Progress Of Poesy "He Passed The Flaming Bounds Of Place And Time"

Thomas Gray

"He Passed The Flaming Bounds Of Place And Time"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Charles Dickens once declared, apropos of the slim output of poetry by Gray: "No other poet ever gained a place among the immortals with so small a volume under his arm." But Gray wrote chiefly for himself and his friends. Publication occurred only at their insistence or at the demands of booksellers. Spenser, Dryden, and Milton were his models, but his study of Greek, when few of his countrymen were interested in that language, provided the stanza form of his greatest work, "Progress of Poesy," originally called "Ode in the Greek Style." Having traced the progress of poetry from Greece to Italy and to Shakespeare in England, Gray refers in the second stanza of Part III to John Milton (1608–1674), and to his flight of poetry in Paradise Lost. Gray considers him almost on a par with Shakespeare, and since he wrote of Heaven and Hell, and of times past and future, Grey declares that Milton was not limited in his choice of themes by place or time.

Nor second He, that rode sublime
Upon the seraph-wings of Ecstasy,
The secrets of th' Abyss to spy,
He pass'd the flaming bounds of Place and Time;
The living Throne, the sapphire-blaze,
Where Angels tremble, while they gaze,
He saw; . . .