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"Many parallels with the thought of these two lines have been noted, although it is not clear that G[ray]. had any one of them in mind: e.g. Sophocles, Ajax 554-5: 'of woes thou knowest naught, for ignorance is life's extremest bliss'; Terence, Hecyra 286-7: nam nos omnes quibus est alicunde aliquis obiectus labos, / omne quod est interea tempus prius quam id rescitumst lucrost (If our path ahead is blocked with any trouble, all the time before we find it out is always pure gain); Davenant, The Just Italian V i Song: 'Since Knowledge is but sorrow's Spy, / It is not safe to know'; Prior, To the Hon C. Montagu 33-6: 'If We see right, We see our Woes: / Then what avails it to have Eyes? / From Ignorance our Comfort flows: / The only wretched are the Wise.' Edmund Blunden, in a pamphlet entitled The Musical Miscellany (Tokyo, 1949) p. 5, pointed out a close parallel with a song by Lewis Theobald, 'The Invitation' 10-11, in The Musical Miscellany ii (1729) 157: 'Then, like true Sons of Joy, Let's laugh at the Precise: / When Wisdom grows austere, 'tis Folly to be wise.' See also Pope, Essay on Man i 77-85 (showing that 'His happiness depends on his Ignorance to a certain degree') ; Cicero, De Divinat. II ix 22; II Henry IV III i 45, 53-6; and Izaak Walton, Life of Wotton (Wotton's reflections on his school-days at Winchester, noted in the Gentleman's Mag. lxviii (1798) 481). Other 'sources' have been discovered in Euripides, Martial, Montaigne and Robert Heath."
"And here may be the best place to note after Dr Phelps that the 'whole atmosphere of Collins's Ode is similar to that of the Elegy. Cf. especially stanza 10,
''And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,Dr Phelps notes also that Joseph Warton's verses contain some of Gray's pictures, and something of the same train of thought: e.g.:
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil.'' '
''Hail, meek-eyed maiden, clad in sober grey,add:
Whose soft approach the weary woodman loves,
As homeward bent to kiss his prattling babes
Jocund he whistles through the twilight groves.''
''Now every Passion sleeps; desponding Love,The latter stanza might well be the form in embryo of the four rejected stanzas quoted infra, n. on . Dr Phelps remarks that ''the scenery as well as the meditations of the Elegy were by no means original: they simply established more firmly literary fashions which were already becoming familiar.''
And pining Envy, ever-restless Pride;
A holy calm creeps o'er my peaceful soul,
Anger and mad Ambition's storms subside.''
And certainly if the opening stanzas of the Elegy as we now have them were written as early as 1742, their composition was in no way affected by the poems of Warton and Collins; the same must be said even if the 'autumnal verses' of the letter of Sept. 11, 1746, were the Elegy. The spirit of gentle melancholy was in the air; and in 1746 and 1747 found in three young poets, Collins, Joseph Warton and Thomas Warton, that voice to the world at large which is found again in Gray in 1750. For in 1747 Thomas Warton published anonymously these lines, which he had written in his 17th year (1745):
''Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown pilewhere resemblance to the Elegy is closest of all.
Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve
Where thro' some western window the pale moon
Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bow'r
Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
Invests some wasted tow'r:''
Between these three poets communication of ideas was probable; but at this date even Thomas Warton, with whom he afterwards corresponded, was an absolute stranger to Gray. And Gray is so far from feeling that in any of these there were 'kindred spirits' who might 'enquire his fate' that he writes, Dec. 27, 1746:
'Have you seen the Works of two young Authors, a Mr Warton and a Mr Collins, both Writers of Odes? it is odd enough, but each is the half of a considerable Man, and one the counterpart of the other. The first has but little invention, very poetical choice of Expression, and a good Ear, the second a fine fancy, model'd upon the Antique, a bad Ear, great variety of Words, and Images with no choice at all. They both deserve to last some Years, but will not.'
So little are men conscious of that 'stream of tendency' on which they themselves are borne."
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"Approach and read, for thou canst read the Lay Fraser MS.; Gray's first meaning probably was only 'the Lay is there for any one to read.' But by bracketing 'for thou canst read' he has given the words more significance. As Professor Hales says ''reading was not such a common accomplishment that it could be taken for granted.'' The 'hoary headed swain' is perhaps himself 'no scholar' (as he would put it), but presumes that the enquirer is more accomplished.
