"Need we the influence of the northern star / To string our nerves and steel our hearts to war? "

— Gray, Thomas (1716-1771)

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"Need we the influence of the northern star / To string our nerves and steel our hearts to war? "
Metaphor in Context
Say then, through ages by what fate confined
To different climes seem different souls assigned?
Here measured laws and philosophic ease
Fix and improve the polished arts of peace.
There Industry and Gain their vigils keep,
Command the winds and tame the unwilling deep.
Here force and hardy deeds of blood prevail;
There languid pleasure sighs in every gale.
Oft o'er the trembling nations from afar
Has Scythia breathed the living cloud of war;
And, where the deluge burst, with sweepy sway
Their arms, their kings, their gods were rolled away.
As oft have issued, host impelling host,
The blue-eyed myriads from the Baltic coast.
The prostrate south to the destroyer yields
Her boasted titles and her golden fields:
With grim delight the brood of winter view
A brighter day and heavens of azure hue,
Scent the new fragrance of the breathing rose,
And quaff the pendent vintage, as it grows.
Proud of the yoke and pliant to the rod,
Why yet does Asia dread a monarch's nod,
While European freedom still withstands
The encroaching tide, that drowns her lessening lands,
And sees far off with an indignant groan
Her native plains and empires once her own?
Can opener skies and suns of fiercer flame
O'erpower the fire that animates our frame,
As lamps, that shed at even a cheerful ray,
Fade and expire beneath the eye of day?
Need we the influence of the northern star
To string our nerves and steel our hearts to war?

And, where the face of nature laughs around,
Must sickening Virtue fly the tainted ground?
Unmanly thought! what seasons can control,
What fancied zone can circumscribe the Soul,
Who, conscious of the source from whence she springs,
By Reason's light on Resolution's wings,
Spite of her frail companion, dauntless goes
O'er Libya's deserts and through Zembla's snows?
She bids each slumbering energy awake,
Another touch, another temper take,
Suspends the inferior laws that rule our clay:
The stubborn elements confess her sway;
Their little wants, their low desires, refine,
And raise the mortal to a height divine.
(ll. 38-83 p. 95-8)
Searching "heart" and "steel" in HDIS (Poetry)
Ed. Roger Lonsdale. The Poems of Thomas Gray, William Collins, and Oliver Goldsmith. London and New York: Longman and Norton: 1972
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.