"These lines on unfulfilled greatness among the villagers have been compared to Dryden, Annus Mirabilis 849-54: 'As when some dire Usurper Heav'n provides, / To scourge his Country with a lawless sway: / His birth, perhaps, some petty Village hides, / And sets his Cradle out of Fortune's way: // Till fully ripe his swelling fate breaks out, / And hurries him to mighty mischief on'; and Shenstone, The Schoolmistress (1745) st. xxvii-xxix, in which 'The firm fixed breast which fit and right requires, / Like Vernon's patriot soul', a potential Milton, and other great men are seen in embryo among the schoolchildren. Thomson's panegyric of England's 'sons of glory' in Summer 1488-91, 1493, includes: 'a steady More, / Who, with a generous though mistaken zeal, / Withstood a brutal tyrant's useful rage; / Like Cato firm ... / A dauntless soul erect, who smiled on death.' Thomson goes on to mention in this passage (not expanded to this form until 1744) Hampden, l. 1515: 'Wise, strenuous, firm, of unsubmitting soul'; and Milton, ll. 1567-71. As is shown below, G[ray].'s instances of greatness were originally classical in the Eton MS. The alteration to Hampden, Milton and Cromwell corresponds to the fact that the continuation of the poem after the original ending is markedly less classical and more English in character. But G. also wanted examples of greatness which had proved dangerous to society (as opposed to the innocence of the villagers) and the Civil War, 100 years earlier, provided him with three convenient examples. For all their individual qualities, these three men had been responsible in one way or another for bringing turmoil to their country. Without assenting to the identification of the churchyard with Stoke Poges, it is possible to accept Tovey's suggestion that G. may also have been influenced to some extent by the Buckinghamshire connections of Milton, who spent several early years at Horton, and Hampden, whose family home was at Great Hampden, where he was often visited by Cromwell."


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