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Poetical Imitations And Similarities
by [?]

—-When the SCOURGE

Inexorably, and the TORTURING HOUR

Calls us to penance.

Par. Lost, B. ii. v. 90.

Gray, in his “Ode to Adversity,” has

Light THEY DISPERSE, and with them go


Fond of this image, he has it again in his “Bard,”

They SWARM, that in thy NOONTIDE BEAM are born,


Perhaps the germ of this beautiful image may be found in Shakspeare:–

—- for men, like BUTTERFLIES,

Show not their mealy wings but to THE SUMMER.

Troilus and Cressida, Act iii. s. 7.

And two similar passages in Timon of Athens:–

The swallow follows not summer more willingly than we your lordship.

Timon. Nor more willingly leaves winter; such summer birds are
men.–Act iii.

Again in the same,

—-one cloud of winter showers

These flies are couch’d.–Act ii.

Gray, in his “Progress of Poetry,” has

In climes beyond the SOLAR ROAD.

Wakefield has traced this imitation to Dryden; Gray himself refers to Virgil and Petrarch. Wakefield gives the line from Dryden, thus:–

Beyond the year, and out of heaven’s high-way;

which he calls extremely bold and poetical. I confess a critic might be allowed to be somewhat fastidious in this unpoetical diction on the high-way, which I believe Dryden never used. I think his line was thus:–

Beyond the year, out of the SOLAR WALK.

Pope has expressed the image more elegantly, though copied from Dryden,

Far as the SOLAR WALK, or milky way.

Gray has in his “Bard,”

Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,
Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart.

Gray himself points out the imitation in Shakspeare of the latter image; but it is curious to observe that Otway, in his Venice Preserved, makes Priuli most pathetically exclaim to his daughter, that she is

Dear as the vital warmth that feeds my life,
Dear as these eyes that weep in fondness o’er thee.

Gray tells us that the image of his “Bard,”

Loose his beard and hoary hair
Streamed like a METEOR to the troubled air,

was taken from a picture of the Supreme Being by Raphael. It is, however, remarkable, and somewhat ludicrous, that the beard of Hudibras is also compared to a meteor: and the accompanying observation of Butler almost induces one to think that Gray derived from it the whole plan of that sublime Ode–since his Bard precisely performs what the beard of Hudibras denounced. These are the verses:–

This HAIRY METEOR did denounce
The fall of sceptres and of crowns.
Hudibras, c. 1.

I have been asked if I am serious in my conjecture that “the meteor beard” of Hudibras might have given birth to the “Bard” of Gray? I reply, that the burlesque and the sublime are extremes, and extremes meet. How often does it merely depend on our own state of mind, and on our own taste, to consider the sublime as burlesque! A very vulgar, but acute genius, Thomas Paine, whom we may suppose destitute of all delicacy and refinement, has conveyed to us a notion of the sublime, as it is probably experienced by ordinary and uncultivated minds; and even by acute and judicious ones, who are destitute of imagination. He tells us that “the sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. One step above the sublime makes the ridiculous, and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.” May I venture to illustrate this opinion? Would it not appear the ridiculous or burlesque to describe the sublime revolution of the Earth on her axle, round the Sun, by comparing it with the action of a top flogged by a boy? And yet some of the most exquisite lines in Milton do this; the poet only alluding in his mind to the top. The earth he describes, whether