The change has the further advantage that Gray thus adopts a poetic device, such as Pope's ''Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise.'' Pope, Essay on Man, IV. 260. Or Young (quoted by Mitford without ref.): ''And steal (for you can steal) celestial fire.'' "
"In Gray's original draft this line was followed by the following stanza:
Him have we seen the Green-wood Side along'I rather wonder that he rejected this stanza, as it not only has the same sort of Doric delicacy which charms us peculiarly in this part of the poem, but also completes the account of his whole day: whereas, this evening scene being omitted, we have only his morning walk, and his noontide repose.' (Mason.) Gray probably rejected it as being merely descriptive. 'As to description,' he writes to Dr. Beattie, 'I have always thought it made the most graceful ornament of poetry but never ought to make the subject.'"
While o'er the Heath we hied, our Labours done,
Oft as the Woodlark piped his farewell Song
With whistful Eyes pursue the setting Sun.
Robert Kipniss | Contemporary Fine Art & Original …
"Mason says that, about the same time as the publication in 1747, ''at Mr Walpole's request, Mr Gray sat for his picture to Echart, in which, on a paper which he held in his hand, Mr Walpole wrote the title of this Ode, and to intimate his own high and just opinion of it, as a first production, added this line of Lucan by way of motto:
'Nec licuit populis parvum te, Nile, videre.' ''The full passage, part of a lengthy description of the Nile, runs
Pharsalia, lib. X. l. 296.
''Arcanum Natura caput non prodidit ulli,If this really was the date [footnote: The companion picture of Walpole which hung with it in the Blue Bedchamber at Strawberry Hill is probably later by some years, for it has in the background the famous Gothicized building.] of a portrait by Eckhardt to which Mason refers (a print of which is given in Cunningham's edition of Walpole's Letters, vol. IV. p. 465), it is clear that two years after their reconciliation, Walpole looked upon Gray, still unknown to fame, with the utmost pride and affection. The context of the line from Lucan shows Walpole's drift; in this ode, in which Gray appears for the first time to the world, he is a great and mature, but anonymous poet; just as the Nile, when it first visits the nations, is already a mighty flood, though its sources are unknown."
(Nec licuit populis parvum te, Nile, videre,)
Amovitque sinus, et gentes maluit ortus
Mirari quam nosse tuos.
"G[ray].'s transcript in his Commonplace Book (i 278-9, 284) is dated 'at Stoke Aug: 1742', and is entitled 'Ode, on a distant Prospect of Windsor, & the adjacent Country'. Another MS, now at Eton, (once in the possession of G.'s biographer William Mason, whose nephew, W. Dixon, gave it to Wordsworth), has the same title, but omits 'distant' and adds 'in 1743'. The mistake about the date was probably due to faulty memory, but it may indicate the date when G. made this transcript. There is a photograph of the Eton MS in the Illustrated London News cxxxii (20 June 1908) 896.
When G. sent Walpole his Ode on the Spring in Oct. 1746 (Corresp i 250), he referred to another Ode already in Walpole's possession, which is presumably the present poem. It was published anonymously by Dodsley in a folio pamphlet, price 6d, on 30 May 1747 and was the first of G.'s English poems to appear in print. Its publication was no doubt arranged by Walpole, to whom G. described its reception in Cambridge in mid-June 1747 (Corresp i 283): 'I promise you, few take to it here at all, which is a good sign (for I never knew anything liked here, that ever proved to be so any where else,) it is said to be mine, but I strenuously deny it, and so do all that are in the secret, so that nobody knows what to think; a few only of King's College gave me the lie, but I hope to demolish them; for if I don't know, who should?'
A type-facsimile of the original pamphlet was published at Oxford in 1924. Dodsley included the Ode in his Collection ii 261-4, in 1748, but without separating the stanzas. A few minor variants appear in the two MSS, but no changes to the text were made by G. after the first publication of the Ode. The motto from Menander is written beside in the Commonplace Book but was not printed with the poem until 1768. It has been translated, 'I am a man; a sufficient excuse for being unhappy.' (See A. Meineke, Quaestionum Menandrearum (Berlin, 1818) p. 267; No 263 in 'Incertarum Fabularum Fragmenta'.) Three footnotes were also added in 1768. Three small variants have been noted in the Foulis edition of 1768, which was supervised by James Beattie, who may have been responsible for them."
