1742 — Thomas Gray writes “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”

Hardly anyone at all knows it, but this ode of Thomas Gray’s is the origin of one of the English language’s most often quoted aphorisms: “ignorance is bliss”. One rather wonders if Thomas Gray himself would still agree, at least insofar as ignorance covered his works or his self. To be fair, Gray was not praising ignorance, but rather, the innocence of childhood.

Gray was an academic and a poet. He studied and worked at Cambridge most of his adult life, and was regarded as one of the greatest poets of his age during his lifetime, even though his total works amount to less than a thousand lines of poetry – whatever else can be said of him, Gray clearly favoured quality over quantity. His wordsmithing was not limited to the occasional aphorism: Gray is the originator of several phrases that are now horribly time-worn cliches, including “far from the madding crowd”, “kindred spirit” and “the paths of glory”.

Portrait by John Giles Eccardt, 1747–1748
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As mentioned in:

Til The Ocean Takes Us All — The Cat Empire

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