Page images


IRREGULAR. [This ode was written in honour of the occasion of the Duke of Grafton's being installed as Chancellor of Cambridge University. It was set to music by Dr Randall, and performed in the Senate House of the University on the 1st of June 1769. Concerning this production Gray wrote to his friend Beattie, author of “ The Minstrel,"_"I thought myself bound, in gratitude to his Grace, unasked, to take upon me the task of writing these verses, which are usually set to music on this occasion, I do not think them worth sending you, because they are by nature doomed to live but a single day.” To say the least of it, this piece is fully entitled to take its place with the rest of Gray's Pindaric effusions; and although ostensibly composed to meet a temporary emergency, it bids fair with them to hold a long lease of the Future in the Republic of Letters.]


"Hence, avaunt, ('tis holy ground)

Comusa and his midnight-crew, And Ignorance with looks profound,

And dreaming Sloth of pallid hue, Mad Sedition's cry profane, Servitude that hugs her chain, Nor in these consecrated bowers Let painted Flattery hide her serpent-trainin flowers. Nor Envy base, nor creeping Gain, Dare the Muse's walk to stain, While bright-eyed Science watches round : Hence, away, 'tis holy ground ! "


From yonder realms of empyrean * day
Bursts on my ear the indignant lay :

I From the French, avant; en avant ! forward !

2 See Milton's "Comus,” 103, when Comus himself talks of “midnight shout and revelry."

3 Flattery is represented here as of human figure above, but the lower parts are those of a serpent.

4 Of dazzling and unfading brilliancy. The word is derived from the Greek ûp, identical in origin and meaning with our “fire."

There sit the sainted Sage, the Bard divine,
The few whom Genius gave to shine
Through every unborn age, and undiscovered clime.
Rapt in celestial transport they,
Yet hither oft a glance from high
They send of tender sympathy
To bless the place, where on their opening soul
First the genuine ardour stole.
'Twas Milton struck the deep-toned shell,
And, as the choral warblings round him swell,
Meek Newton's self bends from his state sublime,
And nods his hoary head, and listens to the rhyme.


“ Ye brown o’er-arching groves,

That Contemplation loves,
Where willowy Camus 1 lingers with delight !

Oft at the blush of dawn

I trod your level lawn, Oft wooed the gleam of Cynthia 2 silver-bright In cloisters dim, far from the haunts of Folly, With Freedom by my side, and soft-eyed Melancholy. 3


But hark! the portals sound, and pacing forth

With solemn steps and slow,
High potentates, and dames of royal birth,
And mitred fathers in long order go :
Great Edward, 4 with the lilies on his brow

1 The Cam.

2 The moon, so called from Mount Cynthus, in Delos, the birthplace of Artemis or Diana, who is identified with the luminary of night, as her brother Apollo is with that of day.

3 Every figure and idea in the above stanza is taken from Milton, especially from his “Il Penseroso.”

4 Edward III., who added the fleur-de-lys of France to the arms of England. To this the poet refers in “the lilies on his brow." He founded Trinity College,

From haughty Gallia torn,

And sad Chatillon, 1 on her bridal morn,
That wept her bleeding Love, and princely Clare, 2
And Anjou's heroine, and the paler Rose, 4
The rival of her crown and of her woes,

And either Henry 5 there,
The murdered Saint and the majestic Lord,

That broke the bonds of Rome.
(Their tears, their little triumphs o'er,
Their human passions now no more,
Save Charity, that glows beyond the tomb.)

All that on Granta's 6 fruitful plain

Rich streams of regal bounty poured,
And bade these awful fanes and turrets rise,
To hail their Fitzroy's ? festal morning come ;

And thus they speak in soft accord
The liquid language of the skies :


.“What is grandeur, what is power ?
Heavier toil, superior pain.
What the bright reward we gain ?

1 Mary de Valentia, Countess of Pembroke, daughter of Gray de Chatillon, Comte de St Paul in France. Tradition tells us that her husband, Audemar de Valentia (Aymer de Valence), Earl of Pembroke, was slain at a tournament on the day of his nuptials. She founded Pembroke College.

2 Elizabeth de Burg, Countess of Clare, was wife of John de Burg, son and heir of the Earl of Ulster, and daughter of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, by Joan of Acres, daughter of Edward I. Hence the ephithet princely. She founded Clare Hall in Cambridge.

3 Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. She founded Queen's College.

4 The representative of the White Rose of York, as Margaret of Anjou was of the Red Lancastrian, Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV., is referred to.

5 The murdered saint, Henry VI. ; the majes!ic lord, Henry VIII. Henry VI. founded King's College ; Henry VIII. greatly enriched Trinity College.

6 The tutelar goddess of the University.
7 Duke of Grafton. (See Introductory Note.)

The grateful memory of the good.
Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee's collected treasures sweet,
Sweet Music's melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of Gratitude.”


Foremost and leaning from her golden cloud

The venerable Margaret 1 see ! “Welcome, my noble son,” (she cries aloud),

To this, thy kindred train, and me: Pleased in thy lineaments we trace

A Tudor's fire, a Beaufort's grace. Thy liberal heart, thy judging eye, The flower unheeded shall descry, And bid it round heaven's altar shed The fragrance of its blushing head : Shall raise from earth the latent gem To glitter on the diadem.


Lo! Granta waits to lead her blooming band,

Not obvious, not obtrusive, she
No vulgar praise, no venal incense flings;

Nor dares with courtly tongue refined
Profane thy inborn royalty of mind :

She reveres herself and thee.
With modest pride to grace thy youthful brow,
The laureate wreath, that Cecil 4 wore, she brings

And to thy just, thy gentle hand,

1 Countess of Richmond and Derby, the mother of Henry VII. She founded St John's and Christ's Colleges.

2 For the other side of this picture of the Duke of Grafton, consult the letters of Junius.

3 Retiring and modest worth.

4 Cecil, Lord Treasurer; Burleigh was Chancellor of the University in Elizabeth's reign.

Submits the fasces 1 of her sway,
While spirits blest above and men below,
Join with glad voice the loud symphonious lay.

“ Through the wild waves as they roar,

With watchful eye and dauntless mien.

Thy steady course of honour keep,
Nor fear the rocks nor seek the shore ; 2

The star of Brunswick smiles serene,
And gilds the horrors of the deep.”

1 A bundle of rods tied together, with an axe in the centre; the emblem of supreme power, borne by the attendant lictors before the chief magistrates of Rome. 2 Compare Horace, Ode ii., 10 :

Rectius vives, Licini, neque altum

Semper urgendo ; neque dum procellas
Cautus horrescis, nimium premendo

Litus iniquum."
Which may be rendered thus:-

“ Licinius, right your life will be,

Neither to rashly dare the sea,
Nor yet permit the tempest's roar
To chain you timid to the shore.”

« PreviousContinue »