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two hundred thousand pounds, as speedily as possible, that he might return home before his constitution has suffered from the heat, to marry a peer's daughter, to buy rotten boroughs in Cornwall, and to give balls in St. James's Square.” Such wealthy returned Indian adventurers were called “nabobs."
406. The smiling long-frequented village fall : in this passage is found the germ of The Deserted Village. Cf. Introduction, p. xxii.
410-422. This passage concerning the New World is more accurate in its references than the corresponding passage in The Deserted Village. Cf. 11. 343–358 and notes.
411. The Oswego is a river in northern New York, flowing from Lake Onondaga into Lake Ontario. Goldsmith also makes mention of it in his Threnodia Augustalis, II, 82. The name probably became familiar through the French and Indian wars.
412. Niagara : the penultimate accent, which is the older accent for this word, is still used in England.
416. The reading in the first edition is “ takes its deadly aim.” The usual epithet for the American Indian is not brown, but red.
420. Dr. Johnson's line. According to Boswell's Life of Johnson, “In the year 1783 he at my request marked with a pencil the lines which he had furnished, which are only line 420 and the concluding ten lines, except the last couplet but one.” He added : “ These are all of which I can be sure. They bear a small proportion to the whole.” Dr. Johnson's lines are usually less smooth, or poetically effective, than Goldsmith's.
436. Luke's iron crown: two brothers, Luke and George Dozsa, Transylvanian nobles, headed a revolt of the Hungarian peasantry in 1514. George, not Luke, Dozsa, was taken prisoner by the adherents of the government, made to seat himself on a red-hot throne, wear a redhot crown, and submit to other tortures, for allowing himself to be proclaimed King of Hungary. Some think that Goldsmith substituted Luke for George to avoid using the name of the English king, George III, in this connection; others point out that George's would not fit the poetical rhythm of the line. Damiens' bed of steel : on January 1, 1757, Robert François Damiens stabbed Louis XV as he was entering his carriage at Versailles. The wound was slight, but Damiens was diabolically tortured by slow torture to make him give the names of his supposed conspirators. He was executed, in a barbarous manner, at the end of March.
437. but rarely known: modifies axe, wheel, etc., which are the subjects of leave.
NOTES ON THE ELEGY IN A
1. curfew: from the French couvre + feu, cover-fire. A bell rung every evening; originally, when introduced after the Norman Conquest, as a signal that all household fires be extinguished for the night. - parting : departing. Cf. note on The Deserted Village, 1. 4.
2. wind : the original MS. has wind, often changed, somewhat ill advisedly, by editors, to winds. Undoubtedly it is the slow-moving line of individual cattle, not their mass, which the poet has in mind. As Dr. Rolfe says, the poet sees, not it, but them.
5-8. Note in these lines how the stillness is intensified. What words are onomatopoetic ?
Possibly Gray derived suggestion for this stanza from the third stanza of Collins's Ode to Evening, published in 1747 :
Now air is hushed, save where the weak-eyed bat
Or where the beetle winds
11. wand'ring: many words which are to-day trisyllabic in careful speech were dissyllabic in eighteenth-century pronunciation, as shown by the meter of the poems. Note mould’ring, l. 14; twitt'ring, l. 18; Mem'ry, 1. 38; Flatt’ry, l. 44; list’ning, 1. 6x ; hist’ry, l. 64; ling’ring, 1. 88; Mutt'ring, 1. 106; fav’rite, 1. 110. The middle syllable has now been restored in these words through the influence, on lexicographers and speakers, of the written forms. — bow'r : in the original sense of chamber.
12. reign: used here perhaps in the older sense of kingdom or realm.
13. elms. yew-tree : familiar trees in English churchyards. Professor Hales thinks that as the poet stands in the churchyard he thinks only of the poorer people, because the better-to-do lay interred inside the church, mainly for two reasons: (1) the interior of the church was regarded as of greater sanctity, and all who could sought a place in it ; (2) when elaborate tombs were built, they were built inside the church, for the sake of security. As these two considerations ceased to have power, the inside of the church became comparatively deserted, except where ancestral reasons gave no choice.
16. rude: ignorant, untaught.
20. shall : what difference had will been used here? - lowly bed : is this to be taken literally, or does it refer to the narrow cell of the preceding stanza ?
22. ply her evening care : typical eighteenth-century poetic language, substituting the general or abstract for the specific household task or tasks which the poet had in mind.
26. glebe : soil or turf. — broke : obsolete form of the past participle, surviving to-day only in dialect or in colloquial speech, as do so many archaic forms and usages. Cf. hisn, right as an adverb, etc.
29. Ambition: Gray, like Goldsmith, is fond of using these personified abstractions, so in vogue in the eighteenth century but disliked in the poetry of the next period. Other cases in the Elegy are Grandeur, 1. 31; beauty, wealth, l. 34; Honour, l. 43; Flattry, l. 44 ; Knowledge, 1. 49; Penury, l. 51; Luxury, Pride, 1. 71; Forgetfulness, l. 85; Contemplation, l. 95; and the instances in the Epitaph.
