of York and Lancaster [1455-85]."-G. ¶ 87, 88. "Henry the Sixth, George Duke of Clarence, Edward the Fifth, Richard Duke of York, etc., believed to be murthered secretly in the Tower of London. The oldest part of that structure is vulgarly attributed to Julius Cæsar."-G. 89. his consort's: "Margaret of Anjou, a woman of heroic spirit, who struggled hard to save her husband and her crown."-G. Her husband, Henry VI, was deposed in 1461. his father's: "Henry the Fifth."-G. ¶90. the meek usurper's holy head: "Henry the Sixth very near being canonized. The line of Lancaster had no right of inheritance to the crown."-G. 191. Above, below: i. e., on the loom. ¶ 91, 92. Tose o snow.... her blushing foe. The white and red roses, devices of York and Lancaster."-G. 193. The bristled Boar: "The silver boar was the badge of Richard the Third; whence he was usually known in his own time by the name of 'the Boar.'"-G. in infant gore: in 1483 Richard murdered the two young princes (sons of Edward IV), who stood between him and the throne. 97-99. to sudden fate. . . . half of thy Heart we consecrate. "Eleanor of Castile died a few years after the conquest of Wales. The heroic proof she gave of her affection for her lord is well known. The monuments of his regret and sorrow for the loss of her are still to be seen at Northampton, Geddington, Waltham, and other places."-G. When Edward I had been wounded by a poisoned dagger, his queen saved his life, at peril of her own, by sucking the wound. 101. Stay: addressed by the living bard to the spirits of the dead bards, who are now leaving him. ¶ 109. "It was the common belief of the Welsh nation, that King Arthur was still alive in Fairy Land, and should return again to reign over Britain."-G. 110. ye genuine kings, Britannia's issue: "Both Merlin and Taliessin had prophesied that the Welsh should regain their sovereignty over this island; which seemed to be accomplished in the House of Tudor.”— G. Henry VII, the first Tudor king, was grandson of Owen Tudor, a descendant of Welsh princes. "Britannia" is used in its strict sense, and refers to the Britons, who inhabited the island before the English; the Welsh are descended from the Britons. ¶ 112. Sublime-lifted up. starry fronts: cf. Milton's "Passion," l. 18, "His starry front low-roofed beneath the skies.”
(249) 117. "Speed, relating an audience given by Queen Elizabeth to Paul Dzialinski, Ambassador of Poland, says, 'And thus she, lion-like rising, daunted the mala pert orator no less with her stately port and majestical deporture than with the tartnesse of her princelie checkes.'"-G. 119. strings symphonious: the Elizabethan poetry. 121. Taliessin: "Taliessin, chief of the bards, flourished in the sixth century. His works are still preserved and his memory held in high veneration among his countrymen."-G. ¶ 125, 126. "'Fierce wars and faithful loves shall moralise my song' (Spenser, Proeme to The Fairy Queen).”—G. ¶ 127. An allusion to the allegory in The Faerie Queene. ¶ 128-30. "Shakespeare."—G. buskined: the buskin, or high-heeled shoe, stands for tragedy, because the Greek actors wore such a shoe when acting tragedy, to increase their height. ¶ 131. A voice: "Milton."-G. ¶ 133. distant warblings: "The succession of poets after Milton's time."-G. ¶ 134. "The meaning is only that it was lost to his ear from the immense distance. I cannot give up 'lost' for it begins with an 'l.'"-G., in a letter to Mason. 135. Fond-foolish. impious man: Edward I. 142. To triumph: i. e., ultimately, in the way indicated in ll. 109-38; the bard speaks for the Welsh people, not merely for himself.
(249) ODE ON THE PLEASURE ARISING FROM VICISSITUDE.
"Vicissitude" is used in its correct sense of "change from one state to another." The poem was found, after Gray's death, in his notebook of the year 1754. It was unfinished: the third stanza is incomplete; and some fragmentary lines follow the last complete stanza. "I have heard Mr. Gray say that M. Gresset's 'Epître à ma Sœur'  gave him the first idea of this ode."-Mason, Poems of Mr. Gray. The following lines are from Gresset's poem:
O jours de la convalescence!
Les plus simples objets, le chant d'une fauvette,
Mille spectacles, qu'autrefois
On voyoit avec nonchalance,
"O days of convalescence! days of pure delight! It is a new birth, a gleam of immortality. The simplest objects, the warbler's song, the morning of a fine day, the green of the woods, the freshness of a violet, a thousand sights which were before viewed carelessly, to-day transport, present charms which are unknown to indifference, and which the crowd fails to see."
(249) 3. vermeil-vermilion, bright red.
(250) 17-20. These lines were inserted in their present position by Mason; in Gray's notebook they were not with the other lines. 37. Still always.
(251) 42. Chastised chastened, subdued.
(251) THE FATAL SISTERS. "From the Norse tongue. In the Orcades of Thormodus Torfaeus, Hafniae, 1697, folio; and also in Bartholinus."-G. It is probable, however, that Gray had only a smattering of Norse (see Professor Kittredge's discussion of the point in Phelps's edition of Gray) and that his ode is based chiefly upon the Latin translation which accompanied the Norse text in the editions that he refers to above. (The Latin is printed by Phelps; and also by Tovey, with an English translation, in his edition of Gray.) "In the eleventh century, Sigurd, Earl of the Orkney Islands, went with a fleet of ships and a considerable body of troops into Ireland, to the assistance of Sictryg with the silken beard, who was then making war on his father-in-law Brian, King of Dublin: the Earl and all his forces were cut to pieces, and Sictryg was in danger of a total defeat; but the enemy had a greater loss by the death of Brian, their king, who fell in action. On Christmas-day (the day of the battle), a native of Caithness in Scotland saw at a distance a number of persons on horseback riding full speed towards a hill, and seeming to enter into it. Curiosity led him to follow them, till, looking through an opening in the rocks, he saw twelve gigantic figures resembling women: they were all employed about a loom; and as they wove, they sung the following dreadful song; which when they had finished, they tore the web into twelve pieces, and (each taking her portion) galloped six to the north and as many to the south."-G. "The Valkyriur were female divinities, servants of Odin (or Woden) in the Gothic mythology. Their name signifies 'choosers of the slain.' They were mounted on swift horses, with drawn swords in their hands; and in the throng of battle selected such as were destined to slaughter, and conducted them to Valhalla, the hall of Odin, or paradise of the brave; where they attended the banquet, and served the departed heroes with horns of mead and ale.”—G.
