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WARBURTON points out fome lines in the Epistle to Jervas, which he thinks would have made the finest Epitaph ever written. They are certainly uncommonly beautiful:
"Call round her tomb each object of defire,
"Then view this marble, and be vain no more."
It is aftonishing to think, confidering the great number of funeral infcriptions which are extant, how few we have that unite all that should be required in fuch compofitions. An Epitaph fhould be fimple, characteristic, and, as Johnson justly remarks, not longer than common beholders may have time and leisure to perufe. We rarely ever meet the genuine AQλ, which distinguished moft of the Grecian infcriptions. Contemptible jeft, or affected quaintneffes, indifcriminate and cumbersome panegyrics, often set off with puns, defcribe the majority of the records of the dead in England from the 14th to the 17th century.
One of the best in Weever is "On Maude, daughter of Malcolm "Camoir, King of Scots, and wife to King Henry the First.” "She had an excellent Epigram," fays Weever, "made to her "commendation, whereof thefe four verfes only remain :
“Prospera non lætam fecere, nec afpera tristem,
Afpera rifus erant, profpera terror erant. Nec decor effecit fragilem, nec fceptra fuperbam, Sola potens, humilis, fola pudica decens." "Thus," he adds, "paraphraftically tranflated: "No profperous fate did make her glad, "Nor adverfe chances make her fad ; "If fortune frown'd -fhe then did fmile ; "If fortune fmil'd-fhe fear'd the while:
"If beauty tempted-fhe faid Nay;
Funeral Monuments, p. 234. This is poor enough; but the Epitaph "which was," Weever fays. "no doubt penned with applaufe in thofe days," may be quoted as truly ridiculous:
"Rex Ethelbertus hic clauditur in Poliandro,
Fana fidus certus Chrifto meat abfque Meandro."
"King Ethelbert lies buried here,
For building churches fure he goes
The former Epitaph may put the reader, perhaps, in mind of a beautiful line of Spenfer's:
"Gently he took all that ungently came.'
Among the more modern Epitaphs a laboured elegance seems too much to prevail, at the expence of fimplicity, and thofe appropriate touches of character, which conftitute the chief beauty, as well as difficulty, of this fpecies of writing. There are few more elegant, and at the fame time more affecting and characteristic, than the lines often afcribed to Dr. Hawkefworth, but certainly written by the late Lord Palmerston :
"Whoe'er, like me, his heart's whole treasure brings," &c.
T. Warton's Latin Epitaph on Mrs. Serle, in Teftwood church, near Southampton, is claffical, appropriate, and beautiful,
ON CHARLES EARL OF DORSET,
IN THE CHURCH OF WITHYAM IN SUSSEX.
DORSET, the Grace of Courts, the Muses' Pride,
Yet facred keep his Friendships, and his Ease.
Where other BUCKHURSTS, other DORSETS fhine,
Epitaphs.] Thefe Epitaphs are in general over-run with point and antithefis, and are a kind of panegyrical epigrams; they are confequently very different from the fimple fepulchral inscriptions of the ancients; of which that of Meleager on his Wife, in the Greek anthology, is a model and mafter piece. WARTON.
Dr. Johnfon has been particularly fevere on thefe Epitaphs. Some of his obfervations are very just, and his definition of the fpecies of writing is accurate. There are very few things, how. ever, that would ftand the teft of fuch severity of investigation.
ON SIR WILLIAM TRUMBAL,
One of the principal Secretaries of State to King WILLIAM III. who having refigned his Place, died in his Retirement at Easthamfted, in Berkshire, 1716.
PLEASING Form; a firm, yet cautious Mind;
Fix'd to one fide, but mod'rate to the rest:
VER. 5. a Patriot too;] It was unfuitable to the nicety required in fhort compofitions, to close his verse with the word too; every rhyme fhould be a word of emphafis, nor can this rule be safely neglected, except where the length of the poem makes flight inaccuracies excufable, or allows room for beauties fufficient to overpower the effects of petty faults,
At the beginning of the feventh line the word filled is weak and profaic, having no particular adaptation to any of the words that follow it.