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A nest of singing birds. Three centuries of English doctorate from just. Crazy energy and energy isn't a meant for the dead whom is gray lamenting. He mourns his death and ours. He laments your death mine and his own. This is an energy on common humanity. I love meant for us all by one of us rich or poor obscure or famous. Nobody escapes death. The boast of heraldry or pomp of power and all that beauty all that welfare gave away to like the inevitable our Paths of Glory lead but to the grave. No wonder General James world for sighted this Elegy directing that battle in Canada in which he died. This is one of those poems which we meet in so many anthologies. Everybody has heard of it. If you have read it and even fewer really enjoy and appreciate it the poem requires some explanation as it is in
English of the mid 18th century written in 1750 and published in 1751. The very first line for instance has a word that needs a note curfew. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day. Gray uses the word curfew in its sense of a bell rung at 8 o'clock every night as a warning. But in the words of an 18th Century Dictionary all persons should put out their fire and lights the curfew was instituted by William the Conqueror after his victory of ten sixty six. He did it to prevent fires by greys time. The sound of the curfew bell had come to be regarded as an official sign that the day was over. In the poem A bell is sounded to mark the end of a day but Gray calls it an el that is described in the same Eighteenth Century Dictionary as a passing bell the ringing of a bell at the departure of a dying person. Gray says the curfew is the ringing of a bell.
At the departure of a dying day the curfew tolls the knell of parting day. But when the day dies it comes back to morrow. The Nelsons every night for a man it sounds once when he dies he does not return to morrow. All this is implied by the first line and reinforced by the next three in which we see living creatures. Cows and Plowman making their way towards just one night's sleep. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day the lowing herd winds slowly over the leaves. The ploughman homeward plods his weary way and leaves the world to darkness and to me now or fades the glimmering landscape on the sight. And all the solemn stillness holds. So where the beak or wheels whose droning flight and drowsy
tingling love the distant cold gray is left with the dead in the darkness. But even that darkness is not quite dead. We hear the beetle and far away in the sheep fields there are sounds of life as the animals with their bells tinkling gray brings us back from the distant unseen horizon and focuses his attention on the church tower where the solemn stillness is alleviated by another noise save that from yonder Ivy mantled tower. The moping Aldo's to the moon complain of such as wandering near her secret Bower more or less ancient solitary reign now our gaze moves from the tower to the elms down to the huge trees and lower yet closing in on the grave mounds at their feet. Beneath those rugged elms that huge trees shade where he was the in many a moldering heap each in his narrow
cell for ever laid the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. This is a brilliant opening here sleep. The Rood that is unpolished forefathers of the Hamlet the living fathers of the hamlet sleep also but in their beds not each in a narrow cell for ever laid. They will get up tomorrow morning like the day which parts only for one night they return with the dawn. So we have the picture of the living parting just for one night and then the section ends with a picture of the graves of the dead who have parted for ever. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day the lowing herd winds slowly over the leaves. The ploughman homeward plods his weary way and leaves the world to darkness and to me now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight.
And all the air a solemn stillness holds save where the beak or wheels whose droning flight and drowsy tinkling love the distant fold. Save that from yonder Ivy mantled tower. The moping owl those to the moon complain of such as wondering near her secret Bower molest ancient solitary raid beneath those rugged elms that huge trees shade where he was the in many a moldering heap each in his narrow cell for ever laid the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. Gray now reminds us of the life which the dead have left for ever. The breezy call of incense breathing morn the Swallow Twittering from the straw built shed the cocks shrill Clarion or the echoing horn.
