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wind-harp, as sometimes erroneously interpreted, but rather the “lyre of Pindar."
“ Pindar styles his own poetry, with its musical accompaniments, Æolian song, Æolian strings, the breath of the Æolian flute.
“The subject and simile, as usual with Pindar, are united. The various sources of poetry, which gives life and lustre to all its touches, are here described; its quiet majestic progress enriching every subject (otherwise dry and barren) with a pomp of diction and luxuriant harmony of numbers; and its more rapid and irresistible course, when swollen and hurried away by the conflict of tumultuous passions.” (Author's note.)
3. Helicon's harmonious springs. Hippocrene and Aganippe, fountains sacred to the Muses, which were located on the slopes of Helicon, a mountain range in Boeotia, eastern Greece.
9. Ceres' golden reign. Ceres, the Roman goddess of the earth and the protectress of agriculture; known as Demeter by the Greeks.
13. Oh! Sovereign of the willing soul. “ Power of harmony to calm the turbulent sallies of the soul. The thoughts are borrowed from the first Pythian of Pindar.” (Author's note.)
14. Solemn-breathing. This compound is borrowed from Milton:
“At last a soft and solemn-breathing sound
Comus, 11. 555--556.
15. Enchanting shell. The first lyre was made from a tortoise shell by Hermes, the messenger-god.
17. Lord of War. Ares (Greek) or Mars (Roman), the god of war. He was a favorite deity with the people of Thrace, the region north of Greece.
20. Perching on the sceptred hand. “This is a weak imitation of some incomparable lines in the same Ode.” (Author's note.)
21. Feathered king. The eagle, sacred to Jove or Zeus.
25. Thee the voice, the dance, obey. “Power of harmony to produce all the graces of motion in the body.” (Author's note.)
27. Idalia's velvet-green. Idalia, a town in the island of Cyprus (eastern Mediterranean) sacred to Venus.
28. Loves. Cupids.
29. Cytherea's day. Cytherea, Venus; called Cytherea because it was in the neighborhood of the island of Cythera that she was said to have risen from the foam of the sea.
37. Graces. Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia, three goddesses, who attended Venus, and sometimes Apollo.
42. Man's feeble race what ills await. “To compensate the real and imaginary ills of life, the Muse was given to mankind by the same Pr ce that sends the day by its cheerful presence, to dispel the gloom and terrors of the night. (Author's note.)
46. Fond. Foolish.
52. Till down the eastern cliffs afar. In a footnote to this line Gray quotes the following from Cowley: –
“Or seen the Morning's well-appointed Star
The lines are not correctly quoted, however. They should be:
“One would have thought 't had heard the Morning crow,
Brutus, an Ode, II. 55–57.
53. Hyperion. One of the Titans; the father of the sun, moon, and stars. The name was sometimes applied to Helios, the son of Hyperion, and god of the sun.
54-65. In climes beyond the solar road, etc. “ Extensive influence of poetic Genius over the remotest and most uncivilized nations: its connection with liberty; and the virtues that naturally attend on it. (See the Erse, Norwegian, and Welsh fragments, the Lapland and American songs.)” (Author's note.) Beyond the solar road. Gray quotes the following in connection with this expression:
“Extra anni solisque vias.”
- VIRGIL, Æneid, Bk. VI, l. 795.
“Tutta lontana dal camin del sole."
- PETRARCH, Canzone, V, I. 48.
66–82. Woods, that wave o'er Delphi's steep, etc. “Progress of Poetry from Greece to Italy, and from Italy to England. Chaucer was not unacquainted with the writings of Dante or of Petrarch. The Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt had travelled in Italy, and formed their taste there. Spenser imitated the Italian writers; Milton improved on them; but this school expired soon after the Restoration, and a new one arose on the French model, which has subsisted ever since." (Author's note.)
66. Delphi's steep. Delphi, a small town in Phocis, northern Greece, near which was located the celebrated oracle of Apollo. 67. Ægean. The ancient Greek name for the Archipel
68. Ilissus. A river flowing through Athens.
69. Mæander's amber waves. Mæander, a river in Asia Minor, proverbial for its windings.
71. How do your tuneful echoes languish. The dwelling
place of the nymph Echo was probably suggested to Gray by Milton:
“Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that livest unseen,
Within thy airy shell;
Comus, 11. 230–232.
77. Nine. See note, l. 16, “Ode on the Spring.”
78. Parnassus. A range of mountains in Doris and Phocis, northern Greece, celebrated as one of the chief seats of Apollo and the Muses.
82. Albion. An ancient name of England.
“If Jonson's learned sock be on,
Milton, L'Allegro, 11. 132–134.
89. Pencil. Paint brush.
99. The living throne, the sapphire blaze. “For the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. ... And above the firmament, that was over their heads, was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire-stone. This was the appearance of the glory of the Lord.” – Ezekiel i. 20, 26, 28. 105. Two coursers of ethereal race.
“Meant to express the stately march and sounding energy of Dryden's rhymes.” (Author's note.)
106. With necks in thunder clothed, and long-resounding pace. Gray quotes the following in connection with the first part of this line:
“Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?"
Job xxx. 19.
The second part of the verse was suggested by Pope :
“Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
- Horace, Bk. II, Epistle I, ll. 267–268.
110. Thoughts that breathe, and words that burn. here quotes from Cowley, but incorrectly:
"Words, that weep, and tears that speak.”
The verse should read:
The Prophet, l. 20.
111. But ah! 'tis heard no more. " We have had in our language no other odes of the sublime kind than that of Dryden on St. Cecilia's Day; for Cowley (who had his merit) yet wanted judgment, style, and harmony, for such a task. That of Pope is not worthy of so great a man. Mr. Mason indeed of late days has touched the true chords, and with a masterly hand, in some of his Choruses, above all in the last of Caractacus: "Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread ? etc."
115. Theban eagle bear. "Pindar compares himself to that bird, and his enemies to ravens that croak and clamor in vain below, while it pursues its flight, regardless of their noise." (Author's note.)
121-123. Yet shall he mount, etc. In these lines Gray characterizes himself, and estimates, in a general way, his own place in the literary world.
122. Vulgar. Common, ordinary.