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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 de. fects which were not made necessary by the character in which he was employed. There is no opposition between an honest courtier and a patriot; for, an honest courtier cannot but be a patriot.
It was unsuitable to the nicety required in short com. positions to close his verse with the word too: every rhýme 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 connexion 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 confinement of more than forty years, without any crime proved against him, the sentiment had been just and pathetical; but why should Trumbull be congratulated upon his liberty, who had never known restraint?
On the Hon. SIMON HARCOURT, only Son of the Lord
To this sad shrine, whoe'er thou art, draw near;
How vain is reason! eloquence how weak!
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
Major Bernardi, who died in Newgate, Sept. 20, 1736. See Gent. Mag, vol. 1. p. 125.-N.
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.
On JAMES CRAGGS, Esq.-In Westminster-Abbey.
REGI MAGNE BRITANNIA A SECRETIS
PRINCIPIS PARITER AC POPVLI AMOR ET DELICIA:
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 first couplet: it is superfluous to tell of him, who was sincere, true, 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 be proper 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 any other place, or any other occasion; and to tell all that can be conveniently told in verse, and then to call in the help of prose, has al ways the appearance 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.
Intended for Mr. RowE.-In Westminster-Abbey.*,
Thy relics, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust,
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 information 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. Let fiction at least cease with life, and let us be serious over the grave.
On Mrs. CORBET, who died of a Cancer in her Breast.+
Here rests a woman, good without pretence,
So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refin'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
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 aisle of the parish church of St. Margaret, Westminster.-H.
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 tenor, required the genius of Pope 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.
On the Monument of the Hon. ROBERT DIGBY, and of his Sister MARY, erected by their Father, the Lord DIGBY, in the Church of Sherborne in Dorsetshire, 1727.
Go! fair example of untainted youth,
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 abi
lity 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 memorial. These are however not the proper subjects of poetry; and whenever friendship, or any other motive, obliges a poet to write on such subjects, he 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 epitaphs which he composed, found it necessary to borrow from himself. The fourteen epitaphs which he has written, comprise about a hundred and forty lines, in which there are more repetitions than will easily be found in all the rest of his works. In the eight lines which make the character of Digby, there is scarce any thought, or word, which may not be found in the other epitaphs.
The ninth line, which is far the strongest and most elegant, is borrowed from Dryden. The conclusion is the same with that on Harcourt, but is here more elegant and better connected.
On Sir GODFREY KNEller.
Kneller, by Heaven, and not a master taught,
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Of this epitaph the first couplet is good, the second not bad, the third is deformed with a broken metaphor, the word crowned not being applicable to the honours or the lays; and the fourth is not only borrowed from the epitaph on Raphael, but of a very harsh construction.