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Cowley, a man, whose learning and poetry were his lowest merits :
Aurea dum late volitant tua fcripta per orbem;
To pray that the ashes of a friend may lie uns disturbed, and that the divinities that favoured hini in his life, may watch for ever round him to preserve his tomb from violation, and drive facrilege away, is only rational in him who believes the soul interested in the repose of the body, and the powers which he invokes for its protection able to preserve it. To censure such expressions as contrary to religion, or as remains of heathen superstition, would be too great a degree of severity. I condemn them only as uninstructive and unaffecting, as too ludicrous for reverence or grief, for christianity and a temple.
That the designs and decorations of monuments ought likewise to be formed with the same regard to the solemnity of the place, cannot be denied : it is an established principle, that all ornaments owe their beauty to their propriety. The same glitter of dress that adds graces to gaiety and youth, would make age and dignity contemptible. Charon with his boat is far from heightening the awful grandeur of the universal judgment, though drawn by Angelo himself;
nor is it easy to imagine a greater absurdity than that of gracing the walls of a christian temple with the figure of Mars leading a hero to battle, or Cupids sporting round a virgin. The pope who defaced the ftatues of the deities at the tomb of Sannazarius is, in my opinion, more easily to be defended, than he that erected them.
It is for the same reason improper to address the EPITAPH to the passenger, a custom which an injudicious veneration for antiquity introduced again at the revival of letters, and which, among many others, Pefferatius suffered to mislead him in his EPITAPH upon the heart of Henry king of France, who was stabbed by Clement the monk, which yet deserves to be inserted, for the sake of Thewing how beautiful even improprieties may become, in the hands of a good writer:
Adja, viator, et dole regum vices.
Abi, viator, et dolc regum vices.
In the monkish ages, however ignorant and uri: polished, the EPITAPHS were drawn up with far greater propriety than can be shewn in those which more enlightened times have produced.
Orate pro Anima-miferrimi Peccatoris,
was an address to the last degree striking and folemn, as it flowed naturally from the religion then believed, and awakened in the reader sentiments of benevolence
fos for the deceased, and of concern for his own happiness. There was nothing trifling or ludicrous, nothing that did not tend to the noblest end, the propagation of piety and the increase of devotion.
It may seem very superfluous to lay it down as the first rule for writing EPITAPHS, that the name of the deceased is not to be omitted; nor should I have thought such a precept necessary, had not the practice of the greatest writers shewn, that it has not been sufficiently regarded. In most of the poetical EPITAPHS, the names for whom they were composed, may be sought to no purpose, being only prefixed on the monument. To expose the absurdity of this omiffion, it is only necessary to ask how the EPITAPHs, which have outlived the stones on which they were inscribed, would have contributed to the information of posterity, had they wanted the names of those whom they celebrated.
In drawing the character of the deceased, there are no rules to be observed which do not equally relate to other compositions. The praise ought not to be general, because the mind is lost in the extent of any indefinite idea, and cannot be affected with what it cannot comprehend. When we hear only of a good or great man, we know not in what class to place him, nor have any notion of his character, distinct from that of a thousand others; his example can have no effect upon our conduct, as we have nothing remarkable or eminent to propose to our imitation. The EPITAPH composed by Ennius for his own tomb, has both the faults last mentioned ; Nemo me decoret lacrumis, nec funera, fietu Faxit. Cür ? volito vivu' per ora virum, T 3
The reader of this EPITAPH receives scarce any idea from it; he neither conceives any veneration for the man to whom it belongs, nor is instructed by what methods this boasted reputation is to be obs tained.
Though a sepulchral inscription is professedly a panegyrick, and, therefore, not confined to historical impartiality, yet it ought always to be written with regard to truth. No man ought to be commended for virtues which he never possessed, but whoever is curious to know his faults must inquire after them in other places; the monuments of the dead are not intended to perpetuate the memory of crimes, but to ex, hibit patterns of virtue. On the tomb of Mecenas his luxury is not to be mentioned with his munificence, nor is the proscription to find a place on the monument of Augustus.
The best subject for EPITAPHs is private virtue; virtue exerted in the same circumstances in which tlie bulk of mankind are placed, and which, therefore, may admit of many imitators. He that has delivered his country from oppression, or freed the world from ignorance and error, can excite the emulation of a very small number; but he that has repelled the temptations of poverty, and disdained to free himself from distress at the expense of his virtue, may animate multitudes, by his example, to the same firmness of heart and steadiness of resolution.
Of this kind I cannot forbear the mention of two Greek inscriptions; one upon a man whose writings are well known, the other upon a person whose memory is preserved only in her EPITAPH, who both
lived in slavery, the most calamitous estate in human Life:
Ζωσιμη ή πριν εισα μονω τω σωματι δαλη,
Και τω σωματι νυν εύρεν ελευθεριην.
ZOSIMA, que solo fuit olim corpore ferva,
Corpore nunc etiam libera facta fuit.
« ZOSIMA, who in her life could only have her body
enslaved, now finds her body likewise set at liberty."
It is impossible to read this EPITAPH without being animated to bear the evils of life with constancy, and to support the dignity of human nature under the most prefsing afflictions, both by the example of the heroine, whose grave we behold, and the prospect of that state in which, to use the language of the inspired writers, “ The poor cease from their labours, and the weary be at rest.”
The other is upon Epictetus, the Stoick philosopher :
Axa ETIHTNT nevolenv, xolu owu avanna ;
Servus Epictetus, mutilatus corpore vixi
Pauperieque Irus, curaque prima Deúm.
" EPICTETUS, who lies here, was a slave and a cripple,
poor as the beggar in the proverb, and the favourite of Heaven.”
In this distich is comprised the noblest panegyrick, and the most important instruction. We may learn froin it, that virtue is impracticable in no condition,