Слике страница
PDF
ePub

is an idea which Apprehension doubts if she has clearly made out: but if “ Father” and “ God” relate to the same Being, the idea is pious, and the Elegy onds better than it begun. Meditation guides to Morality ; Morality inspires Religion ; and Religion swells out into Devotion.

It is surprising that a writer like Gray should think the authority of Petrarch necessary for the justification of the expression, “ trembling hope ;” an expression, which, though it has a little of the concetto in it, has it in less degree than several others he has used without scruple. But Gray was fond of Petrarch, and had no objection that his fondness should be known. In his Notes, he is ostentatious of authorities, in the defence of his expressions. Had it become expedient for him, on any occasion, to use the “joy of grief,” he would, no doubt, have referred his reader to the

Pseudo-Gaelic Poems, which, at a particular time, he wrought up his taste to relish, and almost his understanding to believe authentic. On the present occasion, there was no need to travel so far as Petrarch for an authority; for what is the mode of speaking or writing that will not have its authority in the compositions of every language ? Pope's

trembling, hoping," was at hand.Even the Portefolios of Tate and Brady would have furnished him with " ful mirth.”

Of the 'stanza that Gray once published as part of this Elegy, and afterwards saw cause to withdraw, Criticism chooses to decline the examination, unwilling to shew eagerness to condemn

66

aw

1

There, scatter'd oft, the earliest of the year,
By hands unseen, are showers of violets found;
The Red-breast loves to build and warble there,
And little footsteps lightly print the ground,

him, who has already condemned himself. For the discontinuance of it in the after-editions, Mason has assigned this cause, that it was thought by its author to be awkwardly parenthetical. But there were other reasons that rendered it expedient that it should be suffered to slip out quietly. The same images, delineated, and assembled, nearly in the same manner, are to be found in some of Collins' Pieces, published about 1746. I am aware that to fix imitation upon Gray, is not to bestow originality upon Collins.

Collins. Some of Collins' images can be traced to Pope; and some of Pope's, as well as Collins', to ages of high antiquity. “ By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed,” &c. make part of the wailings of Electra in Sophocles, for the supposed death of Orestes : “ The turf lying light on the breast," (to which a ludicrous contrast is on record) standing now so high in the list of

و

elegiac common places, occurs in the Alcestis of Euripedes ; and Homer has made his Mountain Nymphs (the Fays of those times) plant elms, since supplanted by flowers, around Eetion's grave. Property in fancy is like other property. Priority of appropriation must found the original right; and of that priority our investigation must determine with the record.

Of the writers to whom Gray has done homage for his tenure, I think Pope is not one.

Let it not, however, be imagined, that, though nothing is acknowledged, nothing is owing. The “ Elegy to the Memory of an unfortunate Lady," has given to the “ Elegy written in a Country Church-yard,” many things both in the way of sentiment and design.

The “ storied urn” of Gray, is the “weeping Loves" of Pope ; and “ animated bust," is only an obscure exprespolished marble emu

sion for Pope's lating the face.”

“ What, though no sacred earth allow thee room,
“ Nor hallowed dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb ?"

has furnished the perhaps improved idea expressed in

.... Though mem'ry o'er their tomb no trophies raise, Where, thro' the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault, The pealing anthemi swells the note of praise.

That funeral honours, however

scrupulously paid, cannot“ back from its mansion call the fleeting breath," is also to be found in Pope, though stated in a different way :

So, peaceful, rests without a stone, a name,
What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame ;-
A heap of dust alone remains of thee :
'Tis all thou art; and all the proud shall be !

“ The morn bestowing her earliest tears ;" (poetical phraseology for dew) “ the first roses of the year blowing," &c. are

« ПретходнаНастави »