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Thomas Gray Archive : Texts : Poems : Ode on a …
"After this follows in Fraser MS.,
''The thoughtless World to Majesty may bow''And here,'' says Mason, ''the poem was originally intended to conclude, before the happy idea of 'the hoary-headed Swain &c.' suggested itself to him.''
Exalt the brave, and idolize Success
But more to Innocence their Safety owe
Than Power and Genius e'er conspired to bless
And thou, who mindful of the unhonour'd Dead
Dost in these Notes thy (their written above) artless Tale relate
By Night and lonely Contemplation led
To linger in the gloomy walks of Fate
Hark how the sacred Calm, that broods around
Bids ev'ry fierce tumultuous Passion cease
In still small Accents whisp'ring from the Ground
A grateful Earnest of eternal Peace [Footnote: ''see additional note, p. 292.'']
No more with Reason and thyself at Strife
Give anxious Cares and endless Wishes room
But thro the cool sequester'd Vale of Life
Pursue the silent Tenour of thy Doom''
Mason perhaps converted Walpole by a reference to the state of this MS., which no doubt establishes an interval between the first and second half of the poem. But he ante-dated, it maybe suspected, the composition of the first half.
The Fraser MS. (to judge from the facsimile) has a line drawn along the side of the last three, and possibly meant (as Sir W. Fraser's reprint interprets it) to include the first also of these four stanzas.
The stanzas which follow these four are: Far from the madding crowd's &c. as in the received text (with minor variations to be noted), down to 'fires,' .
All the MS. to the end of the four rejected Stanzas is in a much more faded character; and Mason must be at least so far right that the Poem from 'Far from the madding %c.' was resumed after a considerable interval.
But we have only Mason's authority for the statement that the Elegy was ever meant to end with these four stanzas, and it is very questionable. We may be biased by the completeness of the poem in its published form, - but surely without this contrast to assist our judgment it would have seemed to us to finish badly and abruptly with ''Pursue the silent Tenour of thy Doom.''
And if this ending would not satisfy us it could not have satisfied Gray. Again, it is probable from the MS. that down to 'Doom' the Elegy was all written much about the same time, or as the Germans say, in einem Guss. Suppose then it had reached that point in 1742, and this is probably what Mason means when he suggests that it may have been concluded then; is it conceivable that Gray, who had communicated to Walpole other completed poems of that date, and even the fragmentary , would have kept back the Elegy, which ex hypothesi he must have regarded as finished? Yet Walpole, as we have seen, is certain that Gray sent him only the first three stanzas, two or three years after the year 1742. Surely either these twelve lines were all that Gray had then written, or they were a specimen only of the unfinished poem."
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"Mitford gives these parallels (the exact references are due to Dr Phelps):
William Chamberlayne, Pharonnida (London, 1659, Book IV. canto 5, p. 94):
''Like beauteous flowers which vainly waste the scentFrom Ambrose Philips (1671-1749) The Fable of Thule:
Of odors in unhaunted deserts.''
''Like beauteous flowers, which paint the desert glades,From Young, Universal Passion , Sat. V. ll. 229-232:
And waste their sweets in unfrequented shades.''
''In distant wilds, by human eyes unseenMr Yardley in Notes and Queries (Sept. 1, 1894) suggests that Gray imitated Waller's 'Go, lovely Rose':
She rears her flow'rs, and spreads her velvet green.
Pure gurgling rills the lonely desert trace
And waste their music on the savage race.''
''Tell her that's youngPerhaps this is the starting-point in the line of succession of the poetical idea for Gray: but it passes through Pope and comes nearer in the form:
And shuns to have her graces spied
That, hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.''
''There kept my charms concealed from mortal eye,This idea Pope cherished, for he gave it, in an improved form, to Thomson for the Seasons: the lines in the episode of Lavinia, Autumn, 209-214,
Like roses that in deserts bloom and die.''
Rape of the Lock, iv. 157, 158.
''As in the hollow breast of Apennine,are to be seen, in a handwriting, probably Pope's, in an interleaved copy of the Seasons (ed. 1738) in the British Museum [C 28 E.] Whether Gray had seen these lines, not published until 1744, will depend upon the date we assign to this portion of the Elegy."
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the hills,
So flourished blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia.''
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