30. obscure : not an exact rhyme with poor of the last line of the stanza.
33. boast of heraldry: pride of high birth. Heraldry is the art or science of recording genealogies.
35. Awaits: hour is the subject, not the object, of awaits. Many editors unnecessarily change this verb to await.
37. fault: for explanation, see the stanza, 11. 49-52.
39. fretted vault: the arched roof of the church, ornamented with fretwork.
41. storied : an urn on which is carved an epitaph, or “story." Cf. “storied windows,” Milton's Il Penseroso, l. 159. — animated : lifelike.
42. mansion : used here in the root sense of the place where one resides. 43. provoke: call forth. Latin pro + vocare.
47–48. Some of those buried here had perhaps the native ability to have been kings or poets.
50. unroll: early books were rolls of parchment. Compare the word volume, from the Latin volumen, a roll. In legal phraseology the term remains synonymous
with books. Cf. Parliamentary Rolls. The modern book form rests on the tablet form, adopted because, since it enabled both sides of the page to be used, it was the less expensive as well as the more compact form.
51. rage : often used in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in che sense of inspiration, enthusiasm.
52. genial : a favorite epithet in the eighteenth century.
53. ray serene: a Miltonic word order. Milton often followed a noun by its epithet, now a standard poetic inversion.
What relation has the stanza, 11. 53-56, to the preceding ?
57. Hampden: in 1636 John Hampden, a cousin of Cromwell, refused to pay the ship-money tax which was levied illegally by Charles I.
60. Cromwell: Gray shared the eighteenth-century prejudice against Cromwell. The latter's character and purposes were much misunderstood until considerably later.
In the original form of the poem, Gray had Tully (Cicero) and Cæsar instead of Milton and Cromwell. Why did he change?
61. The great age of Parliamentary oratory was just dawning when the Elegy was published. The elder Pitt was already famous for his eloquence (Hales).
What is the main predicate of the stanza, 11. 61-64? 63. As Walpole's long, peaceful administration had done (Hales). 66. growing virtues: the growth of their virtues. 67. See the reference to Cromwell, 1. 6o.
71-72. A reference to the patronage system, from which professional writers were breaking away in the days of Gray and Goldsmith. Cf. Introduction to The Deserted Village, pp. xi-xii.
At this point, in Gray's first MS., followed these four stanzas, with which the Elegy was to have ended :
The thoughtless world to Majesty may bow,
Exalt the brave and idolize success;
Than Pow'r, or Genius, e'er conspir'd to bless.
And thou, who mindful of th' unhonour'd Dead,
Dost in these notes their artless tale relate,
To wander in the gloomy walks of fate:
Hark! how the sacred Calm that breathes around,
Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease;
A grateful earnest of eternal peace.
No more, with reason and thyself at strife,
Give anxious cares and endless wishes room;
Pursue the silent tenor of thy doom.
73. madding: raging, distracted. Dr. Johnson speaks of “the madded land,” Vanity of Human Wishes, l. 30.
Does the first line of the stanza modify wishes of the next line, or stray, i.e. into forbidden paths ?
75. Explain the meaning.
77. The preceding stanzas, 11. 13–76, really constitute the poet's elegy proper over those buried in the churchyard. — these bones: the bones of these.
78. still: always, as in Shakespeare.
79. rhimes: the better and historic spelling is rimes (O. E. rim, number). The perverted spellings, rhime, rhyme, or ryme, are due to the influence of rhythm, from the Greek.
81. unletter'd Muse: the rude verse of some rustic poet. Cf. also 1. 72. The terms Muse, Muses, so in vogue in English poetry after the period of the classical renaissance as eventually to become hackneyed, have now dropped almost entirely out of use.
82. The eighteenth century was much given to elaborate epitaph and elegy writing. The funereal literature of the period is very great. Cf. the works of Pope, Goldsmith, Watts, and many minor poets. Poetic epitaphs have grown much less common, although still found sometimes in country places.
84. teach : Mitford thinks that Gray originally wrote “to teach,” but altered it afterward for the sake of euphony, making the grammatical correctness give way to sound.
85. a prey: is this phrase the appositive to who, or does it complete the predicate resign’d?
Dr. Johnson especially liked the stanza, 11. 85-88. Why?
89. This stanza gives the poet's answer to the questions of the preceding. Hales suggests that the answers in its four lines form a climax, picturing (1) the near approach of death ; (2) its actual advent; (3) the time immediately succeeding that advent ; (4) a still later time. The desire of loving remembrance persists even when all is dust and ashes.
90. pious: used in the sense of the Latin pius, i.e. prompted by affection and devotion.
92. wonted fires: meaning ? Historically, wonted is a double past participle. The old verb wone (O.E. wunian, Ger. wohnen) had for its past participle woned, giving wont, as in was wont. In wonted the -ed suffix has been added twice over.
93. For thee: i.e. for Gray himself. The poet imagines himself buried, like those over whom the Elegy was pronounced, in a country