Thomas
Gray
Archive

"[Epitaph on Mrs Mason]"

"[Epitaph on Mrs Mason]"


1 Tell them, though 'tis an awful thing to die
2 ('Twas ev'n to thee) yet the dread path once trod,
3 Heaven lifts its everlasting portals high
4 And bids ''the pure in heart behold their God.''

Expanding the poem lines shows notes and queries taken from various critical editions of Gray's works, as well as those contributed by users of the Archive. There are 1 textual and 1 explanatory notes/queries.

All notes and queries are shown by default.

0 "[Epitaph on Mrs Mason]" 1 Explanatory, 1 Textual

Title/Paratext] "Mason's wife died in March, [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"Mason's wife died in March, 1767, and he erected a monument to her in the Cathedral at Bristol, with the following inscription:—

                Mary, the daughter of William Sherman,
                        of Kingston upon Hull, Esq.
                    and wife of the Rev. William Mason,
                        Died March 27, 1767, aged 28.
Take, holy earth! all that my soul holds dear:
    Take that best gift which Heaven so lately gave:
To Bristol's fount I bore with trembling care
    Her faded form: she bowed to taste the wave,
And died. Does Youth, Does Beauty, read the line?
    Does sympathetic fear their breasts alarm?
Speak, dead Maria! breathe a strain divine:
    E'en from the grave thou shalt have power to charm.
Bid them be chaste, be innocent like thee;
    Bid them in Duty's sphere as meekly move;
And if so fair, from vanity as free,
    As firm in friendship, and as fond in love,
Tell them, though 'tis an awful thing to die
    ('Twas e'en to thee) yet the dread path once trod,
Heaven lifts its everlasting portals high,
    And bids the pure in heart behold their God."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 270.

Title/Paratext] "A copy of it appeared [...]" J. Bradshaw, 1891.

"A copy of it appeared in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for January, 1794, and it was always assumed that the whole of the epitaph was by Mason till the "Reminiscences of Norton Nicholls" were published by Mitford in 1843, in which he states that when Mason sent what he had writen to Gray, he showed it to Nichols, saying, "that will never do for an ending. I have altered them thus," and wrote in it the last four lines as they now stand.
    In a letter to Mason, not published by him, dated May 23, 1767, Gray refers to the epitaph and to the line "Heaven lifts, etc." being his."

The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891, 270-271.

Contribute a note or query


1 Tell them, though 'tis an awful thing to die
2 ('Twas ev'n to thee) yet the dread path once trod,
3 Heaven lifts its everlasting portals high
4 And bids ''the pure in heart behold their God.''

Works cited

  • The Poetical Works of Thomas Gray: English and Latin. Edited with an introduction, life, notes and a bibliography by John Bradshaw. The Aldine edition of the British poets series. London: George Bell and sons, 1891.

You can use this form to contribute an annotation to or a query about the selected passage. Your contribution will be sent to the editor for review, and will subsequently appear together with your contact details as part of the existing commentary. All contributions are covered under the Open Publication License v1.0. Please note that the form will only be submitted to the editor if all required fields are filled in. Thank you for your contribution!

Contribute a note or query

  line(s)     to  



Your details






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.