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The epitaph on Withers affords another instance of common places, though fomewhat diverfified, by mingled qualities, and the peculiarity of a profeffion,
The second couplet is abrupt, general, and unpleafing; exclamation seldom fucceeds in our language; and, I think, it may be observed that the particle O! used at the beginning of a sentence, always offends.
The third couplet is more happy; the value expressed for him, by different forts of men, raises him to esteem; there is yet something of the common cant of fuperficial fatirists, who fuppofe that the infincerity of a courtier destroys all his fenfations, and that he is equally a diffembler to the living and the dead,
At the third couplet I should wish the epitaph to close, but that I should be unwilling to lose the two next lines, which yet are dearly bought if they cannot be retained without the four that follow them.
On Mr. ELIJAH FENTON.
This modest stone, what few vain marbles can, May truly fay, Here lies an honest man: A poet, bleft beyond the poet's fate, Whom Heaven kept facred from the Proud and Great:
Foe to loud praise, and friend to learned ease,
The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed from Crafhaw. The four next lines contain a species of praise peculiar, original, and just. Here, therefore, the infcription should 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 display it more fully for the advantage of pofterity. If he did not stand in the first rank of genius, he may claim a place in the fecond; and, whatever criticism
may object to his writings, cenfure could find 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 success of a poet is proportionate to his labour. The fame obfervation may be extended to all works of imagination, which are often influenced by caufes wholly out of the performer's power,
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, must 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 contraft, and raife 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 constituents of his character; for a man fo mild and gentle to temper his rage, was not difficult.
The next line is unharmonious in its found, and mean in its conception; the oppofition is obvious, and the word lafh 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 deserved notice. But to be a fafe companion is praise merely negative, arising not from the poffeffion of virtue, but the absence of vice, and that one of the most odious.
As little can be added to his character, by afferting that he was lamented in his end. Every man that dies is, at least by the writer of his epitaph, fuppofed 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 fubstantive, and the epithets without a subject.
The thought in the last line, that Gay is buried in the bofoms of the worthy and the good, who are distinguished only to lengthen the line, is fo dark that few understand it; and fo harfh, when it is explained, that still fewer