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'To these, if Hebe's self should bring
'Mark ambition's march sublime
Phantoms of danger, death, and dread,
'Happier he, the peasant, far,
From the pangs of passion free,
He, when his morning task is done,
'He, unconscious whence the bliss,
From toil he wins his spirits light,
In heaven's best treasures, peace and health.'
A PASSAGE FROM STATIUS.
THEB. LIB. VI. VER. 704-724.
This translation, which Gray sent to West, consisted of about a hundred and ten lines. Mr. Mason selected twenty-seven lines, which he published, as Gray's first attempt in English
THIRD in the labours of the disc came on,
His vigorous arm he tried before he flung,
The theatre's green height and woody wall
The ponderous mass sinks in the cleaving ground,
FRAGMENT OF A TRAGEDY,
DESIGNED BY MR. GRAY,
ON THE SUBJECT OF
THE DEATH OF AGRIPPINA.
"THE Britannicus of Mr. Racine, I know, was one of Mr. Gray's most favourite plays; and the admirable manner in which I have heard him say he saw it represented at Paris, seems to have led him to choose the death of Agrippina for his first and only effort in the drama. The execution of it also, as far as it goes, is so very much in Racine's taste, that I suspect, if that great poet had been born an Englishman, he would have written precisely in the same style and manner. However, as there is at present in this nation a general prejudice against declamatory plays, I agree with a learned friend, who perused the manuscript, that this fragment will be little relished by the many; yet the admirable strokes of nature and character with which it abounds, and the majesty of its diction, prevent me from withholding from the few, who I expect will relish it, so great a curiosity (to call it nothing more) as part of a tragedy written by Mr. Gray. These persons well know, that till style and sentiment be a little more regarded, mere action and passion will never secure reputation to the author, whatever they may do to the actor. It is the business of the one, to strut and fret his hour upon the stage; and if he frets and struts enough, he is sure to
find his reward in the plaudit of an upper gallery; but the other ought to have some regard to the cooler judgment of the closet: for I will be bold to say, that if Shakspeare himself had not written a multitude of passages which please there as much as they do on the stage, his reputation would not stand so universally high as it does at present. Many of these passages, to the shame of our theatrical taste, are omitted constantly in the representation: but I say not this from conviction that the mode of writing, which Mr. Gray pursued, is the best for dramatic purposes. I think myself, what I have asserted elsewhere, that a medium between the French and English taste would be preferable to either; and yet this medium, if hit with the greatest nicety, would fail of success on our theatre, and that for a very obvious reason. Actors (I speak of the troop collectively) must all learn to speak as well as act, in order to do justice to such a drama. "But let me hasten to give the reader what little insight I can into Mr. Gray's plan, as I find and select it from two detached papers. The Title and Dramatis Personæ are as follow:"