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Blest courtier! who could king and country plense,
And patriots still, or poets, deck the line. The first distich of this epitaph contains a kind of information which few would want, that the man for whom the tomb was erected, died. There are indeed some qualities worthy of praise ascribed to the dead, but none that were likely to exempt him from the lot of man, or incline us much to wonder that be should die. What is meant by “ judge of nature,” is not easy to say. Nature is not the object of human judge. ment; for it is vain to judge where we cannot alter. If by nature is meant what is commonly called nature by the critics, a just representation of things really existing, and actions really performed, nature cannot be properly opposed to art; nature being, in this sense, only the best effect of art.
The scourge of pride Of this couplet, the second line is not, what is intended, an illustration of the for. mer. Pride, in the great, is indeed well enough connected with knaves in state, though knaves is a word rather too ludicrous and light; but the mention of sanctifed pride will not lead the thoughts to fops in learning, but rather to some species of tyranny or oppression, something more gloomy and more formidable than foppery.
Yet soft his natureThis is a high compliment, but was not first bestowed on Dorset by Pope. The next verse is extremely beautiful.
Blest satyrist !-In this distich is another line of which Pope was not the author. I do not mean to blame these imitations with much harshness; in long performances they are scarcely to be avoided; and in shorter they may be indulged, because the train of the composition may naturally involve them, or the scantiness of the subject allow little choice. However, what is borrowed is not to be enjoyed as our own; and it is the business of critical justice to give every bird of the Muses his proper feather.
Blest courtier ! Whether a courtier can properly be commended for keeping his case sacred, may perlaps be disputable. To please king and country, without sacrificing friendship to any change of times, was a very uncommon instance of prudence or felicity, and deserved to be kept separate from so poor a commendation as care of his ease.
I wish our poets would attend a little more accurately to the use of the word sacred, which surely should never be applied in a serious composition, but where some reference may be made to a higher Being, or where some duty is exacted or implied. A man may keep his friendship sacred, because promises of friendship are very awful ties; but methinks he cannot, but in a burlesque sense, be said to keep his ease sacred.
Blest peer! The blessing ascribed to the peer has no connection with his peerage: they might happen to any other man whose ancestors were remembered, or whose posterity arc likely to be regarded.
I know not whether this epitaph be worthy either of the writer or the man entombed.
II. ON SIR WILLIAM TRUMBULL, ONE OF THE PRINCIPAL SECRETARIES OF STATE TO KING WILLLAN III. WHO,
HAVING RESIGNED HIS PLACE, DIED IN HIS RETIREMENT AT EASTHAMSTEAD IN
A pleasing form; a firm, yet cautious mind;
In this epitaph, as in many others, there appears, at the first view, a fault which I think scarcely any beauty can compensate. The name is omitted. The end of an epitaph is to convey some account of the dead; and to what purpose is any thing told of him whose name is concealed ? An epitaph, and a history of a nameless hero, are equally absurd, since the virtues and qualities so recounted in either are scattered at the mercy of fortune to be appropriated by guess. The name, it is true, may be read upon the stone; but what obligation has it to the poet, whose verses wander over the Earth, and leave their subject behind them, and who is forced, like an unskilful painter, to make his purpose known by adventitious help?
This epitaph is wholly without elevation, and contains nothing striking or particular; but the poet is not to be blamed for the defects of his subject. He said perhaps the best that could be said. There are, however, some defects which were not made necessary by the character in which he was employed. There is no opposition be tween an honest courtier and a patriot; for, an honest courtier cannot but be a patriot.
It was unsuitable to the nicety required in short compositions, to close his verse with the word too: every rhyme should be a word of emphasis; nor can this rule be safely neglected, except where the length of the poem makes slight inaccuracies excusable, or allows room for beauties sufficient to overpower the effects of petty faults.
At the beginning of the seventh line the word filled is weak and prosaic, having no particular adaptation to any of the words that follow it.
The thought in the last line is impertinent, having no connection with the foregoing character, nor with the condition of the man described. Had the epitaph been written on the poor conspirator ? who died lately in prison, after a confineinent of more than forty years, without any criine proved against him, the sentiment had been just and pathetical; but why should Trumbull be congratulated upon his liberty, who had never known restraint?
? Major Bernardi; who died in Newgate, Sept. 20, 1756. See Gent. Mag. vol. I. p. 125. N.
HARCOURT IN OXFORDSHIRE, 1720.
