Page images

We fhall conclude this fpecies of poetry with a droll and fatirical Epitaph written by Mr. Pope, which we tranfcribed from a monument in Lord Cobham's gardens at Stow in Buckinghamshire.

To the Memory


An Italian of good Extraction;
Who came into England,

Not to bite us, like most of his Countrymen,
But to gain an honeft Livelyhood.
He hunted not after Fame,
Yet acquir'd it;

Regardless of the Praife of his Friends,
but moft fenfible of their Love.
Tho' he liv'd amongst the Great,
He neither learnt nor flatter'd any Vice.
He was no Bigot,

Tho' he doubted of none of the 39 Articles.
And, if to follow Nature,

and to respect the Laws of Society,
be Philofophy,

he was a perfect Philofopher;
a faithful Friend,
an agreeable Companion,
a loving Hufband,

diftinguish'd by a numerous Offpring,
all which he liv'd to fee take good Courses.
In his old Age he retired

to the House of a Clergyman in the Country,
where he finished his earthly Race,

and died an Honour and an Example to the whole Species.


[blocks in formation]



Of the ELEGY.

HE Elegy is a mournful and plaintive, but yet a sweet and engaging kind of poem. It was first invented to bewail the death of a friend, and afterwards us'd to exprefs the complaints of lovers, or any other doleful and melancholy fubject. In process of time not only matters of grief, but joy, wifhes, prayers, expoftulations, reproaches, admonitions, and almost every other subject, were admitted into Elegy; however, funeral lamentations and affairs of love feem most agreeable to its character.

The plan of an Elegy, as indeed of all other poems, ought to be made before a line is written; or else the author will ramble in the dark, and his verfes have no dependance on each other. No epigrammatic points or conceits, none of thofe fine things which most people are fo fond of in every fort of poem, can be allow'd in this, but muft give place to nobler beauties, thofe of Nature and the Paffions. Elegy rejects whatever is facetious, fatirica', or majeftic, and is content to be plain, decent, and unaffected; yet in this humble ftate is the fweet and engaging, elegant and attractive. This poem is adorn'd with frequent commiferations, complaints, exclamations, addreffes to things or perfons, fhort and proper digreffions, allufions, comparisons, profopopeias or feigned perfons, and fometimes with fhort descriptions. The diction ought to be free from any barfbnefs; neat, eafy, perfpicuous, expreffive of the manners, tender, and pathetic; and the numbers fhould be smooth and flowing, and captivate the ear with their uniform sweetness and delicacy.

For an example of a good and mournful Elegy, I fhall infert one written by Mr. Pope, which will give the reader a just idea of the tender and plaintive character of this kind of poem.

To the memory of an unfortunate LADY.

What beck'ning ghoft along the moonlight shade Invites my ftep, and points to yonder glade ?

'Tis fhe!--but why that bleeding bofom gor'd?
Why dimly gleams the vifionary sword?
Oh ever beauteous, ever friendly! tell,
Is it, in heav'n, a crime to love too well?
To bear too tender, or too firm a heart,
To act a lover's, or a Roman's part?
Is there no bright reversion in the sky,
For those who greatly think, or bravely die?
Why bade ye elfe, ye Pow'rs! her foul aspire
Above the vulgar flight of low defire ?
Ambition firft fprang from your bleft abodes,
The glorious fault of Angels and of Gods:
Thence to their images on earth it flows,
And in the breasts of kings and heroes glows!
Moft fouls, 'tis true, but peep out once an age,
Dull, fullen pris'ners in the body's cage:
Dim lights of life, that burn a length of years,
Ufelefs, unfeen, as lamps in fepulchres;
Like eastern kings a lazy ftate they keep,
And clofe confin'd in their own palace sleep.
From these perhaps (ere nature bade her die)
Fate fnatch'd her early to the pitying sky.
As into air the purer fpirits flow,

And fep'rate from their kindred dregs below;
So flew the foul to its congenial place,
Nor left one virtue to redeem her race.

But thou, false guardian of a charge too good,
Thou mean deferter of thy brother's blood!
See on thefe ruby lips the trembling breath,
These cheeks, now fading at the blast of death;
Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before,
And those love-darting eyes muft roll no more,
Thus, if eternal juftice rules the ball,

Thus fhall your wives, and thus your children fall:
On all the line a fudden vengeance waits,
And frequent herfes fhall befiege your gates.
There paffengers fhall ftand, and pointing say,
(While the long fun'rals blacken all the way)
Lo these were they whofe fouls the furies fteel'd,
And curs'd with hearts unknowing how to yield.
Thus unlamented pass the proud away,
The gaze of fools, and pageants of a day!

So perish all, whose breast ne'er learnt to glow
For others good, or melt at others woe.

What can atone (oh ever-injur'd shade!)
Thy fate unpity'd, and thy rites unpaid ?
No friends complaint, no kind domestic tear
Pleas'd thy pale ghost, or grac'd thy mournful bier ;
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd.
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd,
By ftrangers honour'd, and by ftrangers mourn'd!
What tho' no friends in fable weeds appear,
Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year,
And bear about the mockery of woe

To midnight dances, and the public show ;
What tho' no facred earth allow thee room,
Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb;
Yet fhall thy grave with rifing flow'rs be dreft,
And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast:
'There fhall the morn her earliest tears beftow,
There the first roses of the year shall blow;
While Angels with their filver wings o'ershade
The ground, now facred by thy reliques made.
So peaceful refts, without a ftone, a name,
What once had beauty, titles, wealth, and fame:
How lov'd, how honcur'd once, avails thee not,
To whom related, or by whom begot;

A heap of duft alone remains of thee,
'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be!

Poets themselves muft fall, like thofe they fung,
Deaf the prais'd ear, and mute the tuneful tongue.
Ev'n he, whose foul now melts in mournful lays,
Shall fhortly want the generous tear he pays :
Then from his clofing eyes thy form fhall part,
And the laft pang fhall tear thee from his heart:
Life's idle business at one gafp be o'er,

The mufe forgot, and thou belov'd no more!

But of Elegies on the subject of death, this by Mr. Gray is one of the beft that has appeared in our language, and may be justly esteem'd a mafterpiece.

An ELEGY. Written in a country church-yard. The curfeu tolls the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd winds flowly o'er the lea.
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness, and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landfcape on the fight,
And all the air a folemn stillness holds ;
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
Or drowsy tincklings lull the distant folds.

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of fuch as, wand'ring near her fecret bow'r,
Moleft her ancient folitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's fhade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incenfe-breathing morn,

The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's fhrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more fhall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or bufy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lifp their fire's return,
Or climb his knees the envy'd kifs to fhare.

Oft did the harvest to their fickle yield,

Their furrow oft the ftubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team a field! How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not ambition mock their useful toil,

'Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile, The fhort and fimple annals of the poor.

The boaft of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour,

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.


« PreviousContinue »