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Alas ! regardless of their doom

The little victims play ;
No sense have they of ills to come,

Nor care beyond to-day :
Yet see how all around them wait
The ministers of human fate.

And black Misfortune's baleful train !
Ah, show them where in ambush stand
To seize their prey, the murderous band,

Ah, tell them they are men !1
These shall the Fury-Passions tear,

The vultures? of the mind,
Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,

And Shame that skulks behind ;
Or pining Love shall waste their youth,
Or Jealousy with rankling tooth

That inly 3 gnaws the secret heart :
And Envy wan, 4 and faded Care,
Grim-visaged, comfortless Despair,

And Sorrow's piercing dart.
Ambition this shall tempt to rise,

Then whirl 5 the wretch from high,
To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,

And grinning 6 Infamy.
The stings of Falsehood those shall try,
And hard Unkindness' altered eye,

That mocks the tear it forced to flow;
And keen Remorse with blood defiled,
And moody Madness laughing wild

Amid severest woe.
1 Human, and subject to the ills incident to humanity.

2 In illusion to the classical fable of the vulture preying upon the vitals of Prometheus.

3 Poetic for inwardly.
4 A.-8., wanian, connected with wane.
* An onomatopoetic word.
6 A.-S., grinnian, to distort the face.

Lo ! in the vale of years 1 beneath

A grisly a troop are seen,
The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their queen :

: 3
This racks 4 the joints, this fires the veins,
That very labouring sinew strains,

Those in the deeper vitals rage :
Lo! Poverty, to fill the band,
That numbs the soul with icy hand,

And slow-consuming Age.

To each his sufferings ! all are men

Condemn'd alike to groan :
The tender for another's pain

The unfeeling for his own.
Yet, ah ! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late

And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy 5 their Paradise :
No more :—where ignorance is bliss

'Tis folly to be wise.

1 “Or, for I am declined into the vale of years."-Shakspeare. 2 A.-S., grislic, grayish, usually connected with associations of horror. 3 Death is made to follow the gender of the Latin mors.

4 One member of “the grisly troop." Racks, subjects to the torture of the rack, a mediæval instrument of punishment. 5 εν τω φρονείν γάρ μηδέν ήδιστος βίος έως το χαίρειν και το λυπείσθαι μάθης.–

Sophocles. .
Which may be rendered -

For life is happiest ere thought is born,
Ere thou hast learned to triumph or to mourn.





[This piece was written in the spring of 1747, at the request of Walpole, who capriciously wished to commemorate the death of a cat of his which had been accidentally drowned. As a rule, poems cannot, like boots, be made to order. One spontaneous impulse of the poetic soul is more effective inspiration than even a royal order for one hundred iambic feet of elegy. Fancy one of the first scholars in Europe, as Gray was, backing his Pegasus into harness to gallop up Parnassus in memory of a bandrons drowned in a tub. Burns might have managed such a drive with pathos, Wordsworth with interest, or Tom Hood with humour. But, of course, Gray dragged in his Nereids and other classical machinery (without which he could hardly move a single peg) to bear upon the subject of his cat-elegy—a few pedantic school-boy rhymes of incongruous nonsense. Gray himself was never pleased with the piece ; Dr Johnson was dis-pleased with it, and its seems unlikely indeed that posterity shall reverse their judgment. The China vase in which feline Selima was drowned is still preserved at Knowsley, a seat of the Earl of Derby.]

'Twas on a lofty vase's side
Where China's gayest art had dyed

The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,

Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared ;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,

The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes

She saw; and purred applause.
Still had she gazed ; but ʼmidst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,

The Genii 1 of the stream.

1 Singular, genius ; tutelar spirit, guardi in deity.




Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view

Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw :
A whisker first, and then a claw,

With many an ardent wish,
She stretched, in vain, to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise ?

What cat's averse to fish ?

Presumptuous maid ! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,

Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled,)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,

She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood,
She mewed to every watery god,

Some speedy aid to send.
No Dolphin came, no Nereid? stirred,
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.

A favourite has no friend !
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived
Know one false step is ne'er retrieved,

And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts is lawful prize,

Nor all that glisters, gold.

1 Purple ; the Latin ostrum, obtained from a shell-fish mures, found on the sea-coast near Tyre.

2 The Nereids were sea-nymphs, fifty in number, daughters of Nereus.



[SIR WALTER Scott, in his diary of a voyage to Shetland in 1814, makes mention of the stacks of Duncansby, near which the Caithness man saw the twelve gigantic females, who sung the following weird and terrible verses. Scott records that “a clergyman, while some remains of the Norse were yet spoken in North Ronaldsha, carried thither the translation of Gray, then newly published, and read it to some of the old people as referring to the ancient history of their islands.

But as soon as he had proceeded a little way, they exclaimed they knew it very well in the original, and had often şung it to himself when he asked them for an old Norse song. They called it • The Enchantress.”

The following is Gray's note of explanation :-"In the eleventh century, Sigurd, Earl of the Orkney Islands, went to Ireland with a fleet and a considerable body of troops to the aid of Sigtryg with the silken beard, who was then at war with his father-in-law, Brian, King of Dublin. The Earl and all his army were cut to pieces, and Sigtryg was in danger of a total defeat; but the enemy suffered a greater loss by the death of Brian, who fell in the action. On Christmas-day (the day of the battle), a native of Caithness, in Scotland, saw at a distance a number of persons on horseback riding at full speed towards a hill, and seeming to enter it. Curiosity led him to follow them, till, looking through an opening in the rocks, he saw twelve gigantic figures resembling women ;1 they were all employed about a loom, and as they wove, they sang the following dreadful song, which, when they had finished, they tore the web into twelve pieces, and, each taking her portion, galloped six to the north and as many to the south." The original of the Fatal Sisters is supposed to have been written in the Norwegian about the year 1029.]

Now the storm begins to lower,2

(Haste, the loom of Hell prepare), Iron sleet of arrowy shower

Hurtles in the darkened air.

1 The Valkyrmir (Choosers of the Slain) were female divinities, servants of Odin, in the Gothic mythology. They rode on swift horses, and had drawn swords in their hands, and in the throng of battle selected such as were destined to slaughter, and conducted them to Valhalla, the hall of Odin, or paradise of the brave, where they attended the banquet, and served the departed heroes with horns of mead and ale.

2 Danish loeren, to gather in a dark and threatening attitude ; not oonnected with low.

3 A not very euphonious and nearly obsolete world, haviog some affinity with the modern hustle and hurl.

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