Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Peace to thy gentle shade, and endless rest!

VII.
Blest in thy genius, in thy love too blest !
One grateful woman to thy fame supplies

On the Monument of the Hon. ROBERT DIGBY, What a whole thankless land to his denies.

and of his Sister Mary, erected by their Father, Of this inscription the chief fault is, that it be..

the Lord Digby, in the Church of Sherborne in ongs less to Rowe, for whom it is written,

Dorsetshire, 1727. than to Dryden, who was buried near him; and indeed gives very little information concern

Go! fair example of untainted youth, ing either.

Of modest wisdom and pacific truth: To wish Peace to thy shade is too mythological

Composed in sufferings, and in joy sedate,

Good without noise, without pretension great: to be admitted into a Christian temple : the an

Just of thy word, in every thought sincere, cient worship has infected almost all our other

Who knew no wish but what the world might hear; compositions, and might therefore be contented Of softest manners, unaffected mind, to spare our epitaphs. Let fiction at least cease Lover of peace, and friend of human kind: with life, and let us be serious over the grave.

Go, live! for heaven's eternal year is thine,
Go, and exalt thy moral to divine.

And thou, blest maid! attendant on his doom,
VI.

Pensive hast follow'd to the silent tomb;

Steer'd the same course to the same quiet shore,
On MRS. CORBET,

Not parted long, and now to part no more!
Who died of a Cancer in her Breast. **

Go, then, where only bliss sincere is known!

Go, where to love and to enjoy are one ! Here rests a woman, good without pretence,

Yet take these tears, Mortality's relief, Blest with plain reason and with sober sense;

And, till we share your joys, forgive our grief: No conquest she, but o'er herself, desired :

These little rites, a stone, a verse receive, No arts essay'd, but not to be admired.

'Tis all a father, all a friend can give! Passion and pride were to her soul unknown, Convinced that virtue only is our own.

This epitaph contains of the brother ouly a So unaffected, so composed a mind,

general indiscriminate character, and of the sisSo firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refined,

ter tells nothing but that she died. The diffiHeaven, as its purest gold, by tortures tried ; The saint sustain'd it, but the woman died.

culty in writing epitaphs is to give a particular

and appropriate praise. This, however, is not I have always considered this as the most val- always to be performed, whatever be the diliuable of all Pope's epitaphs; the subject of it is gence or ability of the writer; for the greater a character not discriminated by any shining or part of mankind have no character at all, have eminent peculiarities; yet that which really little that distinguishes them from others equalmakes, though not the splendour, the felicity of ly good or bad, and therefore nothing can be life, and that which every wise man will choose said of them which may not be applied with for his final and lasting companion in the lan- equal propriety to a thousand more. It is in gour of age, in the quiet privacy, when he deed no great panegyric, that there is inclosed departs weary and disgusted from the ostenta in this tomb one who was born in one year and tious, the volatile, and the vain. Of such a died in another; yet many useful and amiable character, which the dull overlook, and the gay lives have been spent which yet leave little madespise, it was fit that the value should be made terials for any other memorial. These are known, and the dignity established. Domestic however not the proper subjects of poetry; and virtue, as it is exerted without great occasions, whenever friendship, or any other motive, or conspicuous consequences, in an even unnoted obliges a poet to write on such subjects, he must tenor, required the genius of Pope to display it be forgiven if he sometimes wanders in generalin such a manner as might attract regard, and ities, and utters the same praises over different enforce reverence.

Who can forbear to lament tombs. that this amiable woman has no name in the The scantiness of human praises can scarcely verses ?

be made more apparent, than by remarking how If the particular lines of this inscription be often Pope has, in the few epitaphs which he examined, it will appear less faulty than the composed, found it necessary to borrow from rest. There is scarcely one line taken from himself. The fourteen epitaphs which he has common-places, unless it be that in which only written, comprise about a hundred and forty virlue is said to be our own. I once heard a lady lines, in which there are more repetitions than of great beauty and elegance object to the fourth will easily be found in all the rest of his works. line, that it contained an unnatural and incredi- In the eight lines which make the character of ble panegyric. Of this let the ladies judge. 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 * In the north aisle of the parish church of St. Alargaret, Westminster.-H.

most elegant, is borrowed from Dryden. T23

conclusion is the same with that on Harcourt,

X. but is here more elegant and better connected.

On Mr. ELIJAH FENTON.
VIII.

At Easthamstead in Berkshire, 1730.

This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
On Sir GODFREY KNELLER.

May truly say, Here lies an honest man :
In Westminster-Abbey, 1723.

