« AnteriorContinuar »
While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
The poet's fate is here in emblem shown;
As these Compofitions are short, many of them have the reputation of being written extempore, though they are the effect of confideration and ftudy; the following Epigram, however, has that additional merit; for which reafon, and for it's uncommon Thought, we shall prefent it to the Reader.
An EPIGRAM on an EPIGRAM.
Be like a Jelly-Bag.
The fimile, i'faith, is new;
But how can't make it out? fays Hugh.
Make it at top both wide and fit
We fhall clofe this chapter with an Epigram written on
She became a fine laurel to deck the God's hair.
CHA P. IX.
Of the EPITAPH.
HESE Compofitions generally contain fome Elogium of the virtues and good qualities of the deceased, and have a turn of seriousness and gravity adapted
to the nature of the fubject. Their elegance confiffs in a nervous and expreffive brevity; and fometimes, as we have elsewhere obferved, they are elofed with an epigrammatic point. In thefe compofitions, no mere Epithet (properly fo called) fhould be admitted; for here illustration would impair the ftrength, and render the fentiment too diffuse and languid. Words that are fynonymous are also to be rejected.
Tho' the true characteristic of the Epitaph is seriousness and gravity, yet we find many that are jocofe and ludicrous; fome likewife have true metre and rhyme, while others are between profe and verfe, without any certain measure, tho' the words are truly poetical; and the beauty of this laft fort is generally heighten'd by an apt and judicious Antithefis. We fhall give examples of each.
There are in the Spectator feveral old Greek Epitaphs very beautifully tranflated into English verfe, one of which I fhall take the liberty of tranfcribing. It is written on Orpheus, a celebrated antient poet and mufician, whofe ftory is well known. He is faid to have been the fon of Apollo and Calliope, one of the Nine Mufes, the Goddess meant in the last line of the Epitaph.
No longer, Orpheus, fhall thy facred ftrains.
For thou art gone; the Mufes mourn'd thy fall
Ye mortals idly for your fons ye moan,
The ingenious tranflator obferves, that if we take the fable for truth, as it was believed to be in the age when this was written, the turn appears to have piety to the gods, and a refigning fpirit in the application ; but, if we confider the Point with refpect to our prefent knowledge, it will be less esteem'd; though the author himself, because he believ'd it, may ftill be more valued than any one who should now write with a point of the fame nature.
The following Epitaph on Sir Philip Sidney's fifter, the Countess of Pembroke, faid to be written by the famous Ben Johnson, is remarkable for the noble thought with hich it concludes.
On MARY Countess Dowager of PEMBROKE."
Take another Epitaph of Ben Johnson's, on a beautiful and virtuous lady, which has been deservedly admired by very good judges.
Underneath this ftone doth lie
Mr. Pope has drawn the character of Mr. Gay, in an Epitaph now to be feen on his monument in WeftminsterAbbey, which he has closed with such a beautiful turn, that I cannot help looking upon it as a master-piece in its kind, as indeed are most of the productions of that furprifing genius.
On Mr. GA Y.
Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
There is fomething fo tender and moving, and fuch a ftrain of paternal and filial affection in Mr. Pope's Epitaph on Dr. Atterbury, that we fhall give it a place among thefe examples, tho' the Critics, perhaps, will object to its being a true Epitaph.
On Dr. FRANCIS ATTERBURY, Bishop of Rochester, who died in exile at Paris, 1732.
[His only Daughter having expired in his arms, immediately after fhe arrived in France to see him.]
She. Yes, we have liv'd-one pang, and then we part!
Dear fhade! I will:
I fhall conclude thefe examples of the serious kind with an Epitaph written by Mr. Smart, to the memory of Master ***, who died of a lingering illness, aged eleven.
Henceforth be every tender tear fuppreft,
From grief to blifs, from earth to heav'n remov'd,
That patience, heroes might have own'd with pride!
And in th' eleventh winter died a MAN.
Amongst the Epitaphs of a punning and ludicrous caft, I know of none prettier than that which is faid to have been written by Mr. Prior on himself, wherein he is pleafantly fatirical upon the folly of those who value themfelves on account of the long feries of ancestors through which they can trace their pedigree.
Nobles and Heralds, by your leave,
Here lie the bones of Matthew Prior,
Let Bourbon or Nassau go higher.
Of the fame caft is that written by Mr. Pope on one who would not be buried in Weftminfter-abbey.
Heroes, and kings! your distance keep,
The following Epitaph on a Mifer contains a good caution and an agreeable raillery.
Reader, beware immod❜rate love of pelf:
Here lies the worst of thieves, who robb'd himself.
But Dr. Swift's Epitaph on the fame fubject is, I think, a mafter-piece of the kind.
EPITAPH on a MISER.
Beneath this verdant hillock lies
We shall give but one example more of this kind, which is a merry Epitaph on an old Fiddler, who was remarkable.
(we may fuppofe) for beating time to his own mufick.
On STEPHEN the Fiddler.
Stephen and Time are now both even;
Stephen beat Time, now Time's beat Stephen..
We are now come to that fort of Epitaph which rejects Rhyme, and has no certain and determinate measure; but where the diction must be pare and strong, every word have weight, and the antithefis be preserved in a clear and direc oppofition. We cannot give a better example of this. fort of Epitaph, than that on the tomb of Mr. Pulteney, in the cloysters of Westminster-Abbey.