Nor by a fond o'er-weening pride misled,
Hope fame by injuring the sacred dead:
Know, who would comment well his godlike page,
Critic, must have a heart as well as head.
Thomas Gray and Richard West became friends at Eton College in 1734 and
wrote to each other for eight years, until West's premature death in 1742.
Gray composed this tribute, “On the Death of Mr. Richard West, ” his only
sonnet, in 1742; it was published posthumously in 1775 with a group of
poems attached to a memoir of Gray by William Mason. William Words-
worth features Gray's sonnet in his critique of poetic diction in the 1800
preface to Lyrical Ballads. Gray worked in a variety of poetic forms, most no-
tably the ode, but is best remembered for his Elegy Written in a Country
In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,
And redd'ning Phoebus lifts his golden fire:
The birds in vain their amorous descant join;
Or cheerful fields resume their green attire:
These ears, alas! for other notes repine,
A different object do these eyes require.
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;
And in my breast the imperfect joys expire.
Yet morning smiles the busy race to cheer,
And new-born pleasure brings to happier men:
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear:
To warm their little loves the birds complain:
I fruitless mourn to him, that cannot hear,
And weep the more, because I weep in vain.
Thomas Warton followed in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Warton the
elder (c. 1688–1745), not only as a poet but also as a professor of poetry at
Oxford University. Warton established a model for eighteenth-century
sonnet writing that would influence Charlotte Smith, William Lisle Bowles,
and William Wordsworth. He wrote the first substantial literary history, The
History of English Poetry (1774–81), and became poet laureate in 1785, the
year in which he also produced an edition of Milton's poetry.