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is thought creditable to apprehend and feel.
Thomson, indeed, has asked the following question :
Falsely luxurious, will not man arise,
But the motive contained in this expostulation is not physical, but moral ; it is directed to those that are already awake, but who, from laziness, “ con-tinúe a-bed, when they should be stir
- Twitter," applied to the swallow, is one of those words whose measure and articulation are supposed to resemble what they denote. Gray found it in Dryden ; and, as Thomson had done before him, took it on trust. But what shall we say of the “ clarion of the cock?" It is, no doubt, allowed to poetry to exalt the little, by comparing it to the great; but, Sunt certi fines. To swell out an insignificant little being, by an accumulation of glaring trappings, and to compare his shrill diminutive pipe to a bold instrument of martial music, is to subject the animal as well as the description, to ridicule.--Incredulus odi.
When Cupid, in an Ode of Anacreon, gives the name of “ winged dragon” to a bee, and calls the puncture received from his sting a “mortal wound," the levity of the piece, as well as the design, reconciles us to the hyperbole. In making his grey Ay “ wind a born,” Milton has gone fully as far as he ought. It is not enough for the justification of Gray, that his offence is not greater than Milton's ;—that “ clarion” is not more to the cock, than “ horn" is to the beetle. The
justness of poetical description has nothing to do with the doctrine of ratios. Hamlet's advice concerning chaste playing, applies equally to chaste description. There may be an “outstepping the modesty of nature” in both.
If " straw-built shed” be meant as descriptive of a swallow's nest, it is an affected expression, and adopted in defiance of observation. A shed is a roof or covering: the roof or covering has, in the case of a swallow's nest, nothing necessarily to do with straw ; nor is it built by the swallow at all.
In the sixth stanza, it is assumed, that “ the blazing hearth burns ;" although it is obvious, that the hearth neither blazes nor burns; but the fire upon the hearth. But more than this might be forgiven to the picture of domestic happiness which the stanzą holds out, and which is drawn with great interest, and much simplicity.
Thomson had said, in a case somewhat similar,
In vain for him th' officious wife prepares
Here are the same images. The blazing fire; the busy wife, plying her evening care; and the children, anxious for the return of their father, by both affectedly denominated sire.—They occur also in nearly the same order.", The image of the children, however, Gray has improved by the addition of a tender stroke, not in the original :
Nor climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
In the seventh quatrain, is contained the discriminated catalogue of the dead, already alluded to; and, in the eighth, the caveat to Grandeur and Ambition. Of this latter stanza, however, the last two lines serve little other purpose than to complete the number to four. The idea was already fully in our possession. “ Grandeur" is but “ Ambition” in his Sunday's clothes. Ambition's
Ambition's " mockery," and Grandeur's “ disdainful smile," are the same: and the “ short, but simple annals of the poor,” are their “ useful toil; homely joys; and obscure destiny." But this is a fault chargeable on Gray, throughout the whole Elegy. In every description we recognize the rhetorician; studiously presenting his object in a multitude of different aspects ; and creating