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sion: Hence we perceive, that in the last epode he praises Spenser only for his allegory, Shakespeare for his powers of moving the passions, and Milton for his epic excellence. I remember the Ode lay unfinished by him for a year or two on this very account; and I hardly believe that it would ever have had his last hand but for the circumstance of his hearing Parry on the Welch harp at a concert at Cambridge, which he often declared inspired him with the conclusion.
“ Mr. Smith, the Musical Composer and worthy pupil of Mr. Handel, had once an idea of setting this Ode, and of having it performed by way of serenata or oratorio. A common friend of his and Mr. Gray's interested himself much in this design, and drew out a clear analysis of the Ode, that Mr. Smith might more perfectly understand the Poet's meaning. He conversed also with Mr. Gray on the subject, who gave him an idea for the overture, and marked also some passages in the Ode in order to ascertain which should be recitative, which air, what kind of air, and how accompanied. The design was, however, not executed; and therefore I shall only (in order to give the reader a taste of Mr. Gray's musical feelings) insert in this place what his sentiments were concerning the overture. “ It should be so contrived as to be a “ proper introduction to the Ode; it might consist of two movements, “ the first descriptive of the horror and confusion of battle, the last a “ march grave and majestic, but expressing the exultation and insolent “ security of conquest. This movement should be composed entirely " of wind instruments, except the kettle-drum heard at intervals. The “ da capo of it must be suddenly broke in upon, and put to silence “ by the clang of the harp in a tumultuous rapid movement, joined “ with the voice, all at once, and not ushered in by any symphony. “ The harmony may be strengthened by any other stringed instrument; “ but the harp should everywhere prevail, and form the continued “ running accompanyment, submitting itself to nothing but the voice.”
“ I cannot (says Mr. Mason) quit this and the preceding Ode, without saying a word or two concerning the obscurity which has been imputed to them, and the preference which, in consequence, has been given to his elegy. It seems as if the persons, who hold this opinion, suppose that every species of Poetry ought to be equally clear and intelligible: than which position nothing can be more repugnant to the several specific natures of composition, and to the practice of ancient art. Not to take Pindar and his odes for an example (though what I am here defending were written professedly in imitation of him) I would ask, Are all the writings of Horace, his Epistles, Satires, and Odes, equally perspicuous ?. Amongst his Odes, separately considered, are there not remarkable differences of this very kind ? Is the spirit and meaning of that which begins, “ Descende cælo, & dic, age, tibia,” Ode 4. lib. 3. so readily comprehended as “ Persicos odi, puer, apparatus,” Ode 38. I. 1. and is the latter a finer piece of lyrical composition on that account? Is “ Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus,” Ode 22. I. l. superior to “ Pindarum quisquis studet æmulari,” Ode 2. 1. 4. because it may be understood at the first reading, and the latter not without much study and reflection? Now between these Odes, thus compared, there is surely equal difference in point of perspicuity, as between the Progress of Poesy, and the Prospect of Eton; the Ode on the Spring, and the Bard. But, say these objectors, “ The end of Poetry is, universally to
please. Obscurity, 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, 1 am persuaded, not only have its force with the intelligent readers (the ETNETOI,) but also with the men of fashion; as to critics of a lower class, it may be sufficient to transcribe, for their iinprovement, 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 only “ 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 Love ; 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 Epistles do not rup so well as the “ Elegies of Tibullus.”
ODE FOR MUSIC.
[This Ode was performed in the Senate-House at Cambridge, July 1,
1769, at the Installation of his Grace Augustus-Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, Chancellor of the University. To give the reader an idea of its musical arrangement, we have printed it with the divisions adopted by the Composer, Dr. Randall, then Music Professor at Cambridge.]
HENCE, avaunt, ('tis holy ground)
“ Comus, and his midnight-crew,
“ And dreaming Sloth of pallid hue,
« Nor in these consecrated bowers “Let painted Flatt'ry hide her serpent-train in
“Nor Envy base, nor creeping Gain, “ Dare the Muse's walk to stain,