Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

II.

On Sir WILLIAM TRUMBAL', one of the principal Secretaries 395 of State to King WILLIAM III., who, having resigned his place, died in his retirement at Easthampsted in Berkshire, 1716.

'A pleasing form, a firm, yet cautious mind,
Sincere, tho' prudent; constant, yet resign'd;
Honour unchang'd, a principle profest,
Fix'd to one side, but mod'rate to the rest :
An honest courtier, yet a patriot too,

Just to his prince, and to his country true.
Fill'd with the sense of age, the fire of youth,
A scorn of wrangling, yet a zeal for truth;

A gen'rous faith, from superstition free;
A love to peace, and hate of tyranny;

Such this man was; who now, from earth remov'd,
At length enjoys that liberty he lov'd.'

In this epitaph, as in many others, there appears at the first 396 view a fault which I think scarcely any beauty can compensate. The name is omitted. The end of an epitaph is to convey some account of the dead; and to what purpose is any thing told of him whose name is concealed ? An epitaph and a history of a nameless hero are equally absurd, since the virtues and qualities so recounted in either are scattered at the mercy of fortune to be appropriated by guess. The name, it is true, may be read upon the stone; but what obligation has it to the poet whose verses wander over the earth and leave their subject behind them, and who is forced, like an unskilful painter, to make his purpose known by adventitious help?

This epitaph is wholly without elevation, and contains nothing 397 striking or particular; but the poet is not to be blamed for the defects of his subject. He said perhaps the best that could be said. There are, however, some defects which were not made necessary by the character in which he was employed.

[blocks in formation]

398

399

400

There is no opposition between an honest courtier and a patriot; for an honest courtier cannot but be a patriot'.

It was unsuitable to the nicety required in short compositions to close his verse with the word too; every rhyme should be a word of emphasis, nor can this rule be safely neglected, except where the length of the poem makes slight inaccuracies excusable, or allows room for beauties sufficient to overpower the effects of petty faults.

At the beginning of the seventh line the word filled is weak and prosaic, having no particular adaptation to any of the words that follow it.

The thought in the last line is impertinent, having no connexion with the foregoing character, nor with the condition of the man described. Had the epitaph been written on the poor conspirator3 who died lately in prison, after a confinement of more than forty years, without any crime proved against him, the sentiment had been just and pathetical; but why should Trumbal be congratulated upon his liberty, who had never known restraint *?

III.

401 On the Hon. SIMON HARCOURT, only Son of the Lord Chan cellor HARCOURT, at the Church of Stanton-Harcourt in Oxfordshire, 1720.

I

To this sad shrine, whoe'er thou art, draw near;
Here lies the friend most lov'd, the son most dear:

Johnson forgot his description of patriotism as 'the last refuge of a scoundrel.' Boswell's Johnson, ii. 348.

2

Ante, COWLEY, 187.

3 Bernardi. JOHNSON. In the List of Deaths in Gent. Mag. 1736, p. 553, is Major John Bernardi, in Newgate, where he had been a state prisoner 40 years, for a conspiracy against King William III.' See also ib. 1780, 125, and Macaulay's History, vii. 284, 297. He was never tried. 'An Act was passed confining him and other conspirators during the pleasure of King William. Similar Acts were passed on the accession of Anne, George I and II. In 1712 he was married in Newgate. His wife bore him ten children.' Dict. Nat. Biog. iv. 390.

4 He had known the restraint of office, for he had served under three Kings. Pope in his first Pastoral (1. 7) thus addresses him :You that too wise for pride, too good for pow'r,

Enjoy the glory to be great no more,

And carrying with you all the world can boast,

To all the world illustriously are lost!'

5 Ante, J. PHILIPS, 8; SHEFFIELD, Appendix EE.

Swift wrote to Stella on April 21, 1711: We dined to-day according to appointment; Lord-Keeper went away at near eight, I at eight, and I believe the rest will be fairly fuddled; for young Harcourt, Lord-Keeper's

Who ne'er knew joy, but friendship might divide,
Or gave his father grief but when he dy'd1.

'How vain is reason, eloquence how weak!
If Pope must tell what Harcourt cannot speak 2.
Oh, let thy once-lov'd friend inscribe thy stone,
And with a father's sorrows mix his own!'

