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With native humour tempering virtuous rage,
As Gay was the favourite of our author, this epitaph was probably written with an uncommon degree of attention; yet it is not more successfully executed than the rest, for it will not always happen that the success of a poet is proportionate to his labour. The same observation may be extended to all works of imagination, which are often influenced by causes wholly out of the performer's power, by hints of which he perceives not the origin, by sudden elevations of mind which he cannot produce in himself, and which sometimes rise when he expects them least.
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 a poet. The wit of man, 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; or a man so mild and gentle to temper i "age, 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 may that dies is, at least by the writer of his epitaph, supposed to be lamented; and therefore this general lamentation does no honour to Cray.
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.
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 Morlalis is a mere sound, or a mere quibble; he is not immortal 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.
On Edmund Duke of Buckingham, wJtodied in the 19th Year of his Age, 1735.
If modest youth, with cool reflection crown'd,
This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the rest; but I know not for what reason. To crown with reflection is surely a mode of speech approaching to nonsense. Opening virtues blooming round, is something like tautology; the six following lines are poor andtprosaick. Art is in another couplet used for arts., that a rhyme may be had to heart. The six last lines are the best, but not excellent.
The rest of his sepulchral performances hardly deserve the notice of criticism. The contemptible "Dialogue" between He and She should have been suppressed for the author's sake.
In his last epitaph on himself, in which he attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that make wise men serious, he confounds the living man with the dead.
Under this stone, or under this sill,
When a man is once buried, the question, under what he is buried, is easily decided. He forgot that though he wrote the epitaph in a state of uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over him till his grave was made. Such is the folly of wit when it . is ill employed.
The world has but little new; even this wretchedness seems to have been borrowed from the following tuneless lines:
Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa
Sub hoc marmore, vel sub hac humo, seu
Sub quicquid voluit benignus haeres
Sive hserede benignior comes, seu
Opportunius incidens Viator:
Nam scire haud potuit futura, sed nec
Tanti erat vacuum sibi cadaver
Ut urnam cuperet parare vivens,
Vivens ista tamen sibi paravit.
Quae inscribi voluit suo sepulchro
Olim siquod haberit is sepulchrum.
Surely Ariosto did not venture to expect that his trifle would have ever had such an illustrious imitator.
Christopher Pitt, of whom whatever I shall relate, more than has been already published, I owe to the kind communication of Dr. Warton, was born in 1699, at Blandford, the son of a physician much esteemed.
He was, in 1714, received as a scholar into Winchester College, where he was distinguished by exercises of uncommon elegance, and at his removal to New College in 1719, presented to the electors, as the product of his private and voluntary studies, a complete version of Lucan's poem, which he did not then know to have been translated by Rowe.
This is an instance of early diligence which well deserves to be recorded. The suppression of such a work, recommended by such uncommon circumstances, is to be regretted. It is indeed culpable to load libraries with superfluous books; but incitements to early excellence are never superfluous, and from this example the danger is not great of many imitations.
When he had resided at his college three years, he was presented to the rectory of Pimpern in Dorsetshire (1722), by his relation, Mr. Pitt of Strat