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[Epitaph on Sir William Williams]


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[Epitaph on Sir William Williams]


1 Here, foremost in the dangerous paths of fame,
2 Young Williams fought for England's fair renown;
3 His mind each Muse, each Grace adorned his frame,
4 Nor Envy dared to view him with a frown.

5 At Aix uncalled his maiden sword he drew,
6 (There first in blood his infant glory sealed);
7 From fortune, pleasure, science, love, he flew,
8 And scorned repose when Britain took the field.

9 With eyes of flame and cool intrepid breast,
10 Victor he stood on Belle Isle's rocky steeps;
11 Ah gallant youth! this marble tells the rest,
12 Where melancholy Friendship bends and weeps.

Expanding the poem lines (+) shows the results of a computationally facilitated analysis of the text. These results should be considered as a basis for deeper interpretative enquiry such as can be found in the notes and queries.

0 [Epitaph on Sir William Williams]

Metrical notation:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/ -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/ -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/ -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/
Metrical foot type:  iambic (-+)
Metrical foot number:  pentameter (5 feet)
Rhyme scheme:  abab
Rhyme (stanza position):  cross (abab)
Syllable pattern:  10.10.10.10
Stanza:  quatrain (4 lines)
Genre(s):  epitaph
Theme(s):  death

Notation symbols: | (foot boundary), || (caesura), / (metrical line boundary), + (metrically prominent), - (metrically non-prominent)


1 Here, foremost in the dangerous paths of fame,    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  fame   |   Rhyme sound:  /eɪm/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): foremost/fame /f/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): dangerous/fame /eɪ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): foremost/fame /m/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): foremost/fame /f/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): in/dangerous /n/

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2 Young Williams fought for England's fair renown;    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  renown   |   Rhyme sound:  /aʊn/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): fought/fair /f/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): Williams/England's/renown /ɪ/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): fought/for /ɔː/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Young/England's /ŋ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): fought/for/fair /f/

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3 His mind each Muse, each Grace adorned his frame,    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  frame   |   Rhyme sound:  /eɪm/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): His/his /h/
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): mind/Muse /m/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): His/his /ɪ/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): each/each /iː/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): Grace/frame /eɪ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): His/his /h/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): His/Muse/his /z/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): mind/adorned /n/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): mind/Muse/frame /m/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): each/each /tʃ/
Figure:  diacope (morphological): His/his
Figure:  diacope (morphological): each/each

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4 Nor Envy dared to view him with a frown.    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  frown   |   Rhyme sound:  /aʊn/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  assonance (phonological): to/view /uː/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): him/with /ɪ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Nor/Envy/frown /n/

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5 At Aix uncalled his maiden sword he drew,    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  drew   |   Rhyme sound:  /uː/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): his/he /h/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): uncalled/sword /ɔː/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Aix/uncalled /k/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): his/he /h/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): maiden/sword/drew /d/

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6 (There first in blood his infant glory sealed);    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  sealed   |   Rhyme sound:  /iːld/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  assonance (phonological): in/his/infant /ɪ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): first/sealed /s/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): in/infant /n/

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7 From fortune, pleasure, science, love, he flew,    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  flew   |   Rhyme sound:  /uː/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): From/fortune/flew /f/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): From/fortune/flew /f/

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8 And scorned repose when Britain took the field.    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  field   |   Rhyme sound:  /iːld/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  assonance (phonological): repose/Britain /ɪ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): scorned/when /n/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Britain/took /t/

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9 With eyes of flame and cool intrepid breast,    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  breast   |   Rhyme sound:  /est/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  assonance (phonological): With/intrepid /ɪ/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): intrepid/breast /e/

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10 Victor he stood on Belle Isle's rocky steeps;    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  steeps   |   Rhyme sound:  /iːps/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): stood/steeps /s/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): he/steeps /iː/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): on/rocky /ɒ/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Victor/rocky /k/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): stood/steeps /s/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Belle/Isle's /l/

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11 Ah gallant youth! this marble tells the rest,    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  rest   |   Rhyme sound:  /est/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  assonance (phonological): Ah/marble /ɑː/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): tells/rest /e/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): gallant/tells /l/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): this/rest /s/
Figure:  ecphonesis (pragmatic): Ah...

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12 Where melancholy Friendship bends and weeps.    
Rhyme:  abab   |   Rhyme word(s):  weeps   |   Rhyme sound:  /iːps/   |   Rhyme (line position):  end
Metre:  -+|-+|-+|-+|-+/   |   Syllables:  10
Figure:  alliteration (phonological): Where/weeps /w/
Figure:  assonance (phonological): melancholy/Friendship/bends /e/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Where/weeps /w/
Figure:  consonance (phonological): Friendship/bends /n/

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Expanding the poem lines (+) shows notes and queries taken from various critical editions of Gray's works, as well as those contributed by users of the Archive. There are 4 textual and 5 explanatory notes/queries.

All notes and queries are shown by default.

