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veniently told in verse, and then to call in the help of prose, has always the appears 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 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.
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. H.
to display it in such a manner as might attract regard, and enforce reverence.
OF HIS SISTER MARY,
ERECTED BY THEIR FATHER THE LORD DIGBY, IN THE CHURCH OF SHERBORNE,
IN DORSETSHIRE, 1727.
And thou, blest maid! attendant on his doom,
Yct 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 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, 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
necessary to borrow from himself. The fourteen epitaphs, which he has written, comprise about an 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 ele gant and better connected.
IN WESTMINSTER-ABBEY, 1723.
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Her works; and dying, fears herself inay dic. 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 thie luys; and the fourth is not only borrowed from the epitaph on Raphael, but of a Fery harsh construction.
IN WESTMINSTER-ABBEY, 1729.
Withers, adieu! yet not with thee remove
The last true Briton lies beneath this stone. The epitaph on Withers aflords another instance of common-places, though somewhat diversified, by mingled qualities, and the peculiarity of a profession.
'The second couplet is abrupt, general, and unpleasing; exclamation seldom succeeds in our language; and, I think, it may be observed that the particle (! used at the beginning of a sentence, always offends.
The third couplet is more happy; the value expressed for him, by different sorts of men, raises him to esteem; there is yet something of the common cant of superficial satirists, who suppose that the insincerity of a courtier destroys all bis sensations, and that he is equally a dissembler to the living and the dead.
At the third couplet I should wish the epitaph to closis 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.
This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
Thank'd Heaven that he had liv'd, and that he dy'd.
ON MR. GAY,
Striking their pensive bosoms-Here lies Gay!
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 same.
That Gay was a man in wit is a very frigid commendation; to have the wit of a man is not much for poet. The wit of mans, and the simplicity 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 less properly introduced after the mention of mildness and gentleness, which are made the constituents of his character; for a man so mild and gentle to temper his rage, was not difficult.
The next line is inharmonious in its sound, and mean in its conception; the opposition is obvious, and the word lash, used absolutely, and without any modification, is gross and improper.
To be above temptation in poverty, and free from corruption among the great, is indeed such a peculiarity as deserved notice. But to be a safe companion is a praise merely negative, arising not from possession of virtue, but the absence of vice, and that one of the most odious.
As little can be added to his character, by asserting, that he was lamented in his end. Every man that dies is, at least by the writer of his epitaph, supposed 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 substantive, and the epithets without a subject.
The thought in the last line, that Gay is buried in the bosoms of the worthy and the good, who are distinguished only to lengthen the line, is so dark that few understand it; and so harsh when it is explained, that still fewer approve.
INTENDED FOR SIR ISAAC NEWTON,
Isaacus NEWTONIUS :
Hoc Marmor fatetur.
Of this epitaph, short as it is, the faults seem not to be very few. Why part should be Latin, and part English, it is not easy to discover. In the Latin the opposition of immortalis and mortalis is a mere sound, or a mere quibble; he is not inmortal in any sense 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. Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child.
Dryden on Mrs. Killigrev. C.