Thomas Gray

To each his suff'rings: all are men,
Condemn'd alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain;
Th' unfeeling for his own.

Thomas Gray (December 26, 1716July 30, 1771) was an English poet, classical scholar, and professor of history at Cambridge University.


Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee's collected treasures sweet,
Sweet music's melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of gratitude.
  • T'was Spring, t'was Summer, all was gay
    Now Autumn bears a cloud brow
    The flowers of Spring are swept way
    And Summer fruits desert the bough
    • from Autumn.
  • Daughter of Jove, relentless power,
    Thou tamer of the human breast,
    Whose iron scourge and tort'ring hour
    The bad affright, afflict the best!
  • What sorrow was, thou bad'st her know,
    And from her own she learned to melt at others' woe.
  • Where his glowing eye−balls turn,
    Thousand banners round him burn.
    Where he points his purple spear,
    Hasty, hasty Rout is there,
    Marking with indignant eye
    Fear to stop and shame to fly.
    There Confusion, Terror's child,
    Conflict fierce and Ruin wild,
    Agony that pants for breath,
    Despair and honourable Death.
    • "The Triumphs of Owen. A Fragment", from Mr. Evans's Specimens of the Welch Poetry (1764).
  • Now my weary lips I close;
    Leave me, leave me to repose!
  • Iron sleet of arrowy shower
    Hurtles in the darkened air.
  • Too poor for a bribe, and too proud to importune,
    He had not the method of making a fortune.
  • While bright-eyed Science watches round.
  • Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
    The bee's collected treasures sweet,
    Sweet music's melting fall, but sweeter yet
    The still small voice of gratitude.
  • And weep the more, because I weep in vain.
    • Sonnet, On the Death of Mr. West; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Rich windows that exclude the light,
    And passages that lead to nothing.
    • A Long Story; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • The social smile, the sympathetic tear.
    • Education and Government; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • When love could teach a monarch to be wise,
    And gospel-light first dawn'd from Bullen's eyes.
    • Education and Government; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Now as the Paradisiacal pleasures of the Mahometans consist in playing upon the flute and lying with Houris, be mine to read eternal new romances of Marivaux and Crebillon.
    • To Mr. West, Letter iv, Third Series; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

Ode on the Pleasure Arising from Vicissitude (1754)Edit

  • Behind the steps that Misery treads
    Approaching Comfort view:
    The hues of bliss more brightly glow
    Chastised by sabler tints of woe,
    And blended form, with artful strife,
    The strength and harmony of life.
    • Line 35.
  • See the wretch that long has tost
    On the thorny bed of pain,
    At length repair his vigour lost,
    And breathe and walk again:
    The meanest floweret of the vale,
    The simplest note that swells the gale,
    The common sun, the air, the skies,
    To him are opening paradise.
    • Line 41.
  • And hie him home, at evening's close,
    To sweet repast and calm repose.
    • Line 87.
  • From toil he wins his spirits light,
    From busy day the peaceful night;
    Rich, from the very want of wealth,
    In heaven's best treasures, peace and health.
    • Line 93.

The Progress of Poesy (1754)Edit

  • From Helicon's harmonious springs
    A thousand rills their mazy progress take.
    • I. 1, Line 3.
  • Glance their many-twinkling feet.
    • I. 3, Line 11.
  • O'er her warm cheek and rising bosom move
    The bloom of young Desire and purple light of Love.
    • I. 3, Line 16.
  • Her track, where'er the goddess roves,
    Glory pursue, and gen'rous shame,
    Th' unconquerable mind, 3 and freedom's holy flame.
    • II. 2, Line 10.
  • Far from the sun and summer-gale,
    In thy green lap was Nature's Darling laid.
    • III. 1, Line 1.
  • Or ope the sacred source of sympathetic tears.
    • III. 1, Line 12.
  • He passed the flaming bounds of place and time:
    The living throne, the sapphire-blaze,
    Where angels tremble, while they gaze,
    He saw; but blasted with excess of light,
    Closed his eyes in endless night.
    • III. 2, Line 4.
  • Bright-eyed Fancy, hov'ring o'er,
    Scatters from her pictured urn
    Thoughts that breathe and words that burn.
    • III. 3, Line 2.
  • Beyond the limits of a vulgar fate,
    Beneath the good how far,—but far above the great.
    • III. 3, Line 16.

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742)Edit

  • Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
    That crown the wat'ry glade.
    • St. 1.
  • Ah, happy hills! ah, pleasing shade!
    Ah, fields beloved in vain!
    Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
    A stranger yet to pain!
    I feel the gales that from ye blow
    A momentary bliss bestow.
    • St. 2.
  • Still as they run they look behind,
    They hear a voice in every wind,
    And snatch a fearful joy.
    • St. 4.
  • Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
    Less pleasing when possest;
    The tear forgot as soon as shed,
    The sunshine of the breast.
    • St. 5.
  • Alas, regardless of their doom,
    The little victims play!
    No sense have they of ills to come,
    Nor care beyond today.
    • St. 6.
  • Ah, tell them they are men!
    • St. 6.
  • Grim-visaged comfortless Despair.
    • St. 7.
  • And moody madness laughing wild
    Amid severest woe.
    • St. 8.
  • To each his suff'rings: all are men,
    Condemn'd alike to groan,
    The tender for another's pain;
    Th' unfeeling for his own.
    Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
    Since sorrow never comes too late,
    And happiness too swiftly flies.
    Thought would destroy their paradise.
    No more; where ignorance is bliss,
    'Tis folly to be wise.
    • St. 10.