(251) 3. Gray compares Paradise Regained, III. 323, 324:
How quick they wheeled, and, flying, behind them shot
(252) 32. the youthful king: Sictryg; see Gray's prefatory statement above. ¶44. a king: Brian; see Gray's prefatory statement. ¶45. Firin-Erin, Ireland.
(253) THE DESCENT OF ODIN. "From the Norse tongue. In Bartholinus, De causis contemnendae mortis, Hafniae, 1689, quarto."-G. The Norse poem is from the Poetic Edda, or collection of Old Norse poetry, and probably belongs to the thirteenth century. Gray seems to have based his ode chiefly upon the Latin translation which Bartholin appended to his edition of the Norse text (Phelps and Tovey, in their editions of Gray, give the Latin, and Tovey translates it.) Balder, the favorite son of Odin, had dreams that his life was
in danger. Frigga, his mother, thereupon made all things swear not to hurt Balder; but she omitted the mistletoe, as too weak to be dangerous. Odin meanwhile descended to the lower world, to learn of an ancient prophetess what danger threatened his son.
(253) 4. Hela's: "Niflheimr, the hell of the Gothic nations, consisted of nine worlds to which were devoted all such as died of sickness, old age, or by any other means than in battle. Over it presided Hela, the Goddess of Death."-G. 17. Taken from Milton's "L'Allegro," l. 59. 22. traced: Phelps says that the original is equally vague, but that Gray probably meant that Odin wrote spells on the tomb of the prophetess; the Latin version has "Literas tumulo imposuit," "He placed letters on the tomb." runic magic. T ancient alphabets of the peoples of northern Europe were called runes, and magical power was often ascribed to them.
(254) 44. bev'rage of the bee: mead, a fermented drink made of honey. ¶55. Hoder's: Hoder was Balder's blind brother; the evil being Loki caused him to slay Balder, unwittingly, with the mistletoe; see Matthew Arnold's "Balder Dead."
(255) 75. What virgins: "Probably the Nornir [Norns, or Fates]. . . As their names signify Time past, present, and future, it is probable they were always invisible to mortals; therefore when Odin asks this question on seeing them, he betrays himself to be a god."-Mason. ¶86. mother of the giant brood: "In the Latin, 'mater trium gigantum.' He means, therefore, probably Angerbode, who, from her name, seems to be 'no prophetess of good,' and who bore to Loki, as the Edda says, three children, Wolf Fenris, the great Serpent of Midgard, and Hela, all of them called giants in that mythology."-Mason. Phelps thinks that the prophetess may be Hela herself. ¶90. Lok: "Lok is the Evil Being, who continues in chains till the Twilight of the Gods approaches. when he shall break his bonds; the human race, the stars, and sun shall disappear, the earth sink in the seas, and fire consume the skies; even Odin himself and his kindred deities shall perish."-G.
(255) SKETCH OF HIS OWN CHARACTER. The lines were written in 1761, and were found, after the poet's death, in one of his notebooks. ¶6. Townshend: Charles Townshend, a brilliant parliamentary orator, and secretary of war in the year when these lines were written; for his fickleness he was nicknamed "the weathercock." Squire: Samuel Squire, an English bishop, for whom Gray seems to have had some contempt (see his letter to Mason, No. 131 in Gosse's edition of Gray, and to Wharton, May 9, 1761).
"This excellent little piece [the "Elegy"] is so much read, and so much admired by everybody, that to say more of it would be superfluous."-The Monthly Review, February, 1751. "The 'Church-Yard Elegy' of Mr. Gray and the 'Elfrida' of Mr. Mason are pieces which show a power and height of genius equal to anything, if properly, that is if judiciously as well as warmly, cultivated."-Ibid., August, 1752.
"I do not know why you should thank me for what you had a right and title to, but attribute it to the excess of your politeness, and the more so because almost no one else has made me the same compliment. As your acquaintance in the university (you say) do me the honour to admire, it would be ungenerous in me not to give them notice that they are doing a very unfashionable thing, for all people of condition are agreed not to admire, nor even to understand. Even my friends tell me they do not succeed, and write me moving topics of consolation on that head; in short, I have heard of nobody but a player [Garrick] and a doctor of divinity [Warburton] that profess their esteem for them. Oh yes! a lady of quality, a friend of Mason's, who is a great reader. She knew there was a compliment to Dryden, but never suspected there was anything said about Shakespeare or Milton, till it was explained to her; and wishes that there had been titles prefixed to tell what they were about."-G.. in a letter to Bishop Hurd, August 25, 1757, referring to "The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard." "We with particular pleasure seize every opportunity of congratulating our country on the productions of real taste and genius. Mr. Gray has already entertained the public with some pieces of lyric poetry which in our opinion would not have disgraced the purest ages of antiquity; and we think the two odes now before us ["The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard"] fully answer the expectation which the world had a right to form from the more early