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Thomas Gray to William Mason, [24 or 31 May 1757]

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Dear Mason

You are so forgetful of me, that I should not forgive it, but that I suppose Caractacus may be the better for it. yet I hear nothing from him neither in spite of his promises: there is no faith in Man, no, not in a Welch-Man, and yet Mr Parry has been here, & scratch'd out such ravishing blind Harmony, such tunes of a thousand year old with names enough to choak you, as have set all this learned body a'dancing, & inspired them with due reverence for Odikle, whenever it shall appear. Mr Parry (you must know) it was, that has put Odikle in motion again, & with much exercise it has got a tender Tail grown, like Scroddles, and here it is. if you don't like it, you may kiss it.

You remember the Visions of Glory, that descended on the heighths of Snowdon, & unroll'd their glitt'ring skirts so slowly.


Haughty Knights, & Barons bold
With dazzling helm & horrent spear,
And gorgeous Dames, & Statesmen old
Of bearded majesty, appear:
In the midst a Form divine;
Her Eye proclaims her born of Arthur's line,
Her lyon-port, her awe-commanding face,
Attemper'd sweet to Virgin-grace.
What strings symphonious tremble in the air?
What strains of vocal transport round her play?
Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear!
They breath a Soul to animate thy clay.
Bright Rapture wakes, & soaring, as she sings,
Waves in the eye of heaven her many-colour'd wings.


The Verse adorn again
Fierce War & faithful Love,
And Truth severe by fairy Fiction drest.
In mystic measures move
Pale Grief, & pleasing Pain,
With Horror wild, that chills the throbbing breast.
A Voice as of the Cherub-Quire
Gales from blooming Eden bear;
And distant warblings lessen on my ear,
That lost in long futurity expire.
Fond impious Man! thinkst thou, yon sanguine cloud
Raised by thy breath has quench'd the Orb of Day?
Tomorrow he repairs the golden flood,
And warms the Nations with redoubled ray.
Enough for me. with joy I see
The diff'rent doom our Fates assign:
Be thine Despair, & sceptred care;
To triumph & to die are mine.
He spoke, & headlong from the mountain's height
Deep in the roaring tide he sunk to endless night.

I am well aware of many weakly things here, but I hope the End will do. pray, give me your full & true opinion, & that not upon deliberation, but forthwith. Mr Hurd himself allows, that lyon-port is not too bold for Q: Elizabeth. all here are well, & desire their respects to you. I read yesterday of a Canonry of Worc:r vacant in the News-paper.

Adieu, dear Mason, & believe me most truly

It will not be long, before I shall go to London.

Letter ID: letters.0271 (Source: TEI/XML)


Writer: Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771
Writer's age: 40
Addressee: Mason, William, 1724-1797
Addressee's age: 33


Date of composition: [24 or 31 May 1757]
Date (on letter): Tuesday. May. 1757
Calendar: Gregorian


Place of composition: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Address (on letter): Camb:


Language: English
Incipit: You are so forgetful of me, that I should not forgive it, but that I suppose...
Mentioned: Hurd, Dr. Richard
Hurd, Richard, 1720-1808
Mason, William, 1724-1797
The Bard. A Pindaric Ode

Holding Institution

Henry W. And Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, Humanities and Social Sciences Library, New York Public Library , New York, NY, USA <>
Availability: The original letter is extant and usually available for academic research purposes

Print Versions

  • The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York: printed by A. Ward; and sold by J. Dodsley, London; and J. Todd, York, 1775, letter xxv, section iv, 247-248
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by Thomas James Mathias. London: William Bulmer, 1814, section IV, letter XXV, vol. i, 356-357
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: J. Mawman, 1816, section IV, letter LVIII, vol. ii, 281-282
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, 2 vols. in one. London: J. Sharpe, 1819, letter XCIII, vol. ii, 14-15
  • The Works of Thomas Gray, 5 vols. Ed. by John Mitford. London: W. Pickering, 1835-1843, section IV, letter LXVI, vol. iii, 159-161
  • The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, with Letters to the Rev. James Brown, D.D. Ed. by the Rev. John Mitford. London: Richard Bentley, 1853, letter XVIII, 79-82
  • The Letters of Thomas Gray, including the correspondence of Gray and Mason, 3 vols. Ed. by Duncan C. Tovey. London: George Bell and Sons, 1900-12, letter no. CXL, vol. i, 331-333
  • Correspondence of Thomas Gray, 3 vols. Ed. by the late Paget Toynbee and Leonard Whibley, with corrections and additions by H. W. Starr. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971 [1st ed. 1935], letter no. 238, vol. ii, 501-503