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learn to respect what they cannot taste, when they are prevented from imputing to a splenetic melancholy what in fact sprung from the most benevolent ofall sensations. I am inclined to believe that the Elegy in a Country Church-yard was begun, if not concluded, at this time also: though I am aware that, as it stands at present, the conclusion is of a later date ; how that was originally, I shall shew in my notes on the poem. But the first impulse of his sorrow for the death of his friend gave birth to a very tender sonnet in English, on the Petrarchian model; and also to a sublime Apostrophe in hexameters, written in the genuine strain of classical majesty, with which he intended to begin one of his books, “De Principiis Cogitandi.” This I shall shortly give the reader; but the sonnet, being completed, I reserve for publication amongst the rest of his poems.
It may seem somewhat extraordinary, that Mr. Gray never attempted any thing in English verse (except the beginning of Agrippina, and a few translations), before the first Ode lately mentioned. Shall we attribute this to his having been educated at Eton, or to what other cause? Certain it is, that when I first knew him, he seemed to set a greater value on his Latin poetry, than on that which he had composed in his native language; and had almost the same foible then, which I have since known him laugh at in Petrarch, when we read that most entertaining of all books, entitled “Memoires pour la vie de François Petrarque tirés de ses æuvres, &c. I am apt to think that the little popularity which M. de Polignac's Anti-Lucretius acquired, after it had been so long and so eagerly expected by the learned, induced Mr. Gray to lay aside his didactic plan. However this may be, he writ no Latin verse after this period; except perhaps some part of the first book of the poem just mentioned. This therefore seems the proper place to introduce that fragment; which being
the most considerable in itself of all his Latin compositions, and perhaps the most laboured of any of his poems, it were to be wished that I could give the reader more insight into his design, than the few scattered papers,
which he has left, enable me to do. It is clear, however, from the exordium itself, that he meant to make the same use of Mr. Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, which Lucretius did of the Dogmas of Epicurus. And the first six lines plainly intimate, that his general design was to be comprised in four books. The 1st. On the origin of our ideas.
Unde Animus scire incipiat—The 2nd. On the distribution of these ideas in the memory.
quibus inchoet orsa
MnemosyneThe 3rd. On the province of reason and its gradual improvement.
Ratio unde, rudi sub pectore, tardum
Augeat imperium-The 4th. On the cause and effects of the passions.
et primum mortalibus ægris
Ira, Dolor, Metus, et Curæ nascantur inanes. But he has not drawn out any of the arguments of these books, except a part of the first; and that only so far as he executed of it. This it will be proper here to insert; and also, for the ease of the reader, to repeat the several parts at the bottom of the subsequent pages.
General plan of the Poem.—First, Invocation to Mr. Locke; Address to Favonius, shewing the use and importance of the design.—Beginning.-Connexion of the soul and body; Nerves, the instruments of sensation.Touch, the first and most extensive sense, described.Begins before the birth; pain, our first idea when born. Seeing, the second sense.—Digressive encomium of
light. The gradual opening and improvement of this sense, and that of hearing, their connexion with the higher faculties of the mind; sense of beauty and order and harmony annexed to them. From the latter, our delight, in eloquence, poetry, and music derived.-Office of the taste and smell.-Internal sense of reflection, whereby the mind views its own powers and operations, compared to a young wood-nymph admiring herself in some fountain.--Admission of ideas, some by a single sense, some by two, others by every way of sensation and reflection. Instance in a person born blind, he has no ideas of light and colours; but he has those of figure, motion, extension, and space, (objects both of the sight and touch.) Third sort, those which make their entrance into the mind by every channel alike; as pleasure, and pain, power, existence, unity, and succession. Properties of bodies, whereby they make themselves known to us. Primary qualities: magnitude, solidity, mobility, texture, and figure. ***
a Plan of the Poem.
b Invocation to Mr. Locke. * It has been already observed in the note on Letter XVII. p. 38, that Mr. Gray's hexameters, besides having the variety of Virgil's pauses, closed also with his elisions. For Virgil, as an attentive reader will immediately perceive, generally introduces one elision, and not unfrequently more, in those lines which terminate the sense. This gives to the versification its last and most exquisite grace, and leaves the ear fully satisfied. Mr. Gray could not fail to observe, and of course to aim at this happy effect of elisions in a concluding line : of which the present poem, in particular, affords indubitable and abundant proofs.
Quin potius duc ipse (potes namque omnia) sanctum
Tuque agres adbibe vacuas, facilesque, Favoni,
dPrincipio, ut magnum fædus Natura creatrix
Ac uti longinquis descendunt montibus amnes
c Use and extent of the subject. e Office of the nervous system.
d Union of the soul and body. * Sensation, the origin of our ideas.
Excipit Oceanus, natorumque ordine longo
& Primas tactus agit partes, primusque minutæ
Circumfusus adhuc : tactus tamen aura lacessit • Jamdudum levior sensus, animamque reclusit.
Idque magis simul, ac solitum blandumque calorem
i Carmine quo, Dea, te dicam, gratissima cæli
Omnia nec tu ideò invalidæ se pandere Menti
8 The touch, our first and most extensive sense. h Sight, our second sense.
Digression on light.