The Bard. A Pindaric Ode

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The following Ode is founded on a Tradition current in Wales, that EDWARD the First, when he compleated the conquest of that country, ordered all the Bards, that fell into his hands, to be put to death.

I. 1.
1 'Ruin seize thee, ruthless king!
2 'Confusion on thy banners wait,
3 'Though fanned by Conquest's crimson wing
4
[*] Mocking the air with colours idly spread.Shakespear's King John. [V. i. 72]
'They mock the air with idle state.
5 'Helm nor hauberk's
[*] The Hauberk was a texture of steel ringlets, or rings interwoven, forming a coat of mail, that sate close to the body, and adapted itself to every motion.
twisted mail,
6 'Nor even thy virtues, tyrant, shall avail
7 'To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,
8 'From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears! '
9 Such were the sounds, that o'er the crested pride
[*] [By] The crested adder's pride.Dryden's Indian Queen. [III. i. 84]
10 Of the first Edward scattered wild dismay,
11 As down the steep of Snowdon's
[*] Snowdon was a name given by the Saxons to that mountainous tract, which the Welch themselves call Craigian-eryri: it included all the highlands of Caernarvonshire and Merionethshire, as far east as the river Conway. R. Hygden [,] speaking of the castle of Conway built by King Edward the first, says, ''Ad ortum amnis Conway ad clivum montis Erery [At the source of the River Conway on the slope of Mt. Erery]; '' and Matthew of Westminster, (ad ann. 1283,) ''Apud Aberconway ad pedes montis Snowdoniae fecit erigi castrum forte [Near (or at) Aberconway at the foot of Mt. Snowdon, he caused a fortified camp to be constructed.]. ''
shaggy side
12 He wound with toilsome march his long array.
13 Stout Gloucester
[*] Gilbert de Clare, surnamed the Red, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, son-in-law to King Edward.
stood aghast in speechless trance:
14 'To arms!' cried Mortimer,
[*] Edmond de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore. They both were Lords-Marchers, whose lands lay on the borders of Wales, and probably accompanied the King in this expedition.
and couched his quivering lance.
I. 2.
15 On a rock, whose haughty brow
16 Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood,
17 Robed in the sable garb of woe,
18 With haggard
[*] [ '... haggard, wch conveys to you the the Idea of a Witch, is indeed only a metaphor taken from an unreclaim'd Hawk, wch is called a Haggard, & looks wild & farouche & jealous of its liberty.' Letter to Wharton, 21 Aug. 1755, T & W no. 205.]
eyes the poet stood;
19 (Loose his beard, and hoary hair
[*] The image was taken from a well-known picture of Raphael, representing the Supreme Being in the vision of Ezekiel: there are two of these paintings (both believed original), one at Florence, the other at Paris.
20 Streamed, like a meteor, to the troubled air)
[*] Shone, like a meteor, streaming to the wind.Milton's Paradise Lost. [i. 537]
21 And with a master's hand, and prophet's fire,
22 Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre.
23 'Hark, how each giant-oak, and desert cave,
24 'Sighs to the torrent's awful voice beneath!
25 'O'er thee, oh king! their hundred arms they wave,
26 'Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe;
27 'Vocal no more, since Cambria's fatal day,
28 'To high-born Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.
I. 3.
29 'Cold is Cadwallo's tongue,
30 'That hushed the stormy main:
31 'Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed:
32 'Mountains, ye mourn in vain
33 'Modred, whose magic song
34 'Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topped head.
35 'On dreary Arvon's shore
[*] The shores of Caernarvonshire opposite to the isle of Anglesey.
they lie,
36 'Smeared with gore, and ghastly pale:
37 'Far, far aloof the affrighted ravens sail;
38 'The famished eagle
[*] Cambden and others observe, that eagles used annually to build their aerie among the rocks of Snowdon, which from thence (as some think) were named by the Welch Craigian-eryri, or the crags of the eagles. At this day (I am told) the highest point of Snowdon is called the eagle's nest. That bird is certainly no stranger to this island, as the Scots, and the people of Cumberland, Westmoreland, &c. can testify: it even has built its nest in the Peak of Derbyshire. [SeeWilloughby's Ornithol. published by Ray.] [John Ray (1627-1705) published (1676) and translated (London, 1678) the Ornithologia of his patron Francis Willughby (1635-72).]