A poet, blest beyond the poet's fate,
Whom Heaven kept sacred from the proud an

great :
Kneller, by Heaven, and not a master taught,
Whose art was nature and whose pictures thought,

Foe to loud praise, and friend to learned ease,

Content with science in the vale of peace. Now for two ages, having snatch'd from fate

Calmly he look'd on either life, and here Whate'er was beauteous or whate'er was great,

Saw nothing to regret, or there to fear; Lies crown'd with prince's bonours, poet's lays,

From Nature's temperate feast rose satisfied, Due to his merit and brave thirst of praise.

Thank'd Heaven that he lived, and that he died.' Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie Her works ; and dying, fears herself may die.

The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed Of this epitaph the first couplet is good, the from Crashaw. The four next lines contain a second not bad, the third is deformed with a species of praise peculiar, original, and just. broken metaphor, the word crowned not being Here, therefore, the inscription should have applicable to the honours or the lays; and the ended, the latter part containing nothing but fourth is not only borrowed from the epitaph on what is common to every man who is wise and Raphael, but of a very harsh construction. good. The character of Fenton was so amiable,

that I cannot forbear to wish for some poet or IX.

biographer to display it more fully for the ad

vantage of posterity. If he did not stand in the On GENERAL HENRY WITHERS.

first rank of genius, he may claim a place in the

second; and, whatever criticism may object to In Westminster-Abbey, 1729.

his writings, censure could find very little to

blame in his life.
Here, Withers, rest! thou bravest, gentlest mind !
Thy country's friend, but more of human kind.

XI.
O! born to arms! O! worth in youth approved !
O! soft humanity in age beloved !
For thee the hardy veteran drops a tear,

On Mr. Gay.
And the gay courtier feels the sigh sincere.

In Westminster-Abbey, 1732.
Withers, adieul yet not with thee remove
Thy martial spirit or thy social love!

Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
Amidst corruption, luxury, and rage,

In wit, a man ; simplicity, a child ; Still leave some ancient virtues to our age;

With native humour tempering virtuous rage, Nor let us say (those English glories gone)

Form’d to delight at once and lash the age :
The last true Briton lies beneath this stone.

Above temptation in a low estate,
And uncorrupted, e'en among the great:

A safe companion and an easy friend,
The epitaph on Withers affords another in-

Unblamed through life, lamented in thy end, stance of common-places, though somewhat di

These are thy honours ! not that here thy bust versified by mingled qualities and the peculiarity | Is mix'd with heroes, or with kings thy dust ; of a profession.

But that the worthy and the good shall say, The second couplet is abrupt, general, and Striking their pensive bosoms—Here lies Gay. unpleasing ; exclamation seldom succeeds in our language; and, I think, it may be observed that As Gay was the favourite of our Author, this the particle 0! used at the beginning of the epitaph was probably written with an uncomsentence always offends.

mon degree of attention; yet it is not more sucThe third couplet is more happy; the value cessfully executed than the rest, for it will not expressed for him, by different sorts of men, always happen that the success of a poet is proraises him to esteem : there is yet something of portionate to his labour. The same observation the common cant of superficial satirists, who may be extended to all works of imagination, suppose that the insincerity of the courtier de- which are often influenced by causes wholly out stroys all his sensations, and that he is equally a of the performer's power, by hints of which he dissembler to the living and the dead.

perceives not the origin, by sudden elevations At the third couplet I should wish the epi- of mind which he cannot produce himself, and taph to close, but that I should be unwilling to which sometimes rise when he expects them lose the two next lines, which yet are dearly least. bought if they cannot be retained without the The two parts of the first line are only echoes four that follow them.

of each other; gentle manners and mild affec

tions, if they mean any thing, must mean the In the Latin the opposition of Immortalis and same.

Mortalis is a mere sound, or a mere quibble; he That Gay was a man in wit is a very frigid | is not immortal in any sense contrary to that in commendation; to have the wit of a man is not which he is mortal. much for a poet. The wit of man, * and the In the verses the thought is obvious, and the simplicity of a child, make a poor and vulgar con- words night and light are too nearly allied. trast, and raise no ideas of excellence either intellectual or moral.

XIII. In the next couplet rage is less properly introduced after the mention of mildness and gen On EDMUND DUKE of BUCKINGHAM, who died tleness, which are made the constituents of his

in the 19th Year of his Age, 1735. character; for a man so mild and gentle to temper his rage was not difficult.

If modest youth with cool reflection crown'd, The next line is inharmonious in its sound And every opening virtue blooming round, and mean in its conception; the opposition is Could save a pareut's justest pride from fate, obvious, and the word lash, used absolutely,

Or add one patriot to a sinking state; and without any modification, is gross and

This weeping marble had not ask'd thy tear, improper.

Or sadly told how many hopes lie here!