And with a father's sorrow's mix his own! This epitaph is principally remarkable for the artful introduction of the name, which is inserted with a peculiar felicity, to which chance must concur with genius, which no man can hope to attain twice, and which cannot be copied but with servile imitation.
I cannot but wish, that, of this inscription, the two last lines had been omitted, as they take away from the energy what they do not add to the sense,
REGI MAGNAE BRITANNIAE A SECRETIS
ET CONSILIIS SANCTIORIBVS,
VIXIT TITVLIS ET INVIDIA MAJOR,
AVNOS HEV PAVCOS, XXXV.
Statesman, yet friend to truth ! of soul sincere,
Prais’d, wept, and honour'd, by the Muse he lov'd. The lines on Craggs were not originally intended for an epitaph; and therefore some faults are to be imputed to the violence with which they are torn from the, poem that first contained them. We may, however, observe some defects. There is a redundancy of words in the couplet : it is superfluous to tell of him, who was sincere, irue, and faithful, that he was in honour clear.
There seems to be an opposition intended in the fourth line, which is not very obvious: where is the relation between the two positions, that he gained no title and lost no friend? It may
here to remark the absurdity of joining, in the same inscription, Latin and English, or verse and prose. If either language be preferable to the other, let that only be used; for no reason can be given why part of the information should be given in one tongue, and part in another, on a tomb, more than in
other place, or any other occasion; and to tell all that can be con.
reniently told in verse, and then to call in the help of prose, has always the appear. ance of a very artless expedient, or of an attempt unaccomplished. Such an epitaph resembles the conversation of a foreigner, who tells part of his meaning by words, and conveys part by signs.
IN WESTMINSTER-ABBEY 3.
What a whole thankless land to his denies, Of this inscription the chief fault is, that it belongs less to Rowe, for whom it is written, than to Dryden, who was buried near him; and indeed gives very little inforniation concerning either.
To wish peace to thy shade is too mythological to be admitted into a Christian temple : the ancient worship has infected almost all our other compositions, and might therefore be contented to spare our epitaphs. Ler fiction, at least, cease with life, and let us be serious over the grave.
Here rests a woman, good without pretence,
The saint sustain'd it, but the woman dy'd. I have always considered this as the most valuable of all Pope's epitaphs; the subject of it is a character not discriminated by any shining or eminent peculiarities; yet that which really makes, though not the splendour, the felicity of life, and that which every
wise man will choose for his final and lasting companion in the languor of age, in the quiet of privacy, when he departs weary and disgusted from the ostentatious, the volatile, and the vain. Of such a character, which the dull overlook, and the gay despise, it was fit that the value should be made known, and the dignity established. Domestic virtue, as it is exerted without great occasions, or conspicuous consequences, in an even unnoted tenour, required the genius of Pope
3 This was altered much for the better as it now stands on the monument in the abbey, erected to Rowe and his daughter. Warb.
• In the North aile of the parish church of St. Margaret, Westminster. II,
to display it in such a manner as might attract regard, and enforce reverence: Who can forbear to lament, that this amiable woman has no name in the verses ?
If the particular lines of this inscription be examined, it will appear less faulty than the rest. There is scarcely one line taken from common places, unless, it be that in which only virtue is said to be our own. I once heard a lady of great beauty and elegance object to the fourth line, that it contained an unnatural and incredible panegyric. Of this let the ladies judge.
VII. ON THE MONUMENT OF THE HON: ROBERT DIGBY, AND
OF HIS SISTER MARY,
ZRECTED BY THEIR FATHER THE LORD DIGBY, IN THE CHURCH OF SHERBORNE,
IN DORSETSHIRE, 1727.
And thou, blest maid! attendant on his doom,
Yet take these tears, Mortality's relief,
This epitaph contains of the brother only a general indiscriminate character, and of the sister tells nothing but that she died. The difficulty in writing epitaphs is to give a particular and appropriate praise. This, however, is not always to be performed, whatever be the diligence or ability of the writer; for, the greater part of mankind have no character at all, have little that distinguishes them from others equally good or bad, and therefore nothing can be said of them which may not be applied with equal propriety to a thousand more. It is indeed no great panegyric, that there is enclosed in this tomb one who was born in one year, and died in another; yet many useful and amiable lives have been spent, which yet leave little materials for any other meinorial. These are however not the proper subjects of poetry; and whenever friendship, or any other motive, obliges a poet to write on such subjects, be must be forgiven if he sometimes wanders in generalities, and utters the same praises over different tombs.
The scantiness of human praises can scarcely be made more apparent, than by remarking how often Pope has, in the few epitaplis which he composed, found it