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20. The dragon-son of Mona stands. “The red Dragon is the device of Cadwallader, which all his descendants bore on their banners." (Author's note.) Cadwallader, Owen. Mono. Anglesea, northern Wales.
25. Talymalfra's rocky shore. Talymalfra, a small bay on the northeastern coast of Anglesea; the scene of the battle.
26. Echoing to the battle's roar. Gray originally included the following lines after this verse:
“Checked by the torrent-tide of blood,
THE DEATH OF HOEL
“The Death of Hoel” was probably written in 1764 and first appeared in print in 1775. It is a free translation of a fragment of the Welsh poem, Gododin,” by Aneurin, a bard of the sixth century. Gray found Aneurin's composition in Evans's “Specimens of the Welsh Poetry,” the same source from which he drew “The Triumphs of Owen.”
“Gododin” is a heroic poem celebrating the battle of Cattraeth in which Aneurin and a number of his companions took an active part. The bard and two others were all that escaped death, Conan being one of them. (See next poem.)
3. Deïra's squadrons. Deïra. Yorkshire, in northern England.
11. Cattraeth’s vale. Near Richmond, Yorkshire.
14. Chains of regal honor deck. The Celtic nobility wore gold collars to designate their rank.
“Conan,” like “The Death of Hoel," was probably written in 1764 and first appeared in print in 1775. It also is a free translation of a fragment of “Gododin.” (See introductory note to “The Death of Hoel.”)
2. Build to him the lofty verse. Gray borrowed this from Milton:
- Lycidas, ll. 10–11.
SKETCH OF HIS OWN CHARACTER
Gray wrote this sketch of his own character in 1761, and put it in one of his pocket-books, where it was found later.
6. But left church and state to Charles Townshend and Squire. Charles Townshend. Chancellor of the Exchequer (1767). Squire. Dr. Samuel; Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and later Bishop of St. David's.
This poem was sent in a letter to Mason on July 16, 1765; it was first published in 1853.
1. Mistress Anne. Mason's servant at Yörk.
3. A right proper man. A living being in contrast to “now a book.”
5–7. Much have I borne from cankered critic's spite, etc. A reference to the many criticisms on and editions of Shakespeare's works which were being published at the time Gray wrote these stanzas.
12. By residence, by marriage, and sore eyes. Residence. Mason was not satisfied with his residence at York Cathedral. Marriage. Mason was to be married soon. Sore eyes. Mason was afflicted with weak eyes.
21. Clouet. A celebrated cook.
Gray wrote this song in 1761 “to an old air of Geminiani.” It was composed at the request of Miss Speed, a friend of Gray, and the heroine of " A Long Story.'
1. Thyrsis. A name frequently applied in verse to a rustic lover.
A LONG STORY
A Long Story” was written in the summer of 1750, and was first published in 1753 in the edition of Gray's verse entitled “Six Poems." It was composed in a spirit of fun in celebration of a visit made Gray by two ladies, Lady Schaub and Miss Harriet Speed, the latter of whom became a close friend of the poet. (See introductory note to
Song.”) 2. An ancient pile. The mansion of Sir Edward Coke at Stoke-Poges, occupied by Lady Cobham at the time Gray wrote “A Long Story.”
11. My grave Lord-Keeper led the brawls. Lord-Keeper. Hatton, preferred by Queen Elizabeth for his graceful person and fine dancing.” (Author's note.) Brawls. A kind of dance resembling a cotillon.
16. Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it. Pope. A reference to the controversies between Pius V and Queen Elizabeth. Spaniard. Gray had in mind the defeat of the Spanish Armada, which occurred in 1588.
23. A brace of warriors. Lady Schaub and Miss Speed. (See introductory note.)
25. The first came cap-a-pee from France. Lady Schaub, dressed from head to foot in French style.
29. The other Amazon. Miss Speed.
31. Cobham. Lady Schaub and Miss Speed were staying with Lady Cobham. (See note, 1. 2, above.)
35. Melissa is her "nom de guerre." Melissa. A kindly disposed fairy mentioned in Italian literature. Nom de guerre. Literally, a war-name.
37. Capuchine. “A garment for women, consisting of a cloak and hood, resembling, or supposed to resemble, that of capuchin, monks.” (Johnson.)
41. Mr. P—t. Mr. Purt, a neighbor of Gray.
51. High commission. A reference to the edict issued by Henry the Fourth against the Welsh bards.
80. A spell. Gray was not at home when the ladies called, so they left a note on his table.
99. The lady Janes and Joans repair. A humorous allusion to the belief that the spirits of the great ladies whose portraits hung on the walls sometimes walked.
103. Styack. “The House-keeper." (Author's note.)
115. Squib. “Groom of the Chambers." (Author's note.)
116. Groom. “The Steward.” (Author's note.)
120. Macleane. “A famous highwayman hanged the week before." (Author's note.)
129. Prudes. The spirits of the ladies in the portraits.
135. Square-hoods. The ladies in the portraits; pictured as wearing peaked hoods.
144. Rubbers. The odd game at cards when the players have won an equal number.
ODE ON THE PLEASURE ARISING FROM
The “Ode on the Pleasure Arising from Vicissitude," which Gray left unfinished, was probably written in 1754– 1755, but was not published until 1775, four years after the poet's death. Mason, who was given charge of his literary effects, found the following outline among his papers: “Contrast between the winter past and coming spring.
Joy owing to that vicissitude. Many who never feel I that delight. Sloth. Envy. Ambition. How much
happier the rustic who feels it, tho’ he knows not how.”
THE ALLIANCE OF EDUCATION AND
“The Alliance of Education and Government” was first published in 1775, the exact date of its composition being unknown. Gray never finished it, although his friends urged him to do so. Mason wrote the following commentary for it, the material for which he discovered among the poet's papers. (See introductory note to the “Ode on the Pleasure Arising from Vicissitude.”)
“The author's subject being The necessary Alliance between a good Form of Government and a good Mode of Education, in order to produce the Happiness of Mankind, the Poem opens with two similes; an uncommon kind of exordium; but which I suppose the poet intentionally chose, to intimate the analogical method he meant to pursue in his subsequent reasonings.
“1st, He asserts that men without education are like sickly plants in a cold or barren soil (1. 1 to 5, and 8 to 12); and 2dly, he compares them, when unblest with a just and wellregulated government, to plants that will not blossom or bear fruit in an unkindly and inclement air (1. 5 to 9, and 13 to 22). Having thus laid down the two propositions he means to prove, he begins by examining into the characteristics which (taking a general view of mankind) all men have in common one with another (1. 22 to 39); they covet pleasure and avoid pain (1. 31); they feel gratitude for benefits (1. 34); they desire to avenge wrongs, which they effect