The living virtue now had shone approved, To be above temptation in poverty, and free

The senate heard him, and his country loved. from corruption among the great, is indeed such Yet softer honours, and less noisy fame, a peculiarity as deserved notice. But to be a Attend the shade of gentle Buckingham: safe companion is a praise merely negative, aris In whom a race, for courage famed and art, ing not from possession of virtue, but the ab

Ends in the milder merit of the heart: sence of vice, and that one of the most odious. And, chiefs or sages long to Britain given, As little can be added to his character by as

Pays the last tribute of a saint to Heaven. serting that he was lamented in his end. Every man that dies is, at least by the writer of his

This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the

То epitaph, supposed to be lamented; and there- rest; but I know not for what reason. fore this general lamentation does no honour crown with reflection is surely a mode of speech to Gay.

approaching to nonsense. Opening virtues bloomThe first eight lines have no grammar; the ing round is something like tautology; the six adjectives are without any substantive, and the following lines are poor and prosaic. Art is epithets without a subject.

another couplet used for arts, that a rhyme may The thought in the last line, that Gay is bu- be had to heart. The six last lines are the best, ried in the bosoms of the worlhy and the good,

but not excellent. who are distinguished only to lengthen the

The rest of his sepulchral performances line, is so dark that few understand it; and so

hardly deserve the notice of criticism. The harsh, when it is explained, that still fewer contemptible “ Dialogue” between He and approve.

She should have been suppressed for the author's sake.

In his last epitaph on himself, in which be XII.

attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things

that make wise men serious, he confounds the Intended for SIR ISAAC NEWTON.

living man with the dead :
In Westminster-Abbey.

Under this stone, or under this sill,
ISAACUS NEWTONIUS:

Or under this turf, &c.
Quem Immortalem

When a man is once buried, the question, un-
Testantur, Tempus, Natura, Cælum,

der what he is buried, is easily decided. He Mortalem Hoc marmor fatetur.

forgot that, though he wrote the epitaph in a Nature and Nature's laws, lay hid in night,

state of uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over God said, Let Newton be! And all was light. him till his grave was made. Such is the folly

of wit when it is ill employed. Of this epitaph, short as it is, the faults seem

The world has but little new;

even this not to be very few. Why part should be La- wretchedness seems to have been borrowed from tin, and part English, it is not easy to discover.

the following tuneless lines :

*“ Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child."

DRYDEN on Mrs. Killigrew.--C.

Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa
Sub hoc marmore, vel sub bac humo, seu
Sub quicquid voluit benignus hæres
Sive hærede benignior comes, scu
Opportunius incidene Viator:

Nam scire haud potuit futura, sed nec
Tauti erat vacuum sihi cadaver
Ut urnam cuperet parare vivens,
Vivens ista tamen sibi paravit.
Quæ inscribi voluit suo sepulchro

Olim siquod haberet is sepulchrum. Surely Ariosto did not venture to expect that his trifle would have ever had such an illustrious imitator.

PITT.

CHRISTOPHER Pitt, of whom, whatever I shall neither too great for the kindness of the low, nor relate, more than has been already published, I too low for the notice of the great. owe to the kind communication of Dr. Warton, was born in 1699, at Blandford, the son of a physician much esteemed.

He was, in 1714, received as a scholar into At what time he composed his “ Miscellany,” Winchester College, where he was distinguished published in 1727, it is not easy or necessary to by exercises of uncommon elegance, and, at his know: those which have dates appear to have removal to New College, in 1719, presented to been very early productions; and I have not the electors, as the product of his private and observed that any rise above mediocrity. voluntary studies, a complete version of Lucan's The success of his “ Vida” animated him to a poem, which he did not then know to have been higher undertaking; and in his thirtieth year translated by Rowe.

he published a version of the first book of the This is an instance of early diligence, which “ Æneid.” This being, I suppose, commended well deserves to be recorded. The suppression by his friends, he some time afterwards added of such a work, recommended by such uncom three or four more, with an advertisement, in mon circumstances, is to be regretted. It is in which he represents himself as translating with deed culpable to load libraries with superfluous great indifference, and with a progress of which books; but incitements to early excellence are himself was hardly conscious. This can hardly never superfluous, and from this example the be true, and, if true, is nothing to the reader. danger is not great of many imitations.

