« PreviousContinue »
by taking off from our pleasure, destroys that end." I will grant that, if the obscurity be great, constant, and unsurmountable, this is certainly true ; but if it be only found in particular passages, proceeding from the nature of the subject and the very genius of the composition, it does not rob us of our pleasure, but superadds a new one, which arises from conquering a difficulty; and the pleasure which accrues from a difficult passage, when well understood, provided the passage itself be a fine one, is always more permanent than that which we discover at the first glance. The lyric Muse, like other fine ladies, requires to be courted, and retains her admirers the longer for not having yielded too readily to their solicitations. This argument ending as it does in a sort of simile will, I am persuaded, not only have its force with the intelligent readers (the ETNE TOI), but also with the men of fashion : as to critics of a lower class, it may be sufficient to transcribe, for their improvement, an unfinished remark, or rather maxim, which I found amongst our Author's papers ; and which he probably wrote on occasion of the common preference given to his Elegy.
“ The Gout de Comparaison (as Bruyere styles it) is the ouly taste of ordinary minds. They do not know the specific excellency either of an author or a composition : for instance, they do not know that Tibullus spoke the language of nature and
that Horace saw the vanities and follies of mankind with the most penetrating eye, and touched them to the quick; that Virgil ennobled even the most common images by the graces of a glowing, melodious, and well-adapted expression, but they do know that Virgil was a better poet than Horace ; and that Horace's Episttes do not run so well as the Elegies of Tibullus."
ODE VII. This Ode, to which, on the title, I have given the epithet of IRREGULAR, is the only one of the kind which Mr. Gray ever wrote; and its being written occasionally, and for music, is a sufficient apology for the defect. Exclusive of this, (for a defect it certainly is) it appears to me, in point of lyrical arrangement and expression, to be equal to most of his other odes. It is remarkable that, amongst the many irregular Odes which have been written in our own language, Dryden's and Pope's, on St. Cecilia's Day, are the only ones that may properly be said to have lived. The reason is (as I have hinted in a note, p. 229 of the Memoirs) that the mode of composition is so extremely easy, that it gives the writer an opening to every kind of poetical licèntiousness : whereas the regularly-repeated stanza, and still more the regular succession of strophe, antistrophe, and epode, put so strong a curb on the wayward imagination, that when she has once paced in it, she seldom chooses to submit to it a second time. 'Tis therefore greatly to be wished, in order to stifle in their birth a. quantity of compositions, which are at the same time wild and jejune, that regular odes, and these only, should be deemed legitimate amongst us.
The Cambridge edition (published at the expense of the University) is here followed; but I have added at the bottom of the page a number of explanatory notes, which this Ode seemed to want, still more than that which preceded it, especially when given not to the University only, but the public in general, who may be reasonably supposed to know little of the particular founders of different colleges and their history. here alluded to. For the sake of uniformity in the
page, I have divided the Ode into stanzas, and discarded the musical divisions of recitative, air, and chorus ; but shall here insert them in their order, according as the different stanzas were set by Dr. Randal, professor of 'music.
Stanza 1. The first eight lines “ air,” the four last “ chorus."
" Air." This stanza being supposed to be sung by Milton, is very judiciously written in the metre which be fixed upon for the stanza of his Christmas Hymn.'
'Twas in the winter wild, &c. Stanza 4. " Recitative" throughout, the last nine lines accompanied.
Stanza 5. “ Air Quartetto.” The musical reader will easily see and admire how well this stanza is suited to that species of music.
Stanza 6. First six lines “ recitative;" the rest of the stanza, beginning at " thy liberal heart," "air.”
Stanza 7. “ Recitative” throughout:
ODE VIII. 1. The occasion of Mr. Gray's writing (for it may be rather called so than versifying this and the three following odes, however closely, he has done them) has been given in the beginning of the fifth Section of the Memoirs, and his reason for first publishing them in the fifty-seventh Letter of the fourth. Their best comment, since it is the best illustration of their excellency, will be to insert here the Latin versions of the originals from whence they were taken; as it is probable that many readers, who have hitherto admired them as compositions, have not compared them with those literal versions for want of having the books (which are not common ones) at hand.
2. Ex Orcadibus Thormodi Torfæi. Hafniæ, 1697. Late diffunditur
Densabimus gladiis Ante stragem futuram
Hanc victoriæ telam. Sagittarum nubes :
Prodeunt ad texendum Hilda, Depluit sanguis :
Et Hiorthrimula, Jam hastis applica
Sangrida, et Swipula ; Cineracea
Cum strictis gladiis ; Tela virorum,
Hastile frangetur, Quam amicæ texuut
Scutum diffindetur, Rubro subtegmine
Ensisque Randveri mortis.
Clypeo illidetur. Texitur hæc tela
Texamus, texamus Intestinis humanis,
Telam Darradar! Staminique stricte alligantur Hunc (gladium) Rex juvenis Capita bumana,
Prius possidebat. Sunt sanguine roratæ
Et cohortes intremus,
Ubi nostri amici Ag sagittæ pro radis :
Armis dimicant !
Apud viros delebitur. Telam * Darradi;
Jam tela texta est, Et Regi deinde
Campus verò (sanguine) roratus ; Deinde adhæreamus !
Terras percurret Ibi videbant
Conflictus militum. Sanguine rorata Scuta
Nunc horrendum est Gunna et Gondula,
Circumspicere, Quæ Regem tutabantur.
Cum sanguinea nubes Texamus, texamus
Per aëra volitet: Telam Darradi!
Tingetur aer Ubi arma concrepant
Sanguine virorum, Bellacium virorum,
Antequam vaticinia nostra Non sinamus eum
Omnia corruant. Vitâ privari :
Benè canimus Habent Valkyriæ
De Rege juvene, Cædis potestatem.