screams, and passes by.
39 'Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,
40 'Dear, as the light that visits these sad eyes,
[*]
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops,
That visit my sad heart
Shakesp. Jul. Caesar. [II. i. 289-90]
41 'Dear, as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
42 'Ye died amidst your dying country's cries
43 'No more I weep. They do not sleep.
44 'On yonder cliffs, a grisly band,
45 'I see them sit, they linger yet,
46 'Avengers of their native land:
47 'With me in dreadful harmony they join,
[*] See the Norwegian Ode, that follows. [Fatal Sisters]
48 'And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.'
II. 1.
49 "Weave the warp, and weave the woof,
50 "The winding-sheet of Edward's race.
51 "Give ample room, and verge enough
52 "The characters of hell to trace.
53 "Mark the year and mark the night,
54 "When Severn shall re-echo with affright
[*] Edward the Second, cruelly butchered in Berkley-Castle [in 1327 near the Severn River in western England].
55 "The shrieks of death, through Berkeley's roofs that ring,
56 "Shrieks of an agonizing King!
57 "She-wolf of France,
[*] Isabel of France, Edward the Second's adulterous Queen.
with unrelenting fangs,
58 "That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate,
59 "From thee be born, who o'er thy country hangs
[*] Triumphs of Edward the Third in France.
60 "The scourge of heaven. What terrors round him wait!
61 "Amazement in his van, with Flight combined,
62 "And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.
II. 2.
63 "Mighty victor, mighty lord,
64 "Low on his funeral couch he lies!
[*] Death of that King, abandoned by his Children, and even robbed in his last moments by his Courtiers and his Mistress [Alice Perrers, in 1377].
65 "No pitying heart, no eye, afford
66 "A tear to grace his obsequies.
67 "Is the sable warrior fled?
[*] Edward, the Black Prince, dead some time before his Father [in 1376].
68 "Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead.
69 "The swarm that in thy noon-tide beam were born?
70 "Gone to salute the rising morn.
71
[*] Magnificence of Richard the Second's reign. See Froissard, and other contemporary Writers.
"Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows,
72 "While proudly riding o'er the azure realm
73 "In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes;
74 "Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm;
75 "Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway,
76 "That, hushed in grim repose, expects his evening-prey.
II. 3.
77 "Fill high the sparkling bowl,
[*] Richard the Second, (as we are told by Archbishop Scroop and the confederate Lords in their manifesto, by Thomas of Walsingham, and all the older Writers) [,] was starved to death [in 1400]. The story of his assassination by Sir Piers of Exon, is of much later date.
78 "The rich repast prepare,
79 "Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast:
80 "Close by the regal chair
81 "Fell Thirst and Famine scowl
82 "A baleful smile upon their baffled guest.
83 "Heard ye the din of battle bray,
[*] Ruinous civil wars of York and Lancaster.
84 "Lance to lance, and horse to horse?
85 "Long years of havoc urge their destined course,
86 "And through the kindred squadrons mow their way.
87 "Ye towers of Julius,
[*] Henry the Sixth, George Duke of Clarence, Edward the Fifth, Richard Duke of York, &c. believed to be murthered secretly in the Tower of London. The oldest part of that structure is vulgarly attributed to Julius Caesar.
London's lasting shame,
88 "With many a foul and midnight murther fed,
89 "Revere his consort's faith, his father's fame,
[*] [Consort] Margaret of Anjou, a woman of heroic spirit, who struggled hard to save her Husband and her Crown. [Father] Henry the Fifth.
90 "And spare the meek usurper's holy head.
[*] Henry the Sixth very near being canonized. The line of Lancaster had no right of inheritance to the Crown.
91 "Above, below, the rose of snow,
[*] The white and red roses, devices of York and Lancaster [presumably woven above and below on the loom].
92 "Twined with her blushing foe, we spread:
93 "The bristled Boar
