Far From the Madding Crowd

by John J. Miller

This weekend’s “Masterpiece” column in the WSJ is by me, on Gray’s Elegy.

“Gray’s Elegy,” wrote Leslie Stephen (the father of Virginia Woolf), “includes more familiar phrases than any poem of equal length in the language.” Its 32 stanzas burst with celebrated passages: “The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day”; “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen”; “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”; and so on. Robert L. Mack, Gray’s definitive biographer, has observed that a recent edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations draws from 15 stanzas and reproduces 13 of them whole.

I’ve also included a James Bond reference.

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