No more shall rouse them from their lonely bed. Some people take exception to incense breezing they find it too deeply scented and soporific for early morn But Grey has a different sense associated with a different image. He remembers another poem written not quite a hundred years earlier. Here's a passage from Book 9 of Milton's Paradise Lost. Now when a sacred light began to dawn even on the humid flowers that breeze their morning ensigns when all things the breeze from the Earth's great altar send up silent prayers to the Creator and his nostrils filled with grateful smell. Fourth came the human pair and joined their vocal worship to the choir of creatures wanting voice. Those were lines 1 9 2 2 1 9 9 of book 9 of Paradise Lost Paradise before the fall. Adam and Eve joined the chorus of
adoration. They're articulate praise adding to the gratitude which all living things express to the Creator. The plants without voice example sweet smell which is praise incense in church symbolizes praise ascending to God in heaven. Hear the created things breathe out their praise in literal smell the fresh smell of early morning in the unspoiled countryside. This is what gray imagines. People have also sometimes objected to the phrase straw built shed. It means merely a thatched roof Originally the word shared was used of a roof in which two sides sloped away sharply from a central ridge or beam. The word comes from a Germanic root meaning to separate as in water shared the high ground from which river systems flow in separate directions. The Clarion the cock's shrill Clarion is a shrill horn. Two other words might require a note Glebe means clods of their
photo after the stubborn Glebe has broke. And Jock and means merrily. How Dokken do they drive their team afield. Now it is here the whole of the section which tells us of the life of the living. No longer live by the village dead each in his narrow cell for ever laid. The breezy call of incense breathing morn the Swallow Twittering from the straw built shed the cocks shrill Clarion or the echoing horn. No more shall rouse them from their lonely bed. For them no more the blazing heart shall burn or busy housewife plying her evening care. No children round the liss their sires return or climb his knees. The envied kids to share. Off to do the harvest to their sickle using their photo after the stubborn Glebe has broke how jocund did they drive their team afield
How about the woods beneath their sturdy stroke. Grey has been telling us about the poor the humble dead some of his readers in the polite world of 18th century society might object to attention being given to these unimportant people. So he turns aside to tell them that they will be no less dead than the poor when the poor die. They are no more dead than the rich. They're animals. That is their history should also be told. Not ambition mark their useful toil their homely joys and destiny obscure nor grandeur here with a disdainful smile. The short and simple annals of the poor. He tells of the proud not to consider it the fault of the poor. If no trophy is raised over there to a trophy as a memorial to a victory if memory over their tomb no trophies raise. And now comes a rhetorical
question. Can store read and or animated bust back to its mansion called the fleeting breath. Can an urn on which there are commemorative carvings. Can a lifelike portrait bust bring the dead to life. He asks if Honor's voice can stir to action. The silent dust provoke is used very effectively. It can also mean challenge. Can the dead be challenged to defend their honor. Can storied and or animated bust back to its mansion called the fleeting breath. Can all those voice provoke the silent dust or flattery the dull cold ear of death again. Gray's reading informs his imagining these verses refer to ambition to flattery and soothing. The three come together in this couplet from Dryden's Absalom and Akita fell when the prince is succumbing to temptation.
DRITON comments what cannot praise effect in mighty mind when flattery soo as and when ambition blind. Before we listen to the four verses in which Gray explains this section of his thought. Let's share this joke with him. He uses the word animated in animated bust well aware of its other meaning of living possessing soul and is really asking is an animated bust really animated Kandersteg you very is not ambition mark their use will toil their homely joys and destiny obscure nor Grand your hero with a disdainful smile. The short and simple annals of the poor. The boast of heraldry the pomp of power and all that beauty all that welfare gave away to like the inevitable our
Paths of Glory lead but to the grave. Know you your proud impute to these the fault if memory or they are to no trophies raise where through the long drawn aisle and fretted for all the peeling anthems wails the note of praise. Can storied and or animated bust back to its mansion called the fleeting breath. Can our nose voice provoke the silent dust or flattery. Sue the dull cold ear of death. Anyone who has seen an eighteenth century church in England will know what Grey has in mind. The wars have numerous memorial plaques and tablets honoring the polite and gentle dead whether buried there or not. Often there are urns and memorials of one kind of triumph or another. Trey was thinking of a Gothic building erected in an earlier age with a long drawn aisle and fretted vault. When I read these lines I always think of Bart Abbey Gothic but full of relics of the polite society