0 [Epitaph on Sir William Williams] 1 Explanatory, 1 Textual

Title/Paratext] "Sir William Peere Williams, Bart., J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Sir William Peere Williams, Bart., was killed at the siege of Belleisle, 1761. "In the recklessness of a desponding mind, he approached too near to the enemy's sentinels, and was shot through the body." Walpole describes Williams as "a gallant and ambitious young man, who had devoted himself to war and politics." He was a Captain in Burgoyne's Dragoons, raised in 1759, now the 16th Lancers; see the "Graphic," 4th April, 1891.
    A letter of Gray's to Mason, in August, 1761, gives the date of the composition of this epitaph, and contains the following remarks of Gray on it:—"Mr. Montagu (as I guess at your instigation) has earnestly desired me to write some lines to be put on a monument which he means to erect at Belleisle. It is a task I do not love, knowing Sir William Williams so slightly as I did; but he is so friendly a person, and his affliction seemed to me so real, that I could not refuse him. I have sent him the following verses, which I neither like myself nor will he, I doubt; however, I have showed him that I wished to oblige him. Tell me your real opinion."
    Writing to Brown on the 23rd October, 1760, Gray says:—"In my way to town I met with the first news of the expedition from Sir William Williams, who makes a part of it, and perhaps may lay his fine Vandyke head in the dust."
    In the "Gentleman's Magazine" for 1761, under date 7th May, it is stated, "An express from Belleisle brought advice that Sir W. P. Williams, Bart., a captain of Burgoyne's Dragoons, and M.P. for Shoreham, had been killed reconnoitering." The date of his death is not given, but it was probably in the last week of April. See also the "Annual Register," 1761, p. 17, and the "Scots' Magazine," 1761, p. 437. The citadel of Belleisle capitulated on the 7th June [footnote: 'Mitford, "Correspondence of Gray and Mason," by mistake gives the 13th June as the date of the capitulation. Mr. Gosse makes a further mistake in stating that Williams was "killed at the storming of Belleisle, June 13."'] ("Gentleman's Magazine," 1761, p. 282, under date 13 June).
    In a letter to Brown, dated 26th May, 1761, Gray writes:—"Montagu had thoughts of going thither [Cambridge] with me, but I know not what his present intentions may be. He is in real affliction for the loss of Sir W. Williams, who [has left him one of his executors, and (as I doubt his affairs were a good deal embarrassed) he possibly may be detained in town on that account.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 258-259.

Title/Paratext] "The version in the text [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"The version in the text is that given by Mason, and it has been generally followed by subsequent editors. The copy in the Mitford MSS. and in the "Correspondence of Gray and Mason," p. 268, differs from that published by Mason in three places; and it seems probable that Mason, acting on Gray's request for his "real opinion," took the liberty, as he did in several other instances, of altering the wording when he printed it among Gray's "Poems" in 1775.
    There is also a copy, but not in Gray's handwriting, in the Pembroke MSS. with the following "Rejected stanza":—

"Warrior, that midst the melancholy line
  *              *             *             *             *
Oh be his genius, be his spirit thine,
And share his virtues with a happier fate.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 259-260.

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1 Here, foremost in the dangerous paths of fame,
2 Young Williams fought for England's fair renown;
3 His mind each Muse, each Grace adorned his frame,
4 Nor Envy dared to view him with a frown.

5 At Aix uncalled his maiden sword he drew, 2 Explanatory, 1 Textual

5.1-8 At ... drew,] "In the Mitford MSS. and [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"In the Mitford MSS. and "Correspondence" it is

"At Aix uncalled his maiden sword he drew.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

5.2 Aix] ""In the expedition to Aix [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

""In the expedition to Aix he was on board the Magnanime with Lord Howe, and was deputed to receive the capitulation."—Mason."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

5.3-8 uncalled ... drew,] "Sir W. Scott probably took [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Sir W. Scott probably took from this the similar expression:—

"Since, riding side by side, our hand
First drew the voluntary brand."
                    —Marmion, C. iv. Introduction, 10."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

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6 (There first in blood his infant glory sealed); 1 Textual

6.7 glory] "honour, glory. Mitford MSS. and [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"honour, glory. Mitford MSS. and "Correspondence.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

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7 From fortune, pleasure, science, love, he flew,
8 And scorned repose when Britain took the field.

9 With eyes of flame and cool intrepid breast, 1 Textual

9.7 intrepid] "undaunted, intrepid. Mitford MSS. and [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"undaunted, intrepid. Mitford MSS. and "Correspondence.""

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

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10 Victor he stood on Belle Isle's rocky steeps; 2 Explanatory

10.1 Victor] "Belleisle had not surrendered at [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Belleisle had not surrendered at the time that Williams was killed, but he calls him "victor" as belonging to the side that was ultimately victorious, and also for poetical effect and as more calculated to call forth sympathy that he should have met his death instead of returning home with the victorious troops."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

10.5-6 Belle Isle's] "Belleisle is a fortified island [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Belleisle is a fortified island off the coast of France, in the north of the Bay of Biscay."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 260.

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11 Ah gallant youth! this marble tells the rest,
12 Where melancholy Friendship bends and weeps.

Works cited

  • The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891.

Spelling has been modernized throughout, except in case of conscious archaisms. Contractions, italics and initial capitalization have been largely eliminated, except where of real import. Obvious errors have been silently corrected, punctuation has been supplied. The editor would like to express his gratitude to the library staff of the Göttingen State and University Library (SUB Göttingen) for their invaluable assistance.

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Editions in the Digital Library

  • 1773: Poems by Mr. Gray. Edinburgh, 1773.
  • 1775: The Poems of Mr. Gray. To which are prefixed Memoirs of his Life and Writings by W[illiam]. Mason. York, 1775.
  • 1775: Poems by Mr. Gray. A new edition Edinburgh, 1775.
  • 1775: Poems by Mr. Gray. Dublin, 1775.
  • 1776: Poems by Mr. Gray. A new edition London, 1776.
  • 1777: Letter to W. Mason, A.M. by John Murray. London, 1777.
  • 1799: The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray, LL.B. London, 1799.
  • 1800: The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray, LL.B. London, 1800.
  • 1800: The Poems of Gray. A new edition. London, 1800.
  • 1814: The Works of Thomas Gray, Vol. I. Ed. Thomas James Mathias. London, 1814.
  • 1816: The Works of Thomas Gray, Vol. I. Ed. John Mitford. London, 1816.
  • 1826: The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray. London, 1826.
  • 1836: The Works of Thomas Gray, Volume I. Ed. John Mitford. London, 1836.