This epitaph is principally remarkable for the artful intro- 402 duction of the name, which is inserted with a peculiar felicity, to which chance must concur with genius, which no man can hope to attain twice 3, and which cannot be copied but with servile imitation.

I cannot but wish that, of this inscription, the two last lines 403 had been omitted, as they take away from the energy what they do not add to the sense.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

405

406

407

'Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere,
In action faithful, and in honour clear!

Who broke no promise, serv'd no private end1,
Who gain'd no title, and who lost no friend;
Ennobled by himself, by all approv'd,

Prais'd, wept, and honour'd, by the Muse he lov'd.'

The lines on Craggs were not originally intended for an epitaph; and therefore some faults are to be imputed to the violence with which they are torn from the poem that first contained them. We may, however, observe some defects. There is a redundancy of words in the first couplet: it is superfluous to tell of him who was sincere, true, and faithful, that he was in honour clear.

There seems to be an opposition intended in the fourth line, which is not very obvious: where is the relation between the two positions, that he gained no title and lost no friend?

It may be proper here to remark the absurdity of joining in the same inscription Latin and English, or verse and prose3. If either language be preferable to the other, let that only be used; for no reason can be given why part of the information should be given in one tongue and part in another on a tomb, more than in any other place on any other occasion; and to tell all that can be conveniently told in verse, and then to call

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

For the refutation of Lady M. W. Montagu's gossip (Letters, i. 117), repeated by Macaulay (History, vii. 175), that the elder Craggs had been a footman see Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), iii. 321.

'['He was, with his father (the postmaster-general) deeply involved in the South Sea scheme; according to the Secret Committee's Report £36,000 of fictitious stock was held for him.' Pol. State, xxii. 444. 'He died (of small-pox) on Feb. 16 (1721) at the very time the Report was reading in the House of Commons.' His burial in the Abbey was by night and private. Among the pall-bearers were the Speaker and several minis

ters; the Dean officiated. Ib. xxi. 183, 327]; ante, POPE, 123 n.

* They were intended for a medal. 'Then shall thy Craggs (and let me call him mine)

On the cast ore, another Pollio,
shine:
[head,
With aspect open shall erect his
And round the orb in lasting notes
be read-
Statesman,' &c.

Epistle to Addison, 1. 63. 'Is this a motto for a medal or a mill-stone?' asked Concanen, one of The Dunciad heroes. Hawkins's Johnson, p. 538.

'Il est absurde de faire une déclamation autour d'une médaille, ou au bas d'un tableau.' BOILEAU,Œuvres,

iii.73ost, POPE, 438. On Johnson's

monument in St. Paul's there is a mixture of Greek and Latin. Boswell's Johnson, iv. 445.

in the help of prose, has always the appearance of a very artless expedient, or of an attempt unaccomplished. Such an epitaph resembles the conversation of a foreigner, who tells part of his meanin; by words, and conveys part by signs.

V.

Intended for Mr. ROWE.

In Westminster-Abbey1.

'Thy reliques, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust,
And sacred, place by Dryden's awful dust":
Beneath a rude and nameless stone he lies,
To which thy tomb shall guide inquiring eyes.
Peace to thy gentle shade, and endless rest!
Blest in thy genius, in thy love too, blest!
One grateful woman 3 to thy fame supplies
What a whole thankless land to his denies.'

408

Of this inscription the chief fault is that it belongs less to 409 Rowe, for whom it was 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 410 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 5.

[blocks in formation]

Each widow asks it for the best of

men,
[weds again."
For him she weeps, and him she
[Epil. Sat. ii. 105.]'

Malone's Dryden, i. 386.

Dean Stanley, in his Westminster Abbey, 1868, 2nd ed. p. 294, absurdly says:-'So completely had Dryden's grave come to be regarded as the most interesting spot in Poets' Corner, that when Pope wrote the epitaph for Rowe, the highest honour he could pay to him was that his tomb should point the way to Dryden's.' Pope was not honouring Dryden, but reproaching those who had so long left him covered by a 'rude and nameless stone.'

5 Ante, COWLEY, 47 n. 8; Johnson's Works, v. 262.

Addison strictly requires' every

« AnteriorContinuar »