1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 185.



The Odes of Gray are pieces of great diversity both with respect to subject and manner. The Ode on Spring, and that On a Distant Prospect of Eton College, unite description with moral reflection. In the first of these the imagery has little novelty, but is dressed in all the splendour and elegance of poetical diction. You will remark the happy choice of picturesque epithets in such instances as "peopled" air, "busy" murmur, "honied" spring, &c. in which a whole train of ideas is excited in the mind by a single word. The second is new in its subject, and the picture it draws of the amusements and character of the puerile age is very interesting. Yet the concluding imagery of the fiends of vice and misfortune, watching in ambush to seize the thoughtless victims on their entrance into life, presents one of the gloomiest views of human kind that the imagination ever formed.