Victoriæ carmina multa : Illi Populi terras regent,
Benè sit nobis canentibus. Qui deserta promontoria
Discat autem ille, Anteà incolebant.
Qui auscultat, Dico potenti Regi
Bellica carmina multa, Mortem imminere.
Et viris referat. Jam sagittis occubuit comes ;
Equilemus in equis, Et Hibernis
Quoniam efferimus gladios strictos Dolor accidet,
Ex hoc loco. Qui nunquam
In the argument of this Ode, printed at the bottom of the page in this edition, it is said that the battle was fought on Christmas Day; on which Mr. Gray, in his manuscript, remarks, that the people of the Orkney islands were Christians, yet did not become so till after A. D. 966, probably it happened in 995 ; but though they, and the other Gothic nations, no longer worshipped their oid divinities, yet they never doubted of their existence, or forgot their ancient mythology, as appears from the history of Olaus Tryggueson."-See Bartholinus, lib. vii. c. i. p. 615.
3. Iron sleet of arrowy shower. L. 3.
Sharp sleet of arrowy shower. Mil. Par. Regained. G. 4. Hurtles in the darken'd air. L. 4.
* So Thormodus interprets it, as though Darradar were the name of the person who saw this vision ; but in reality it signifies a range of spears, from Dauer Hasta, et Rudir Ordo. G.
1. The Vegtamas Kvitha, from Bartholinus, lib. iii. c. ü. p.
632. Surgebat Odinus,
Ego tibi quæ in mundo. Virorum summus
Cuinam sedes auro stratæ sunt, Et *Sleipnerum
Lecti pulchri Ephippio stravit.
Auro ornati ? Equitabat deorsum
F. Hic Baldero Medo Nifhelam versus.
Divina verò soboles
Dolore afficietur. Rictus, mordendi avidus,
Invita hæc dixi, Et maxillarum infima :
Jamque silebo. Allatrabat ille,
0. Noli, Fatidica, tacere. Et rictum diduxit
Te interrogare volo, Magiæ Patri,
Donec omnia novero. Et diu latrabat.
Adhuc scire volo, Equitavit Odinus
Quisnam Baldero (Terra subtus tremuit)
Necem inferet, Donec ad altum veniret
Ac Odini filium Helæ habitaculum.
Vità privabit? Tum equitavit Odinus
F. Hodus excelsum fert Ad orientale ostii latus,
Honoratum Fratrém illùc. Ubi Fatidicæ
Is Baldero Tumulum esse novit.
Necem inferet, Sapienti carmina
Et Odini filium Mortuos excitantia cecinit,
Vitâ privabit. Boream inspexit,
Invita hæc dixi, Literas (tumulo) imposuit,
Jamque tácebo. Sermones proferre cæpit,
0. Noli tacere, Fatidica, Responsa poposcit,
Adhuc te interrogare volo, Donec invita surgeret,
Donec omnia novero. Et mortuorum sermonem proferret. Adhuc scire volo,
FATIDICA. Quisnam hominum Quisnam Hodo Mihi ignotorum
Odium rependet, Mihi facere præsumit
Aut Balderi interfectorem Tristem animum?
Occidendo rogo adaptet? Nive eram, et
F. Rinda filium pariet
In habitaculis occidentalibus : Pluviâque rorata :
Hic Odini filius, Mortua diu jacui.
Unam noctem patus, armis utetur;
Nec caput pectet
Sleipner was the horse of Odin which had eight legs. Vide Edda.
Virorum summus. Invita hæc dixi,
0. Tu non es Fatidica, Jamque tacebo.
Nec sapiens fæmina, 0. Noli tacere, Fatidica,
Sed potius trium Adhuc te interrogare volo.
F. Equita domum, Odine,
Nemo tali modo veniet
Ad sciscitandum, Hoc solum mihi dicas,
Usque dum Lokus Nam prius non dormies.
Vinculis solvatur, F. Non tu viator es,
Et Deorum crepusculum Ut antea credidi;
Dissolventes aderint. Sed potius Odinus,
2. Hela's drear abode. L. 4. Hela, in the Edda, is described with a dreadful countenance, and her body half flesh-colour and half blue. G.
3. Him the Dog of Darkness spied. L. 5. The Edda gives this dog the name of Managarmar; he fed upon the lives of those that were to die.
4. The thrilling verse that wakes the dead. L. 24. The original word is vallgaldr ; from valr mortuus, et galdr incantatio. G. Thrilling is surely in this place a peculiarly-fine epithet.
5. Tell me what is done below. L. 40. Odin, we find both from this Ode and the Edda, was solicitous about the fate of his son Balder, who had dreamed he was soon to die. The Edda mentions the manner of his death when killed by Odin's other son Hoder; and also that Hoder was himself slain afterwards by Vali, the son of Odin and Rinda, consonant with this prophecy. 6. Once again my call obey.
Prophetess, &c. L. 51. Women were looked upon by the Gothic nations as having a peculiar insight into futurity; and some there were that made profession of magic arts and divination. These travelled round the country, and were received in every house with great respect and honour. Such a woman bore the name of Volva Seidkona or Spakona. The dress of Thorbiorga, one of these prophetesses, is described at large in Eirick's Rauda Sogu, (apud Bartholin. lib. i. cap. iv. p. 688.) She had on a blue vest spangled all over with stones, a necklace of glass beads, and a cap made of the skin of a black lamb lined with white cat-skin. She leaned on a staff adorned with brass, with a round head set with stones ; was girt with a Hunlandish belt, at which hung her pouch full of magical instruments. Her buskins were of rough calf-skin, bound on with thongs studded