Thomas Gray

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Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere

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


  • 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.
  • O'er her warm cheek and rising bosom move
    The bloom of young Desire and purple light of Love.
  • Far from the sun and summer-gale,
    In thy green lap was Nature's Darling laid.
  • 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.
  • Now my weary lips I close;
    Leave me, leave me to repose!
  • Too poor for a bribe, and too proud to importune,
    He had not the method of making a fortune.
  • 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.

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742)

  • Ye distant spires, ye antique towers,
    That crown the wat'ry glade.
    • St. 1
  • Still as they run they look behind,
    They hear a voice in every wind,
    And snatch a fearful joy.
    • St. 4
  • Alas, regardless of their doom,
    The little victims play!
    No sense have they of ills to come,
    Nor care beyond today.
    • St. 6
  • Grim-visaged comfortless Despair.
    • St. 7
  • 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)

  • '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)

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

The Bard (1757)

  • 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, Line 1
  • 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, Line 1
  • 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, Line 9
  • Visions of glory, spare my aching sight,
    Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!
    • III, 1, Line 11
  • And truth severe, by fairy fiction drest.
    • III, 3, Line 3


  • There the thundering strokes begin,
    There the press, and there the din.

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