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A PINDARIO ODE.
[The rude music of a Welsh harper in the streets of Cambridge suggested to Gray the idea which eventually developed itself into this truly excellent lyric. It is founded on a tradition of Wales, that Edward I., while engaged in conquering the country, ordered all the bards that fell into his hands to be put to death. The original plan of the work is thus recorded in one of the author's common-place books: “The army of Edward, as they march through a deep valley (and approach Mount Snowdon), are suddenly stopped by the appearance of a venerable figure, seated on the summit of an inaccessible rock, who, with a voice more than human, reproaches the king with all the misery and desolation which he had brought on his country ; foretells the misfortunes of the Norman race; and, with prophetic spirit, declares that all his cruelty shall never extinguish the noble ardour of poetic genius in this island ; and the men shall never be wanting to celebrate true virtue and valour in immortal strains, to expose vice and infamous pleasure, and boldly censure tyranny and oppression. His song ended, he precipi. tates himself from the mountain, and is swallowed up by the river that rolls at its foot." King Edward's vengeance upon the bards is said to have been aroused by his recognising that they tended to stimulate the warlike spirit of the Welsh mountaineers, and to incite them to offer a determined resistance to the invading armies of England. ]
“ Ruin seize thee, ruthless King !
Confusion on thy banners wait;
They mock the air with idle state.1
I "Mocking the air with colours idly spread."-"King John," act v., scene 1.
2 The hauberk was a texture with steel ringlets, or rings interwoven, forming a coat of mail that sat close to the body, and adapted itself to every motion.
3 Cambria, the ancient name of Wales.
Such were the sounds that o'er the crested pride 1
Of the First Edward scattered wild dismay. As down the steep of Snowdon's shaggy side 2
He wound with toilsome march his long array. Stout Glo'ster 3 stood aghast in speechless trance : * To arms !” cried Mortimer, 4 and couched his quivering
On a rock whose haughty brow
Robed in the sable garb of woe,
“Hark, how each giant oak and desert cave,
Sigh to the torrent's awful voice beneath !
Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe ;
1 “The crested adder's pride.”—Dryden's “Indian Queen."
2 Snowdon was a name given by the Saxons to that mountainous tract which the Welsh themselves call Craigian-eryri (Crags of the Eagles) ; it included all the highlands of Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire, as far east as the river Conway.
3 Gilbert de Clare, surnamed the Red Earl of Gloucester and Here. ford, son-in-law to King Edward.
4 Edmond de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore.
50. E., hauk, hawk, and affix ard. ; literally, wild as the eyes of an untamed falcon or hawk.
6 “Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind."-Milton.
7 Hoel, son of Owen Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, and brother of David and Madoc. His extant poems have been translated by Southey. Llewellyn, a Welsh prince, ally of Simon de Montfort in his rebellion against Henry III. Llewellyn offered a brave resistance to Edward I., but was slain in 1282. His head was subsequently exposed on the Tower.
I. III. Cold is Cadwallo's ? tongue,
That hushed the stormy main : Brave Urien 1 sleeps upon
his craggy bed : Mountains, ye mourn in vain.
Modred 1 whose magic song
On dreary Arvon's a shore they lie,
The famished eagle screams and passes by. Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,
Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes, Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
Ye died amidst your dying country's cries. No more I weep, they do not sleep,
On yonder cliffs a grisly band,
Avengers of their native land :
“Weave the warp and weave the woof, The winding-sheet of Edward's race,
Give ample room and verge enough
She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs,
4 Isabel of France, Edward's second wife, who, in conjunction with her favourite Roger Mortimer, is accredited with having accomplished the murder of her royal husband.
That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate,
From thee be born, who o'er thy country hangs The scourge of Heaven. What terrors round him wait! Amazement in his van, with Flight combined, And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.
“ Mighty victor, mighty lord ! Low on his funeral couch he lies ! 1
No pitying heart, no eye afford
swarm, that in thy noontide beam were born 3
While proudly riding o'er the azure realm In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes ;
Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm : Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway, That, hushed in grim repose, expects his evening prey.
II. III. « Fill high the sparkling bowl, The rich repast prepare.
Reft of a crown he yet may share the feast ; Close by the regal chair
Fell thirst and famine scowl
A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.4 Heard the din of battle bray,
Lance to lance, and horse to horse ? Long years of havoc urge their destined course, 1 Death of Edward II., abandoned by his children, and even robbed in his last moments by his courtiers and his mistress.
2 Edward the Black Prince, dead sometime before his father.
8 Magnificence of the reign of Richard II. (See Froissart, and other contemporary writers.)
4 Richard II. starved to death in Pontefract Castle in 1400.;
And through the kindred squadrons mow their way.?
Ye towers of Julius, London's lasting shame,2 With many a foul and midnight murder fed,
Revere his consort's faith,3 his father's fame, And spare the meek usurper's holy head. 4 Above, below, the rose of snow,5
Twined with her blushing foe we spread ;
Wallows beneath the thorny shade.
Edward, lo! to sudden fate
Half of thy heart we consecrate,8
Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?
1 In allusion to the wars of the Roses, 1455–1485.
2 Henry VI., George Duke of Clarence, Edward V., Richard Duke of York, &c., believed to be murdered secretly in the Tower of London. The oldest part of the structure is vulgarly attributed to Julius Cæsar.
3 Margaret of Anjou, a woman of heroic spirit, who struggled hard to save her husband and her crown.
4 Henry VI., very near being canonised. The line of Lancaster had no right of inheritance to the crown.
5 The white and red Roses, devices of York and Lancaster.
6 The Silver Boar was the badge of Richard III., whence he was usually known in his own time by the name of the Boar.
7 In allusion to the murder of the deposed boy King Edward V. and his brother Richard in the Tower, 1483.
8 Eleanor of Castile died a few years after the conquest of Wales. The heroic proof she gave of her affection for her lord is well known. The monuments of his regret and sorrow for the loss of her are still to be seen at Northampton, Eaddington, Waltham, and other places.