On the Death of a Favourite Cat (1747)Edit

  • 'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
    Where China's gayest art had dyed
    The azure flowers, that blow;
    Demurest of the tabby kind,
    The pensive Selima reclined,
    Gazed on the lake below.
    • St. 1.
  • What female heart can gold despise?
    What cat's averse to fish?
    • St. 4.
  • No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
    Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
    A favourite has no friend!
    • St. 6.
  • Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
    And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
    Nor all that glisters gold.
    • St. 7.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1750)Edit

  • The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
    The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
    • St. 1.
  • Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
    Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
    And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.
    • St. 2.
  • Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
    The moping owl does to the moon complain.
    • St. 3.
  • Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
    The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
    • St. 4.
  • The breezy call of incense-breathing morn.
    • St. 5.
  • For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
    Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
    No children run to lisp their sire's return,
    Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
    • St. 6.
  • Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
    Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
    Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
    The short and simple annals of the poor.
    • St. 8.
  • The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
    Await alike the inevitable hour:
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
    • St. 9.
  • Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
    The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
    • St. 10.
  • Can storied urn, or animated bust
    Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
    Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
    Or Flatt'ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
    • St. 11.
  • Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed,
    Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
    • St. 12.
  • But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
    Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
    Chill Penury repressed their noble rage,
    And froze the genial current of the soul.
    • St. 13.
  • Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
    The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
    • St. 14.
  • Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
    The little Tyrant of his fields withstood;
    Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
    Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.
    • St. 15.
  • The applause of list'ning senates to command,
    The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
    To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
    And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes.
    • St. 16.
  • Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
    And shut the gates of mercy on mankind.
    • St. 17.
  • Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
    Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
    Along the cool sequestered vale of life
    They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
    • St. 19.
  • Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
    • St. 20.
  • And many a holy text around she strews,
    That teach the rustic moralist to die.
    • St. 21.
  • For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
    This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned,
    Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
    Nor cast one longing ling'ring look behind?
    • St. 22.
  • E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
    E'en in our Ashes live their wonted Fires.
    • St. 23.
  • Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
    To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
    • St. 25.
  • One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
    Along the heath, and near his fav'rite tree:
    Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
    Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.
    • St. 28.
  • Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
    A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
    Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth.
    And Melancholy marked him for her own.
    • The Epitaph, St. 1.
  • Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
    Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
    He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
    He gained from Heav'n ('twas all he wished) a friend.
    • The Epitaph, St. 2.
  • No farther seek his merits to disclose,
    Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
    (There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
    The bosom of his Father and his God.
    • The Epitaph, St. 3.
  • No further seek his merits to disclose,
    Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
    There they alike in trembling hope repose),
    The bosom of his Father and his God.
    • The Epitaph.

The Bard (1757)Edit

Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;
They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
Bright Rapture calls, and soaring, as she sings,
Waves in the eye of Heav'n her many-colour'd wings.
  • Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!
    Confusion on thy banners wait,
    Though fanned by Conquest's crimson wing
    They mock the air with idle state.
    • I. 1. lines 1-4
  • Helm nor hauberk's twisted mail,
    Nor even thy virtues, tyrant, shall avail
    To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,
    From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears!
    • I, 1. lines 5-8
  • To high-born Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.
    • I. 2. line 28
  • Dear, as the light that visits these sad eyes;
    Dear, as the ruddy drops that warm my heart.
    • I. 3. lines 39-40
  • Weave the warp, and weave the woof,
    The winding sheet of Edward's race.
    Give ample room and verge enough,
    The Characters of hell to trace.
    • II. 1. lines 49-52
  • Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,
    While proudly riding o'er the azure realm
    In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes;
    Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm;
    Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway,
    That, hushed in grim repose, expects his evening prey.
    • II. 2. lines 71-76
  • Ye towers of Julius, London's lasting shame,
    With many a foul and midnight murder fed.
    • II. 3. lines 87-88
  • Visions of glory, spare my aching sight,
    Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!
    • III. 1. lines 107-108
  • Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;
    They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
    Bright Rapture calls, and soaring, as she sings,
    Waves in the eye of Heav'n her many-colour'd wings.
    • III. 2. lines 121-124
  • The verse adorn again
    Fierce War, and faithful Love,
    And Truth severe, by fairy Fiction drest.
    • III. 3. lines 125-127

Quotes about Thomas GrayEdit

  • Gray thought his language more poetical as it was more remote from common use.
    • Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets (1781), "The Life of Gray".
  • Next day I dined with Johnson at Mr. Thrale's. He attacked Gray, calling him "a dull fellow." BOSWELL. "I understand he was reserved, and might appear dull in company; but surely he was not dull in poetry." JOHNSON. "Sir, he was dull in company, dull in his closet, dull in every where. He was dull in a new way, and that made many people think him GREAT. He was a mechanical poet." He then repeated some ludicrous lines, which have escaped my memory, and said "Is not that GREAT, like his Odes?"
  • [The editor of Facetiae Cantabrigienses, Richard Gooch writes:] Those who remember Mr. Gray when at the University of Cambridge, where he resided the greater part of his life, will recollect that he was a little prim fastidous man, distinguished by a short shuffling step. He commonly held up his gown behind with one of his hands, at the same time cocking up his chin, and perking up his nose. Christopher Smart, who was contemporary with him at Pembroke Hall, used to say that Gray walked "as if he had fouled his small-clothes, and looked as if he smelt it."
    • Facetiae Cantabrigienses: Consisting of Anecdotes, Smart Sayings, Satirics, Retorts, &c, &c, by or Relating to Celebrated Cantabs, ed. R. Gooch (1825).

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