Thomas Gray: Poems

What does Gray tell about the origin and growth of poetry in “The Progress of Poesy”.

What does Gray tell about the origin and growth of poetry in “The Progress of
Poesy”.

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"The Progress of Poesy" associates the solitary poet with his mother-muse, the female goddess to whom he owes his capacity to perceive "forms" illuminated by "the Muse's ray," a light that is "unborrow'd of the Sun." Ceres ("Ceres' golden reign") embodies the generative power of nature. "Helicon's harmonious springs" are associated with generation ("The laughing flowers ... / Drink life and fragrance as they flow"). The lyre is the "Parent of sweet and solemn-breathing airs." These three elements dominate the opening of the poem. The first ternary closes with Aphrodite ("Cytherea's day"), a figure of generative force mingling the union of water and music ("brisk notes in cadence beating"; "arms sublime, that float upon the air"). She is the reemergent Venus of the "Ode on the Spring," attended, as was Venus in that poem, by a train of celebrants: "O'er her warm cheek, and rising bosom, move / The bloom of young Desire, and purple light of Love." In the "Ode on the Spring," the "rosy-bosom'd Hours, / ... Disclose the long-expected flowers, / And wake the purple year!"

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http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/thomas-gray