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"[Lines Spoken by the Ghost of John Dennis at the Devil Tavern]"

"[Lines Spoken by the Ghost of John Dennis
at the Devil Tavern]"


1 From purling streams and the Elysian scene,
2 From groves that smile with never-fading green,
3 I reascend: in Atropos' despite
4 Restored to Celadon and upper light.
5 Ye gods, that sway the regions under ground,
6 Reveal to mortal view your realms profound;
7 At his command admit the eye of day:
8 When Celadon commands, what god can disobey?
9 Nor seeks he your Tartarean fires to know,
10 The house of torture and the abyss of woe;
11 But happy fields and mansions free from pain,
12 Gay meads and springing flowers, best please the gentle swain.

13 That little, naked, melancholy thing,
14 My soul, when first she tried her flight to wing,
15 Began with speed new regions to explore,
16 And blundered through a narrow postern door.
17 First most devoutly having said its prayers,
18 It tumbled down a thousand pair of stairs,
19 Through entries long, through cellars vast and deep,
20 Where ghostly rats their habitations keep,
21 Where spiders spread their webs and owlish goblins sleep.
22 After so many chances had befell,
23 It came into a mead of asphodel:
24 Betwixt the confines of the light and dark
25 It lies, of 'Lysium the St. James's Park.
26 Here spirit-beaux flutter along the Mall,
27 And shadows in disguise skate o'er the iced Canal;
28 Here groves embowered and more sequestered shades,
29 Frequented by the ghosts of ancient maids,
30 Are seen to rise. The melancholy scene,
31 With gloomy haunts and twilight walks between,
32 Conceals the wayward band: here spend their time
33 Greensickness girls that died in youthful prime,
34 Virgins forlorn, all dressed in willow-green-i,
35 With Queen Elizabeth and Nicolini.

36 More to reveal, or many words to use,
37 Would tire alike your patience and my muse.
38 Believe that never was so faithful found
39 Queen Proserpine to Pluto under ground,
40 Or Cleopatra to her Mark Antony,
41 As Orozmades to his Celadony.

42 P.S. Lucrece for half a crown will show you fun,
43 But Mrs. Oldfield is become a nun.
44 Nobles and cits, Prince Pluto and his spouse,
45 Flock to the ghost of Covent-Garden House:
46 Plays, which were hissed above, below revive,
47 When dead applauded that were damned alive.
48 The people, as in life, still keep their passions,
49 But differ something from the world in fashions.
50 Queen Artemisia breakfasts on bohea,
51 And Alexander wears a ramilie.

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0 "[Lines Spoken by the Ghost of John Dennis
at the Devil Tavern]" 1 Explanatory

Title/Paratext] "Whibley describes the Lines as [...]" H.W. Starr/J.R. Hendrickson, 1966.

"Whibley describes the Lines as the 'earliest original poem by Gray now extant'. It was sent to Walpole on 8 Dec. 1734, with this introductory statement: 'I ... had too much modesty to venture answering ... in the Poetical Strain myself: but, when I was last at the DEVIL, meeting by chance with the deceased Mr Dennis there, he offer'd his Service, &, being tip'd with a Tester, wrought, what follows—.' John Dennis (1657-6 Jan. 1734), an enemy of Pope and an important early eighteenth-century critic, was frequently in need of money."

The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966, 235.

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1 From purling streams and the Elysian scene,
2 From groves that smile with never-fading green,
3 I reascend: in Atropos' despite
4 Restored to Celadon and upper light.
5 Ye gods, that sway the regions under ground,
6 Reveal to mortal view your realms profound;
7 At his command admit the eye of day:
8 When Celadon commands, what god can disobey?
9 Nor seeks he your Tartarean fires to know,
10 The house of torture and the abyss of woe;
11 But happy fields and mansions free from pain,
12 Gay meads and springing flowers, best please the gentle swain.

13 That little, naked, melancholy thing,
14 My soul, when first she tried her flight to wing,
15 Began with speed new regions to explore,
16 And blundered through a narrow postern door.
17 First most devoutly having said its prayers,
18 It tumbled down a thousand pair of stairs,
19 Through entries long, through cellars vast and deep,
20 Where ghostly rats their habitations keep,
21 Where spiders spread their webs and owlish goblins sleep.
22 After so many chances had befell,
23 It came into a mead of asphodel:
24 Betwixt the confines of the light and dark
25 It lies, of 'Lysium the St. James's Park.
26 Here spirit-beaux flutter along the Mall,
27 And shadows in disguise skate o'er the iced Canal;
28 Here groves embowered and more sequestered shades,
29 Frequented by the ghosts of ancient maids,
30 Are seen to rise. The melancholy scene,
31 With gloomy haunts and twilight walks between,
32 Conceals the wayward band: here spend their time
33 Greensickness girls that died in youthful prime,
34 Virgins forlorn, all dressed in willow-green-i,
35 With Queen Elizabeth and Nicolini.

36 More to reveal, or many words to use,
37 Would tire alike your patience and my muse.
38 Believe that never was so faithful found
39 Queen Proserpine to Pluto under ground,
40 Or Cleopatra to her Mark Antony,
41 As Orozmades to his Celadony.

42 P.S. Lucrece for half a crown will show you fun,
43 But Mrs. Oldfield is become a nun.
44 Nobles and cits, Prince Pluto and his spouse,
45 Flock to the ghost of Covent-Garden House:
46 Plays, which were hissed above, below revive,
47 When dead applauded that were damned alive.
48 The people, as in life, still keep their passions,
49 But differ something from the world in fashions.
50 Queen Artemisia breakfasts on bohea,
51 And Alexander wears a ramilie.

Works cited

  • The Complete Poems of Thomas Gray: English, Latin and Greek. Edited by Herbert W. Starr and J. R. Hendrickson. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1966.

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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.