of Gray's age. The next eight verses are devoted to considering what might've been done by these humble villagers if they had been given the opportunity. First we hear of the good they might have done perhaps in this neglected spot is laid some heart once pregnant with celestial fire hands that the rod of empire might have swayed or waked to ecstasy. The living live. But they didn't have the chance. Grace says that knowledge didn't Unruh her ample page for them. Ample means large wide spacious then noble rage their noble fury heat of emotion was kept down by the cold touch of penury of poverty which is so cold that it turns fire to ice freezing the joyful flow of the song. But knowledge to their eyes her ample page rich with the spoils of time did neuron roll chill penury repressed their noble
rage and froze the genial current of the soul. Now we come to those well-known lines about the gem of purest ray serene serene means clear. It is a gem of purest clarity for many a gem of purest ray serene the dark on fathom the caves of ocean bare for many a flower is born to blush unseen and wasted sweetness on the desert where good might have been done by the dead or ill. John Hampton withstood Charles the First. A man like him might have lived here so might a potential poet or a potential shadow of his countrymen's blood. Some village Hampton that with don't listen best to the little tyrant of his fields withstood some mute inglorious Milton here may rest some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood some more is said about missed opportunities for splendor
and then comes the transition. These people avoided doing harm as well. The applause of listening Senates to command the threats of pain and ruin to despise to scatter plenty over a smiling land and read their history and a nation's eyes. Their lot for bad nor circumscribed alone their growing virtues. But their crimes confined for badly to wade through slaughter too were thrown out and shut the gates of mercy on mankind. Gray says that they didn't have to quench the blushes put out the flames in the cheeks of ingenuous. That is open frank. Shame they didn't trust to toot their hearts in the praise of the proud and like Sirius those living a life of debauchery. Instead they lived quietly far from the wild conflicts of popular centers and their wishes were sober. That is moderate.
They held a quiet course of their life in the cool Vale retired from the world of fashion and striving the struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide to quench the blushes of ingenuous shame or heaped the shrine of luxury and pride within sense of the Muses flame. Far From The Madding Crowd the ignoble strife the sober wish has never learned to stray along the cool sequestered vale of life. They kept the noiseless tend out of their way. Great poem makes us aware of the enormous social distinctions of 18th century and it was the age of the squire of what were known as gentle folk people who were accepted of as at least some quality whether they were just above the line of demarcation from the rest or belong to the greater nobility the mighty oligarchy which actually ruled Great himself was not of gentle birth but profited from the habit of the English ruling classes of allowing the right kind of
person to enter from below. He went to Eton College in 1725 where he became a close friend of Horace Walpole son of Sir Robert Walpole the powerful prime minister of England later in 1734 Grey went to Peterhouse Cambridge leaving after four years without a degree but not in any manner the kind of failure that Americans call a drop out. He returned later and actually became Professor of History. But that was long after he started writing his energy and 1742 the poem took eight years to complete. A long time to spend on something so short but the time and experience behind the poem were not wasted. Experience as a man to whom the great and fashionable were not unknown to him the country folk were familiar who knew the classics and earlier English literature who weighed every word he wrote Samuel Johnson said of Grey's energy. It abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind and with sentiments
to which every bosom returns an echo. For many a gem of purest ray serene the dark on Fathom caves of ocean bare for many a flower is born to blush unseen and the waste its sweetness on the desert air. Here we have both images and sentiments. The pure clear gem in the dark caves the flower glowing red in the desert and the sentiment that riches humanity may be ingenious in beauty of body and mind. Many who ought to be acclaimed live and die obscure. The poem has no better richer more moving images than those which abound in the following three verses. The breezy call of incense breathing morn the Swallow Twittering from the straw built shed the cocks shrill Clarion or the echoing horn. No more shall rouse them from their lonely bed
for them. No more the blazing heart shall burn or busy housewife ply her evening care. No children round to this their sires return or climb his knees. The envied case to share after the harvest to their sickle yield their photo after the stubble in Glebe has broke how jocund did they drive their team afield How about the woods beneath their sturdy stroke. And the images are not only visual and aural but tactile and even involve the sense of smell we can feel the breezy cool the warmth of the blazing house the pressure of the inference millions upon our knees. The last of these three verses is particularly subtle. How easily this line swishes. After the harvest to their sickle you but the next suggest driving energy cutting
