Ode on the Pleasure Arising from Vicissitude
Thomas Gray, The Poems of Mr. Gray, ed. William Mason (1775), 2nd edn. (London: printed H. Hughs, sold by J. Dodsley, 1775). simc Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2Waves her dew-bespangled wing,
4She woos the tardy Spring:
5Till April starts, and calls around
6The sleeping fragrance from the ground;
7And lightly o'er the living scene
8Scatters his freshest, tenderest green.
9New-born flocks, in rustic dance,
10Frisking ply their feeble feet;
11Forgetful of their wintry trance
12The birds his presence greet:
13But chief, the skylark warbles high
14His trembling thrilling ecstasy;
15And, lessening from the dazzled sight,
16Melts into air and liquid light.
17Rise, my soul! on wings of fire,
18Rise the rapt'rous choir among;
19Hark! 'tis Nature strikes the lyre,
21Yesterday the sullen year
22Saw the snowy whirlwind fly;
23Mute was the music of the air,
24The herd stood drooping by:
25Their raptures now that wildly flow,
26No yesterday, nor morrow know;
27'Tis man alone that joy descries
28With forward, and reverted eyes.
29Smiles on past Misfortune's brow
30Soft Reflection's hand can trace;
31And o'er the cheek of Sorrow throw
32A melancholy grace;
33While Hope prolongs our happier hour
34Or deepest shades, that dimly lower
35And blacken round our weary way,
36Gilds with a gleam of distant day.
37Still, where rosy Pleasure leads,
38See a kindred Grief pursue;
39Behind the steps that Misery treads,
40Approaching Comfort view:
41The hues of bliss more brightly glow,
42Chastis'd by sabler tints of woe;
43And blended form, with artful strife,
44The strength and harmony of life.
45See the wretch, that long has tost
46On the thorny bed of pain,
47At length repair his vigour lost,
48And breathe, and walk again:
49The meanest flow'ret of the vale,
50The simplest note that swells the gale,
51The common sun, the air, the skies,
52To him are opening Paradise.
53Humble Quiet builds her cell,
54Near the source whence Pleasure flows;
56And tastes it as it goes.
1] First published in William Mason's The Poems of Mr. Gray, 1775. The poem, left incomplete by Gray, was discovered among his papers after his death. In the appendix to the above volume Mason filled out broken lies and added stanzas of his own. The text here printed is Gray's original, omitting the seven last lines, which are fragmentary. In his commonplace book for the year 1754 Gray entered the following rough plan for this ode: "Contrast between the winter past and coming spring.--Joy owing to that vicissitude.--Many who never feel that delight.--Sloth.--Envy.--Ambition.--How much happier the rustic who feels it, tho' he knows not how." Mason states in Poems, 1775: ''I have heard Mr. Gray say that M. Gresset's Epître à ma Sur ... gave him the first idea of this ode." Back to Line
3] vermeil: vermilion, ruddy. Back to Line
20] Gray never completed the last four lines of the stanza. Back to Line
55] crystalline: As in Paradise Lost, VI, 772, the accent is upon the second syllable. Back to Line
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G. G. Falle