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“And thou, who mindful of th' unhonored dead

Dost in these notes their 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 every fierce tumultuous passion cease;
In still small accents whispering from the ground

A grateful earnest of eternal Peace.
“No more with reason and thyself at strife,

Give anxious cares and endless wishes room;
But thro’ the cool sequestered vale of life

Pursue the silent tenor of thy doom.”

73. Madding. Gray's use of this form of the word, no doubt, has had much to do with its acceptance.

81. Spelt by the unlettered Muse. Engraved by an uneducated person.

92. E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires. Gray here quotes from Petrarch:

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“Ch'i veggio nel pensier, dolce mio fuoco,

Fredđa una lingua, e due begli occhi chiusi
Rimaner doppo noi pien di faville.”
(These, my sweet fair, so warns prophetic thought,
Closed thy bright eye, and mute thy poet's tongue
E'en after death shall still with sparks be fraught.)

Sonnet 170, 11. 12-14.

95. Chance. Perchance.

100. To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. After this verse the following stanza occurs in the original manuscript:“Him have we seen the greenwood side along,

While o'er the heath we hied our labors done,
Oft as the woodlark piped her farewell song,

With wistful eyes pursue the setting sun.'

Milton uses

Lawn. Here, an open space in the wood. the word in the same way:

“Together both, ere the high lawns appeared

Under the opening eye-lids of the Morn,
We drove afield.”

Lycidas, ll. 25–27.

105–112. Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn, etc. These two stanzas are engraved on a monument to Gray in Stoke Park near the church-yard.

116. Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn. After this verse Gray originally inserted the following stanza:

“There scattered 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.”

119. Science. Knowledge in general.


The “Ode on the Spring' was written at Stoke in June, 1742, but was not published until 1748, when it appeared under the title “Ode,” in Dodsley's “Collection of Poems by Several Hands."

1. Hours. In classical mythology, the Hore; goddesses of the seasons.

“The Graces and the rosy-bosomed Hours,
Thither all their bounties bring.”

Milton, Comus, 11. 986–987.

5. Attic warbler. The nightingale; it is common in the province of Attica, eastern Greece.

"Where the Attic bird
Trills her thick-warbled notes the summer long."

- Milton, Paradise Regained, Bk. IV, II. 245–246.

“ 'Tis the merry nightingale That crowds and hurries and precipitates With fast, thick warble his delicious notes."

-COLERIDGE, The Nightingale, 11. 43–45.

14. O'er-canopies the glade. Gray quotes from Shakespeare in connection with this line:

"A bank O’ercanopied with luscious woodbine.” Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Sc. I, 11. 249, 251.

16. Muse. One of the nine goddesses who presided over poetry, the arts and sciences.

20. Indigent. Destitute, needy.

27 And float amid the liquid noon. Gray here quotes from Virgil:

Nare per aestatem liquidam.”
(To float through the clear summer air.)

- Georgics, Bk. IV, 1. 59.

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30. Quick-glancing to the sun. Gray here quotes from Milton:

“Sporting with quick glance
Shew to the sun their waved coats drop'd with gold.”

- Paradise Lost, Bk. VII, II. 405-4ng

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31-50. io Contemplation's sober eye, etc. Gray, in a letter to Walpole, admitted that he borrowed these ideas from Green: “I send,” he wrote, "a bit of a thing for tro reasons; first, because it is one of your favorites, Mr. M. Green; and next, because I would do justice. The thought on which my second ode (the “Ode on the Spring" was the

second of Gray's odes in Dodsley's “Collection”'] turns is manifestly stole from hence; not that I knew it at the time, but having seen this many years before, to be sure it imprinted itself on my memory, and forgetting the author, I took it for my own.” The subject was the “Queen's Hermitage.”

A part of the poem was then quoted, including the following lines:

“The thinking sculpture helps to raise

Deep thoughts, the genii of the place:
To the mind's ear, and inward sight,
There silence speaks, and shade gives light:
While insects from the threshold preach,
And minds dispos'd to musing teach;
Proud of strong limbs and painted hues,
They perish by the slightest bruise;
Or maladies begun within
Destroy more slow life's frail machine;

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Some born to creep have liv’d to fly
And chang'd earth's cells for dwellings high:
And some that did their six wings keep,
Before they died, been forced to creep.
They politics, like ours profess;
The greater prey upon the less.
Some strain on foot huge loads to bring,
Some toil incessant on the wing:
Nor from their vigorous schemes desist
Till death; and then they are never missed.
Some frolic, toil, marry, increase,
Are sick and well, have war and peace;
And broke with age in half a day,
Yield to successors, and away.

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44. A solitary fly. Gray early formed the habit of spending much of his time alone.

Gray was but

49. Thy sun is set, thy spring is gone. twenty-five when he wrote this poem.


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The “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” was written at Stoke in August, 1742, but did not appear in print until 1747. It was the first of Gray's English pieces to be published.

The motto, which translated, reads, “Because I am a man, a sufficient excuse for being miserable,” is from Menander's “Incert. Fragment,” l. 382. 1. Antique. Ancient; not in the


4. Henry's holy shade. “King Henry the Sixth, Founder of the College.” (Author's note). Although never canonized, Henry the Sixth was regarded as a saint.

6. Windsor's heights. The site of Windsor Castle, the royal palace.

9. Hoary Thames. Poets frequently refer to rivers as being old.

“But Thame was stronger and of better stay;
Yet seem'd full aged by his outward sight
With head all hoary and his beard all gray,
Deawed with silver drops that trickled downe alway."
- SPENSER, Faerie Queene, Bk. IV, Canto XI, Stanza 25.
Next Camus, reverend sire, went footing slow.”

- MILTON, Lycidas, 1. 103.

“In that blest moment from his oozy bed
Old father Thames advanced his rev'rend head.”

- POPE, Windsor Forest, II. 329-330.

14. A stranger yet to pain. Gray had in mind the happy school days spent with his bosom friend, Richard West,

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