through hard obstacles. Then the team is driven merrily. After that what physical exertion is felt behind their steady stroke are bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke Gray also raises his style above the familiar by his rhythm which arises for the most part from a very simple natural order of words. But notice what he does with repetition in these lines of repetition which involve slight changes. That's why it works so well. The Cocks shrill Clarion all the echoing horn. No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed for them no more the blazing hearth shall burn. And again oft did the harvest to their sickle yield their thorough asked the stubborn Glee has broke. And what about this one. How jocund did they drive their team afield. How about the words beneath their
steady stroke. That's as far as we read the poem this time. Gray has managed to cover a lot of ground from his observation point in Stoke purges churchyard he surveys the life of rich and poor reminding us of the different kinds of things human beings do. The different lives they live but they are all the same in death all are just as dead as one another. The Proud and the humble the arrogant rich and the subservient poor. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day the lowing herd winds slowly over the leaves. The ploughman homeward plods his weary way and leaves the world to darkness and to me. Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight and all the air a solemn stillness holds save where the beak or wheels whose droning flight and drowsy tinkling love the
distant fold. Save that from yonder Ivy mantled tower. The moping owl those to the moon complain of such as wondering near her secret Bower molest her ancient solitary reign beneath those rugged elms that huge trees shade where he was the in many a moldering heap each in his narrow cell for ever laid the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. The breezy call of incense breathing morn the Swallow Twittering from the straw built shed the cocks shrill Clarion or the echoing horn. No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed for them no more the blazing half shell bird or busy housewife plying her evening care no children round to this
their sires return or climb his knees. The envied kiss to share oft did the harvest to their sickle yield their furrow off the stubborn Glebe has broke. How dragons do they drive their team afield How about the woods beneath their sturdy stroke. Let not ambition. Mark their useful toil their homely joys and destiny obscure nor grandeur here with a disdainful smile. The short and simple annals of the poor the boast of heraldry the pomp of power and all that beauty all that welfare gave awaits a like the inevitable our Paths of Glory lead but to the grave. Know you your proud impute to these the fault if memory or they are to no
trophies raise where through the long drawn Island fretted vault the peeling anthems wails the note of praise Can story to turn or animated bust back to its mention call the fleeting breath can owner's voice provoke the silent dust or flattery to the dull cold the ear of the dead. Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid some heart once pregnant with celestial fire hands that the rod of empire might have swayed or waked to ecstasy. The living lie but knowledge to their eyes her ample page rich with the spoils of time did near unroll chill penury repressed their noble rage and froze the genial current of the soul full many a gem of purest ray serene in the dark on Fathom caves of
ocean bare for many a flower is born to blush unseen and wasted sweetness on the desert air. Some village Hampton that with don't loose breast to the little tyrant of his fields withstood some mute inglorious Milton here may rest some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood. The applause of listening Senates to command the threats of pain and ruin to despise to scatter plenty over a smiling land and read their history in the nation's eyes. Their lot for bad nor circumscribed alone their growing virtues. But their crimes confined for badly to wade through slaughter too were thrown out and shut the gates of mercy on mankind. The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide to quench the blushes of ingenuous shame or heap the shrine of
luxury and pride with incense at the Muses flame. Far From The Madding Crowd the ignoble strife their sober wishes never to stray along the sequestered vale of life. They kept the noiseless tenor of their way. This is the first of two programs Andres energy. The second follows next week. These readings from Gray's Elegy were by Jonathan. Well this is Bertram Joseph inviting you to be with us again. This program was produced by Radio Broadcast Services of the University of Washington under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is the national educational radio network.
Series
A nest of singing birds
Episode Number
Gray's Elegy I
Episode Number
12
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-n29p6v7c
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Date
1970-00-00
Topics
Literature
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:28:43
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 70-3-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “A nest of singing birds; Gray's Elegy I; 12,” 1970-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 19, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-n29p6v7c.
MLA: “A nest of singing birds; Gray's Elegy I; 12.” 1970-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 19, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-n29p6v7c>.
APA: A nest of singing birds; Gray's Elegy I; 12. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-n29p6v7c