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Now for two ages, having fnatch'd from fate
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Of this epitaph the firft couplet is good; the fecond 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 conftruction.
On General HENRY WITHERS.
Here, Withers, reft! thou braveft, gentleft mind,
For thee the hardy veteran drops a tear,
Withers, adieu! yet not with thee remove
The epitaph on Withers affords another inftance of common places, though fomewhat diverfified by mingled qualities and the peculiarity of a profeffion.
The fecond couplet is abrupt, general, and unpleafing; exclamation feldom fucceeds in our language; and, I think, it may be obferved that the
particle O ufed at the beginning of a sentence, always offends.
The third couplet is more happy; the value expreffed for him, by different forts of men, raises him to efteem; there is yet fomething of the common cant of fuperficial fatirifts, who fuppofe that the infincerity of a courtier deftroys all his fenfations, and that he is equally a diffembler to the living and the dead.
At the third couplet I fhould wish the epitaph to close, but that I fhould be unwilling to lofe the two next lines, which yet are dearly bought if they cannot be retained without the four that follow them.
On Mr. ELIJAH FENTON.
At Easthamftead in Berkshire, 1730.
This modeft ftone, what few vain marbles can,
May truly fay, Here lies an honeft man;
A poet, bleft beyond the poet's fate,
Whom Heaven kept facred from the Proud and Great ;
The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed from Crafhaw. The four next lines contain a fpecies of praise peculiar, original, and just. Here, therefore, the infcription fhould have ended, the latter part containing nothing but what is common to every man
who is wife and good. The character of Fenton was fo amiable, that I cannot forbear to wish for fome poet or biographer to difplay it more fully for the advantage of pofterity. If he did not ftand in the first rank of genius, he may claim a place in the fsecond; and, whatever criticism may object to his writings, cenfure could find very little to blame in his life.
On Mr. GAY.
In Westminster-Abbey, 1732.
Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
As Gay was the favourite of our author, this epitaph was probably written with an uncommon degree of attention; yet it is not more fuccefsfully executed than the reft, for it will not always happen that the fuccefs of a poet is proportionate to his labour. The fame obfervation may extend to all works of imagination, which are often influenced by caufes wholly out of the performer's power, by hints of which
he perceives not the origin, by fudden elevations of mind which he cannot produce in himself, and which fometimes rife when he expects them leaft.
The two parts of the first line are only echoes of each other; gentle manners and mild affections, if they mean any thing, muft mean the fame.
That Gay was a man in wit is a very frigid commendation; to have the wit of a man is not much for a poet. The wit of man, and the fimplicity of a child, make a poor and vulgar contrast, and raise no ideas of excellence, either intellectual or moral.
In the next couplet rage is lefs properly introduced after the mention of mildness and gentleness, which are made the conftituents of his character; for a man fo mild and gentle, to temper his rage was not difficult.
The next line is inharmonious in its found, and mean in its conception; the oppofition is obvious, and the word la ufed abfolutely, and without any modification, is grofs and improper.
To be above temptation in poverty, and free from corruption among the Great, is indeed fuch a peculiarity as deferved notice. But to be a fafe companion is a praise merely negative, arifing not from poffeffion of virtue, but the abfence of vice, and that one of the moft odious.
As little can be added to his character, by afferting, that he was lamented in bis end. Every man that dies is, at leaft by the writer of his epitaph, fupposed to be lamented, and therefore this general lamentation does no honour to Gay.
The first eight lines have no grammar; the adjectives are without any fubftantive, and the epithets without a fubje&.
The thought in the last line, that Gav is buried in the bofoms of the worthy and good, who are distinguished only to lengthen the line, is fo dark that few understand it; and fo harfh, when it is explained, that ftill fewer approve.
Intended for Sir ISAAC NEWTON,
Teftantur, Tempus, Natura, Calum:
Hoc marmor fatetur.
Nature, and Nature's laws, lay hid in night;
Of this epitaph, fhort as it is, the faults feem not to be very few. Why part fhould be Latin, and part English, it is not eafy to difcover. In the Latin, the oppofition of Immortalis and Mortalis, is a mere found, or a mere quibble; he is not immortal in any fenfe contrary to that in which he is mortal.
In the verses the thought is obvious, and the words night and light are too nearly allied.