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Poetical Imitations And Similarities
by [?]

—-She from west her silent course advance
With inoffensive pace that spinning sleeps
On her soft axle, while she paces even.

Be this as it may! it has never I believe been remarked (to return to Gray) that when he conceived the idea of the beard of his Bard, he had in his mind the language of Milton, who describes Azazel sublimely unfurling

The imperial ensign, which full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind.
Par. Lost, B. i. v. 535.

Very similar to Gray’s

Streamed like a meteor to the troubled air!

Gray has been severely censured by Johnson for the expression,

Give ample room and verge enough,
The characters of hell to trace.–The Bard.

On the authority of the most unpoetical of critics, we must still hear that the poet has no line so bad.–“ample room” is feeble, but would have passed unobserved in any other poem but in the poetry of Gray, who has taught us to admit nothing but what is exquisite. “Verge enough” is poetical, since it conveys a material image to the imagination. No one appears to have detected the source from whence, probably, the whole line was derived. I am inclined to think it was from the following passage in Dryden:

Let fortune empty her whole quiver on me,
I have a soul that, like an AMPLE SHIELD,
Can take in all, and VERGE ENOUGH for more!
Dryden’s Don Sebastian.

Gray in his Elegy has

Even in our ashes live their wonted fires.

This line is so obscure that it is difficult to apply it to what precedes it. Mason in his edition in vain attempts to derive it from a thought of Petrarch, and still more vainly attempts to amend it; Wakefield expends an octavo page to paraphrase this single verse. From the following lines of Chaucer, one would imagine Gray caught the recollected idea. The old Reve, in his prologue, says of himself, and of old men,

For whan we may not don than wol we speken;
Yet in our ASHEN cold is FIRE yreken.
TYRWHIT’S Chaucer, vol. i. p. 153, v. 3879.

Gray has a very expressive word, highly poetical, but I think not common:


Daniel has, as quoted in Cooper’s Muses’ Library,

And in himself with sorrow, does complain

A line of Pope’s, in his Dunciad, “High-born Howard,” echoed in the ear of Gray, when he gave, with all the artifice of alliteration,

High-born Hoel’s harp.

Johnson bitterly censures Gray for giving to adjectives the termination of participles, such as the cultured plain; the daisied bank: but he solemnly adds, I was sorry to see in the line of a scholar like Gray, “the honied spring.” Had Johnson received but the faintest tincture of the rich Italian school of English poetry, he would never have formed so tasteless a criticism. Honied is employed by Milton in more places than one.

Hide me from day’s garish eye
While the bee with HONIED thigh
Penseroso, v. 142.

The celebrated stanza in Gray’s Elegy seems partly to be borrowed.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d eaves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is torn to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness in the desert air.

Pope had said:

There kept by charms conceal’d from mortal eye,
Like roses that in deserts bloom and die.
Rape of the Lock.

Young says of nature:

In distant wilds by human eye unseen
She rears her flowers and spreads her velvet green;
Pure gurgling rills the lonely desert trace,
And waste their music on the savage race.

And Shenstone has–

And like the desert’s lily bloom to fade!
Elegy iv.