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Bubbing runnels join'd the sound;
Through glades and glooms the mingled measure
Or, o'er some haunted stream, with fond delay, 65 Round an holy calm diffusing,
Love of peace, and lonely musing, In hollow murmurs died away.
But O! how alter'd was its sprightlier tone
Her buskins gemm'd with morning dew,
Peeping from forth their alleys green:
Brown Exercise rejoiced to hear;
And Sport leapt up, and seized his beechen spear.
O Music! sphere-descended maid,
Last came Joy's ecstatic trial:
First to the lively pipe his hand addrest:
Whose sweet entrancing voice he loved the best: They would have thought who heard the strain
They saw, in Tempe's vale, her native maids
To some unwearied minstrel dancing;
Love framed with Mirth a gay fantastic round: 90
As if he would the charming air repay, Shook thousand odours from his dewy wings.
Lay'st thou thy ancient lyre aside?
As in that loved Athenian bower
ODE TO EVENING
IF aught of oaten stop or pastoral song
O Nymph reserved, while now the bright-hair'd
Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts,
Now air is hush'd, save where the weak-eyed bat With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing, 10
Or where the beetle winds
His small but sullen horn,
Ás oft he rises midst the twilight path,
For when thy folding-star arising shows
Whose numbers, stealing through thy darkening vale, May not unseemly with its stillness suit;
As, musing slow, I hail
Thy genial loved return.
And sheds the freshening dew, and, lovelier still,
Then let me rove some wild and heathy scene;
Whose walls more awful nod
And many a Nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge
Or, if chill blustering winds or driving rain
And hamlets brown, and dim-discover'd spires;
While Spring shall pour his showers, as oft he wont,
While sallow Autumn fills thy lap with leaves; 45
So long, regardful of thy quiet rule,
Shall Fancy, Friendship, Science, smiling Peace, 50 Thy gentlest influence own,
And love thy favourite name!
IN one of Thomas Gray's letters to his friend Horace Walpole, we find this suggestive passage: "I have at the distance of half a mile, through a green lane, a forest all my own; at least as good as so, for I spy no living thing but myself. It is a little chaos of mountains and precipices and crags that give the eye as much pleasure as if they were more dangerous. Both vale and hill are covered with most venerable beeches, and other very reverend vegetables, that, like most other ancient people, are always dreaming out their old stories of the winds. At the foot of one of these squats me, I, (il penseroso) and there grows to the trunk for a whole morning. The timorous hare and sportive squirrel gambol around me like Adam in Paradise before he had an Eve; but I think he did not use to read 'Virgil' as I commonly do here."
To a student of Gray this letter reveals four significant traits, love of nature, a melancholy temperament, a devotion to learning, and a playful sense of humor. This love of nature was more pronounced in Gray than in any of his contemporaries except Thomson; his melancholy was shared by Collins and Aikenside, but is more pervasive than that of either. Gray's devotion to learning we know from the testimony of his friends and from the tone of his letters. These last, together with the delicious playfulness of his lines On a Favourite Cat, likewise reveal his humorous vein.
The external facts of Gray's life are simple and few. His father is reported to have been a dissolute man who by his habitual neglect forced his wife to earn her own living as a milliner in London. Financial aid later came from other sources, and she returned to Stoke Pogis. The son, the only one of twelve children to survive infancy, was sent to Eton, only four miles from his home, and later went to Cambridge.