Ruminations | Mostly Musings on Life and Literature

"Various originals have been cited for this famous stanza, but often as the thought may have occurred before Gray it is in the form in which he has worded it that it is known the world over. Mitford quotes: -
''There is many a rich stone laid up in the bowels of the earth, many a fair pearl in the bosom of the sea, that never was seen, nor never shall be.'' Bishop Hall's ''Contemplations,'' vi. 872.
A writer in the ''Gentleman's Magazine'' for May, 1782, refers to Young, ''Universal Passion'': -

''In distant wilds, by human eyes unseen,
She rears her flow'rs and spreads her velvet green;
Pure gurgling rills, the lowly desert trace,
And waste their music on the savage race.'' - Sat. v.
Gray introduces ''the gem and the flower'' in his ''Ode at the Installation'' (written nearly twenty years later) thus: -
''Thy liberal heart, thy judging eye,
The flower unheeded shall descry,
And bid it round heaven's altars shed
The fragrance of its blushing head:
Shall raise from earth the latent gem
To glitter on the diadem.'' - ."

Mostly Musings on Life and Literature ..

"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.''
''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."

First a word about my banner…I love that face

There’s something worldly-wise about it.

"There are a number of passages strikingly similar to this. Mitford suggests the following (I give the references more exactly) from Comus, lines 22-23: ''That, like to rich and various gems, inlay / The unadorned bosom of the deep.''
From Ambrose Philips, The Fable of Thule: ''Like woodland flowers, which paint the desert glades, / And waste their sweets in unfrequented shades.''
From William Chamberlayne, Pharonnida (London, 1659), Book iv, canto 5, p. 94: ''Like beauteous flowers which vainly waste the scent / Of odors in unhanted desarts.''
From Bishop Joseph Hall, Contemplations, Book vi, Cont. i (Complete Works, Oxford, 1863, I, 137): ''There is many a rich stone laid up in the bowels of the earth, many a fair pearl laid up in the bosom of the sea, that never was seen nor never shall be.''
Wakefield quotes Pope, Rape of the Lock, iv, 157, 158: ''There kept my charms conceal'd from mortal eye, / Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die.''
A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine for January, 1782, calls attention to the following lines from Young, Love of Fame, Satire v, On Women, lines 229-232:

''In distant wilds, by human eyes unseen,
She rears her flow'rs and spreads her velvet green:
Pure gurgling rills, the lowly desert trace,
And waste their music on the savage race.''"