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For he ne'er could be true, she averred,

Who could rob a poor bird of his young;
And I loved her the more when I heard

Such tenderness fall from her tongue.
“I have heard her with sweetness unfold

How that pity was due to a dove,
That it ever attended the bold,

And she called it the sister of Love;
But her words such a pleasure convey,

So much I her accents adore,
Let her speak, and whatever she say,

Methinks I should love her the more.
“Can a bosom so gentle remain

Unmoved when her Corydon sighs ?
Will a nymph that is fond of the plain

These plains and this valley despise ?
Dear regions of silence and shade,

Soft scenes of contentment and ease,
Where I could have pleasingly strayed,

If aught in her absence could please.”

a

XLIII.

GRAY, COLLINS,

OTHER EIGHTEENTH CENTURY POETS,

AKENSIDE, BEATTIE.

NEAR

TEAR Shenstone in age was THOMAS GRAY, who has made himself immortal by one poem,

and that one of the best in our language, - the Elegy in a Country Churchyard. He has written several odes, one

1716-1771 to Adversity, another On a Distant Prospect of Eton College, both far above the average in merit. But the Elegy overshadows all else he has done, and is dear to all lovers of good poetry. Its merit was recognized, too, from the time it first appeared, — which is a little unusual. It nearly always happens that really great works are not known to be great till time has sat in judgment upon them; it takes distance to show men how great they really are.

Gray seems to have been like the youth described in his Elegy, contemplative, sad, a man of fastidious tastes, and not quite at home in a rough world. His early life had been clouded by unhappiness; and when childhood, the background of life, is obscured by sadness, the after-life often takes on a tinge of gloom. The Elegy is doubtless a poem that you already know by heart. Not so familiar, perhaps, are two other fine odes of his, The Bard and The Progress of Poetry. These are, however, much more artificial than the Elegy, which owes its power to the fact that it touches so many responsive chords in the human heart. Another little poem, one of his shortest odes, To Spring, has something of this same sympathetic quality, and also has those touches descriptive of scenes and sounds in nature, which are such marked beauties of the Elegy. For instance, the description of the insect youth upon the wing is a dainty bit of word-painting ; while “through the peopled air the busy murmur glows,” almost equals the lines, “ The beetle wheels his droning flight, While drowsy tinklings lull the distant fold,” in the Elegy. But we will read the Ode on the Spring :

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“Still is the toiling hand of Care;

The panting herds repose :
Yet hark, how through the peopled air

The busy murmur glows !
The insect youth are on the wing,
Eager to taste the honied spring,
And float amid the liquid noon :

Some lightly o'er the current skim,

Some show their gayly-gilded trim,
Quick glancing to the sun.

“ To Contemplation's sober eye

Such is the race of man :
And they that creep, and they that fly,

Shall end where they began.
Alike the busy and the gay
But flutter through life's little day,
In Fortune's varying colors drest;

Brushed by the hand of rough Mischance,

Or chilled by Age, their airy dance
They leave, in dust to rest.

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WILLIAM COLLINS had one of those natures that so often form a poet: he had a head full of fancies, but

1720-1756 an organization too delicate to bear the hard uses of the world. While in college he wrote a series of Oriental Eclogues, which he laughed at himself in later years, saying they might just as appropriately have been called “ Irish Eclogues.” After this he wrote and published his Odes, which fell dead from the press. The unhappy poet, disregarded and poor, never recovered from this disappointment. He led a gloomy, morbid life for several years, often in debt, and sometimes in dissipation. Samuel Johnson (the great Dr. Johnson) tells us that once when he

went to see the poet, a bailiff was lurking outside his lodgings, ready to arrest him for debt. Yet Collins was a man as profound in learning as he was rich in fancy. Thus the world often uses the men best able to serve it. In the midst of his distress an uncle left him a legacy of two thousand pounds. But it was too late. He showed his bitterness by buying the edition of his Odes which had been published, and putting it into the flames. Not long after, he became insane, so that he was obliged to be shut up in a madhouse. Death came mercifully when he was thirty-six years old, — ten years after he had published his volume of poetry.

His Odes are on divers subjects, - Pity, Fear, Liberty, Simplicity, etc. The one best known is the Ode to the Passions, which is in almost every poetical collection; that which I like best is on Evening, and I quote it for you. It is a very delicate and tender poem, like the hues of a soft sunset. In those days of artificial poetry there are few poems that can compare with this for natural

grace ; and some of the lines, as where he speaks of Evening with dewy fingers drawing “the gradual, dusky veil,” remind one of Milton's early poems :

ODE TO EVENING.

If aught of oaten stop, or pastoral song,
May hope, oh, pensive Eve, to soothe thy modest ear

Like thy own brawling springs,

Thy springs and dying gales,
O nymph reserved, while now the bright-haired sun
Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts,

With brede ethereal wove,

O’erhang his wavy bed
Now air is hushed, save where the weak-eyed bat,
With short, shrill shriek flies by on leathern wing;

Or where the beetle winds

His small but sullen horn,
As oft he rises midst the twilight path,
Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum.

Now teach me, maid composed,
To breathe some softened strain,

Whose numbers, stealing through thy darkening vale,
May not unseemly with its stillness suit,

As, musing slow, I hail
Thy genial loved return!

For when thy folding star, arising, shows
His paly circlet, at his warning lamp,

The fragrant Hours, and elves
Who slept in buds the day,

And many a nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge,
And sheds the freshening dew, and, lovelier still,

The pensive Pleasures sweet,

Prepare thy shadowy car.
Then let me rove some wild and heathy scene,
Or find some ruin midst its dreary dells,

Whose walls more awful nod,

By thy religious gleams.
Or, if chill blustering winds, or driving rain,
Prevent my willing feet, be mine the hut

That from the mountain's side
Views wilds and swelling floods,

And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all,

Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil.

While Spring shall pour his showers, as oft he wont,
And bathe thy breathing tresses, meekest Eve!

While Summer loves to sport
Beneath thy lingering light;

While sallow Autumn fills thy lap with leaves;
Or Winter, yelling through the troublous air,

Affrights thy shrinking train,

And rudely rends thy robes :
So long, regardful of thy quiet rule,
Shall Fancy, Friendship, Science, smiling Peace,

Thy gentlest influence own,
And love thy favorite name.”

The Pleasures of the Imagination, by DR. MARK AKENSIDE, and The Minstrel, by DR. JAMES BEATTIE,

1721-1770 deserve at least a passing mention. The Pleasures of the Imagination is a blank-verse poem from which we

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