1835 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

Charles Crocker, "Lines occasioned by reading the following Stanza of Gray's Elegy" 1835 ca.; Poetical Works (1860) 94-97.



"Full many a gem, of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of Ocean bear;
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

And does the gem that lies in Ocean's caves,
Far, far beneath the ever-restless waves,
Emit less brilliant, or less pure, its rays,
When hidden deep from day, and mortal gaze,
Than when upon a Monarch's brow it gleams,
Or gilds the shrine of Beauty with its beams?
Or is the flower that in the desert blooms,
And the free wandering gale alone perfumes,
Less lovely, while unmark'd by human eye,
Less fragrant, while no footstep lingers nigh,
Than when in the parterre it gaily blows,
And admiration o'er its blossom glows?
O no! — still bright and beauteous, though unseen,
They light the deep, and cheer the barren scene;
E'en as the nightingale, in woods remote,
Pours forth, in many a wild and tender note,
Her plaintive song, — that is not sung in vain,
Though none but night and silence hear the strain.

'Tis thus with Genius (if beneath the sway
Of truth and virtue he pursue his way)
When chill Obscurity's dim shades surround
His lonely path; for 'mid the gloom profound
A light is kindled — an unearthly flame,
That wraps in splendour Nature's goodly frame.
Where'er his eye may stray, the freshest green,
The loveliest flowers, the purest rills are seen ;—
Streams, forests, meads, the mountains and the vales,
And each bright cloud that o'er the welkin sails,
To him appear, adorn'd by Fancy's hand,
In all the forms and hues of fairy-land;
While winds and waters, hill and dell combine
To solace him with harmony divine.
Still higher is his joy, when o'er his soul
Those scenes of future bliss and glory roll,
Which hope reveals, and Faith alone can see,
Bosom'd in limitless eternity.
With secret rapture thus he ponders o'er
Rich Nature's charms and Truth's exalted lore;
And, borne on high by Contemplation's aid,
Lives in a world which his own mind hath made,
A world far brighter, lovelier far than this,
And feels an earnest of transcendent bliss.

On one enjoying such a boundless store,
Fortune may frown — but he can not be poor;
She may, indeed, refuse that power to give,
Which bids in magic song his feelings live;
She may forbid, too, that his humble name
Should ever issue from the trump of Fame;
But would the boasted meed of fame bestow
On such a heart, a purer, warmer glow ?
Alas! too well we know how many a bard
Hath sought through life to win her fond regard,
And oft, amid his toils, the pangs hath borne
Of disappointment, and neglect, and scorn
And if, at last, she smil'd — what hath he found?
A fleeting shadow, and an empty sound.

O think not, then, when Genius fails to gain
Wide-spread renown, that he hath liv'd in vain!
He may a recompence much sweeter find,
In conscious dignity and peace of mind:
Nor useless deem his life, although the good
He does, be shrouded deep in solitude.

As in some lonely vale a nameless stream
Glides onward glistening in the solar beam,
And, secretly, with nourishment supplies
Herbs, trees, and flowers, that on its banks arise:
Thus calmly and obscurely pass his days,
Alike unmark'd by censure or by praise;
And when at last with Hope he sinks to rest,
O who shall say that he has not been blest?
He must be blest beyond the common lot—
Unhonour'd though he live, though Mem'ry know him not.