Essays On Books William Lyon Phelps

"And here may be the best place to note after Dr Phelps that the 'whole atmosphere of Collins's Ode is similar to that of the Elegy. Cf. especially stanza 10,

''And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil.'' '
Dr Phelps notes also that Joseph Warton's verses contain some of Gray's pictures, and something of the same train of thought: e.g.:
''Hail, meek-eyed maiden, clad in sober grey,
Whose soft approach the weary woodman loves,
As homeward bent to kiss his prattling babes
Jocund he whistles through the twilight groves.''
add:
''Now every Passion sleeps; desponding Love,
And pining Envy, ever-restless Pride;
A holy calm creeps o'er my peaceful soul,
Anger and mad Ambition's storms subside.''
The latter stanza might well be the form in embryo of the four rejected stanzas quoted infra, n. on . Dr Phelps remarks that ''the scenery as well as the meditations of the Elegy were by no means original: they simply established more firmly literary fashions which were already becoming familiar.''
And certainly if the opening stanzas of the Elegy as we now have them were written as early as 1742, their composition was in no way affected by the poems of Warton and Collins; the same must be said even if the 'autumnal verses' of the letter of Sept. 11, 1746, were the Elegy. The spirit of gentle melancholy was in the air; and in 1746 and 1747 found in three young poets, Collins, Joseph Warton and Thomas Warton, that voice to the world at large which is found again in Gray in 1750. For in 1747 Thomas Warton published anonymously these lines, which he had written in his 17th year (1745):
''Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown pile
Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve
Where thro' some western window the pale moon
Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bow'r
Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
Invests some wasted tow'r:
''
where resemblance to the Elegy is closest of all.
Between these three poets communication of ideas was probable; but at this date even Thomas Warton, with whom he afterwards corresponded, was an absolute stranger to Gray. And Gray is so far from feeling that in any of these there were 'kindred spirits' who might 'enquire his fate' that he writes, Dec. 27, 1746:
'Have you seen the Works of two young Authors, a Mr Warton and a Mr Collins, both Writers of Odes? it is odd enough, but each is the half of a considerable Man, and one the counterpart of the other. The first has but little invention, very poetical choice of Expression, and a good Ear, the second a fine fancy, model'd upon the Antique, a bad Ear, great variety of Words, and Images with no choice at all. They both deserve to last some Years, but will not.'
So little are men conscious of that 'stream of tendency' on which they themselves are borne."

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" ''Jam jam non domus accipiet te laeta, neque uxor
optima, nec dulces occurrent oscula nati
praeripere et tacita pectus dulcedine tangent.''
Lucretius, III. 894-896.
''Now no more shall thy house admit thee with glad welcome, nor a most virtuous wife and sweet children run to be the first to snatch kisses and touch thy heart with a silent joy.'' (Munro.)
Though Lucretius is only mentioning these common regrets of mankind in order to show their unreasonableness, there is no doubt that Gray had this passage well in his mind here. Feeling this, Munro renders it in quite Lucretian phraseology: e.g.
''Jam jam non erit his rutilans focus igne:
and
non reditum balbe current patris hiscere nati.''
But Gray adds also an Horatian touch, as Mitford points out:
''Quodsi pudica mulier in partem juvet
domum atque dulces liberos
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
sacrum vetustis excitet lignis focum
lassi sub adventum viri,'' &c. Hor. Epode, II. 39 sq.
[''But if a chaste and pleasing wife
To ease the business of his life
Divides with him his household care
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Will fire for winter nights provide,
And without noise will oversee
His children and his family
And order all things till he come
Weary and over-laboured home'' &c. Dryden.]
Thomson in his Winter, 1726, had written of the shepherd overwhelmed in the snow-storm:
''In vain for him the officious wife prepares
The fire fair-blazing, and the vestment warm;
In vain his little children, peeping out
Into the mingling rack, demand their sire
With tears of artless innocence.'' (ll. 311-315.)"


Essays By William Lyon Phelps - …

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"Mitford gives these parallels (the exact references are due to Dr Phelps):
William Chamberlayne, Pharonnida (London, 1659, Book IV. canto 5, p. 94):

''Like beauteous flowers which vainly waste the scent
Of odors in unhaunted deserts.''
From Ambrose Philips (1671-1749) The Fable of Thule:
''Like beauteous flowers, which paint the desert glades,
And waste their sweets in unfrequented shades.''
From Young, Universal Passion [1725], Sat. V. ll. 229-232:
''In distant wilds, by human eyes unseen
She rears her flow'rs, and spreads her velvet green.
Pure gurgling rills the lonely desert trace
And waste their music on the savage race.''
Mr Yardley in Notes and Queries (Sept. 1, 1894) suggests that Gray imitated Waller's 'Go, lovely Rose':
''Tell her that's young
And shuns to have her graces spied
That, hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.''
Perhaps this is the starting-point in the line of succession of the poetical idea for Gray: but it passes through Pope and comes nearer in the form:
''There kept my charms concealed from mortal eye,
Like roses that in deserts bloom and die.''
Rape of the Lock, iv. 157, 158.
This idea Pope cherished, for he gave it, in an improved form, to Thomson for the Seasons: the lines in the episode of Lavinia, Autumn, 209-214,
''As in the hollow breast of Apennine,
Beneath the shelter of encircling hills,
A myrtle rises, far from human eye,
And breathes its balmy fragrance o'er the hills,
So flourished blooming, and unseen by all,
The sweet Lavinia.''
are to be seen, in a handwriting, probably Pope's, in an interleaved copy of the Seasons (ed. 1738) in the British Museum [C 28 E.] Whether Gray had seen these lines, not published until 1744, will depend upon the date we assign to this portion of the Elegy."