At last, without any further contention with When he had resided at his college three years, his modesty, or any awe of the name of Dryden, he was presented to the rectory of Pimpern, in he gave us a complete English “ Æneid,” which Dorsetshire (1722), by his relation, Mr. Pitt, of I am sorry not to see joined in this publication Stratfield Say, in Hampshire; and, resigning with his other poems.* It would have been his fellowship, continued at Oxford two years pleasing to have an opportunity of comparing longer, till he became master of arts (1724).

the two best translations that perhaps were ever He probably about this time translated Vida's produced by one nation of the same author. Art of Poetry,” which Tristram's splendid Pitt, engaging as a rival with Dryden, nato edition had then made popular. In this trans- urally observed his failures, and avoided them; lation he distinguished himself, both by its gen- and, as he wrote after Pope's “ Iliad,” he had eral elegance, and by the skilful adaptation of an example of an exact, equable, and splendid his numbers to the images expressed; a beauty versification. With these advantages, seconded which Vida has with great ardour enforced and by great diligence, he might successfully labour exemplified.

particular passages and escape many errors. If He then retired to his living, a place very the two versions are compared, perhaps the repleasing by its situation, and therefore likely to sult would be, that Dryden leads the reader forexcite the imagination of a poet; where he pass-ward by his general vigour and sprightliness, ed the rest of his life, reverenced for his virtue, and Pitt often stops him to contemplate the exand beloved for the softness of his temper, and cellence of a single couplet : that. Dryden's faults the easiness of his manners. Before strangers are forgotten in the hurry of delight, and that ise had something of the scholar's timidity or Pitt's beauties are neglected in the langour of a distrust; but, when he became familiar, he was, cold and listless perusal, that Pitt pleases the in a very high degree, cheerful and entertaining. His general benevolence procured general respect; and he passed a life placid and honourable, * It has since been added to the collection.

critics, and Dryden the people; that Pitt is quoted, and Dryden read.

He did not long enjoy the reputation which this great work deservedly conferred; for he left the world in 1748, and lies buried under a stone at Blandford, on which is this inscription :

In Memory of
CAR. Pitt. clerk, M A.

Very eminent
for his talents in poetry;

and yet more
For the universal candour of
his mind, and the primitive
simplicity of his manners.
He lived innocent ;
and died beloved,
Apr. 13, 1748.

Aged 48.

THOMSON.

James Thomson, the son of a minister well es- the Professor of Divinity, reproved him for teemed for his piety and diligence, was born speaking language unintelligible to a popular auSeptember 7, 1700, at Ednam, in the shire of dience; and he censured one of his expressions Roxburgh, of which his father was pastor. His as indecent if not profane. mother, whose name was Hume,* inherited as This rebuke is reported to have repressed his co-heiress a portion of a small estate. The re- thoughts of an ecclesiastical character, and he venue of a parish in Scotland is seldom large; probably cultivated with new diligence his blosand it was probably in commiseration of the soms of poetry, which, however, were in some difficulty with which Mr. Thomson supported danger of a blast ; for, submitting his produchis family, having nine children, that Mr. Ric- tions to some who thought themselves qualified carton, a neighbouring minister, discovering in to criticise, he heard of nothing but faults; but James uncommon promises of future excellence, finding other judges more favourable, he did not undertook to superintend his education and pro- suffer himself to sink into despondence. vide him books.

He easily discovered that the only stage on He was taught the common rudiments of which a poet could appear with any hope of adlearning at the school of Jedburg, a place which vantage was London ; a place too wide for the he delights to recollect in his poem of “Autumn;' operation of petty competition and private mabut was not considered by his master as superi- lignity, where merit might soon become conspior to common boys, though in those early days cuous, and would find friends as soon as it behe amused his patron and his friends with poet- came reputable to befriend it. A lady who was ical compositions; with which, however, he so acquainted with his mother advised him to the little pleased himself, that on every new-year's journey, and promised some countenance or asday he threw into the fire all the productions of sistance, which at last he never received; howthe foregoing year.

ever, he justificd his adventure by her encourFrom the school he was removed to Edin- agement, and came to seek in London patronburgh, where he had not resided two years when age and fame. his father died, and left all his children to the At his arrival he found his way to Mr. care of their mother, who raised upon her little Mallet, then tutor to the sons of the Duke of estate what money a mortgage could afford, and, Montrose. He had recommendations to several removing with her family to Edinburgh, lived persons of consequence, which he had tied up to see her son rising into eminence.

carefully in his handkerchief; but as he The design of Thomson's friends was to breed passed along the street, with the gaping curiohim a minister. He lived at Edinburgh, as at sity of a new-comer, his attention was upon school, without distinction or expectation, till, every thing rather than his pocket, and his maat the usual time, he perfornied a probationary gazine of credentials was stolen from him. exercise by explaining a psalm. His diction His first want was a pair of shoes. For the was so poetically splendid, that Mr. Hamilton, supply of all his necessities, his whole fund was

his “ Winter,” which for a time could find no purchaser; till, at last, Mr. Millan was per

suaded to buy it at a low price; and this low • His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter His price he had for some time reason to regret; but grandmother's name was Hume.-C.

by accident, Mr. Whatley, a man not wholly

« VorigeDoorgaan »