[*] The silver Boar was the badge of Richard the Third; whence he was usually known in his own time by the name of the Boar.
in infant-gore
94 "Wallows beneath the thorny shade.
95 "Now, brothers, bending o'er the accursed loom,
96 "Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.
III. 1.
97 "Edward, lo! to sudden fate
98 "(Weave we the woof. The thread is spun)
99 "Half of thy heart we consecrate.
[*] Eleanor of Castile died a few years after the conquest of Wales. The heroic proof she gave of her affection for her Lord [she is supposed to have sucked the poison from a wound Edward I received] is well known. The monuments of his regret, and sorrow for the loss of her, are still to be seen at Northampton, Geddington, Waltham, and other places.
100 "(The web is wove. The work is done.)"
101 'Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn
102 'Leave me unblessed, unpitied, here to mourn:
103 'In yon bright track, that fires the western skies,
104 'They melt, they vanish from my eyes.
105 'But oh! what solemn scenes on Snowdon's height
106 'Descending slow their glittering skirts unroll?
107 'Visions of glory, spare my aching sight,
108 'Ye unborn ages, crowd not on my soul!
109 'No more our long-lost Arthur
[*] It was the common belief of the Welch nation, that King Arthur was still alive in Fairy-Land, and should return again to reign over Britain.
we bewail.
110 'All-hail, ye genuine kings, Britannia's issue, hail!
[*] Both Merlin [Myrddin] and Taliessin had prophesied, that the Welch should regain their sovereignty over this island; which seemed to be accomplished in the House of Tudor [1768]. Accession of the House of Tudor [1757].
III. 2.
111 'Girt with many a baron bold
112 'Sublime their starry fronts they rear;
113 'And gorgeous dames, and statesmen old
114 'In bearded majesty, appear.
115 'In the midst a form divine!
116 'Her eye proclaims her of the Briton-line;
117 'Her lion-port, her awe-commanding face,
[*] Speed relating an audience given by Queen Elizabeth to Paul Dzialinski, Ambassadour of Poland, says, 'And thus she, lion-like rising, daunted the malapert Orator no less with her stately port and majestical deporture, than with the tartnesse of her princelie checkes.' [John Speed (1552-1629) published hisHistory of Great Britaine ... to ... King James in 1611.]
118 'Attempered sweet to virgin-grace.
119 'What strings symphonious tremble in the air,
120 'What strains of vocal transport round her play!
121 'Hear from the grave, great Taliessin,
[*] Taliessin, Chief of the Bards, flourished in the VIth Century. His works are still preserved, and his memory held in high veneration among his Countrymen. [His Book exists in only a thirteenth-century version and many of the poems in it may not be by Taliessin.]
hear;
122 'They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
123 'Bright Rapture calls, and soaring, as she sings,
124 'Waves in the eye of heaven her many-coloured wings.
III. 3.
125 'The verse adorn again
126 'Fierce war and faithful love,
[*] Fierce wars and faithful loves shall moralize my song.Spenser's Proëme to the Fairy Queen [l. 9]
127 'And truth severe, by fairy fiction dressed.
128 'In buskined measures move
[*] Shakespear.
129 'Pale Grief, and pleasing Pain,
130 'With Horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast.
131 'A voice, as of the cherub-choir,
[*] Milton.
132 'Gales from blooming Eden bear;
133 'And distant warblings lessen on my ear,
[*] The succession of Poets after Milton's time.
134 'That lost in long futurity expire.
135 'Fond impious man, think'st thou, yon sanguine cloud,
136 'Raised by thy breath, has quenched the orb of day?
137 'Tomorrow he repairs the golden flood,
138 'And warms the nations with redoubled ray.
139 'Enough for me: with joy I see
140 'The different doom our fates assign.
141 'Be thine despair and sceptered care;
142 'To triumph, and to die, are mine. '
143 He spoke, and headlong from the mountain's height
144 Deep in the roaring tide he plunged to endless night.

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Title (in Source Edition): The Bard. A Pindaric Ode
Author: Thomas Gray
Themes: politics; poetry; literature; writing; history
Genres: ode

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Thomas Gray: English poems. Web. Oxford: Thomas Gray Archive, 2002, p. . http://www.thomasgray.org/texts/poems.shtml

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