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The following diftich, in my opinion, is an admirable Epigram, having all the neceffary qualities of one, especially Point and Brevity.
On a company of bad DANCERS to good Mufick.
How ill the motion with the mufic fuits!
This puts me in mind of another Epigram upon a bad fiddler, which I fhall venture to infert merely for the humour of it, and not for any real excellence it contains.
To a bad FIDDLER.
Old Orpheus play'd fo well, he mov'd Old Nick;
One of Martial's Epigrams, wherein he agreeably rallies the foolish vanity of a man who hired people to make verfes for him, and published them as his own, has been thus tranflated into English.
Paul fo fond of the name of a poet is grown,
Another Epigram of the fame Latin poet is very prettily. imitated in the following Tetraflic.
On an ugly WOMAN.
Whilft in the dark on thy foft hand I hung,
We have a good Epigram by Mr. Coruley, on Prometheus il painted; to understand which, we must remember his ftory. Prometheus is feign'd by the ancient poets to have formed men of clay, and to have put life into them by fire ftolen from heaven, for which crime Jupiter caus'd him to be chain'd to a rock, where a vulture was fet to gnaw his liver, which grew again as fast as it was devoured. On this fiction the Epigram is founded.
PROMETHEUS drawn by a bad Painter.
How wretched does Prometheus' ftate appear,
If once again his liver thus fhould grow.
The flames he once ftole from thee grant him now.
Some bad writer having taken the liberty to cenfure Mr. Prior, the poet very wittily lafh'd his impertinence in this Epigram.
While fafter than his coftive brain indites,
But perhaps there are none of Mr. Prior's little pieces that have more humour and pleasantry than the following.
A reafonable AFFLICTION.
Her eye-brows on the toilet lay:
As fees belonging to her prey.
Affure yourself, was loudly rated;
With her own hand the mouse-trap baited.
Depends our human joy, or forrow :
Mr. Weftley has given us a pretty Epigram alluding to a well-known text of fcripture, on the fetting up a monument in Westminster Abbey, to the memory of the ingenious Mir. Butler, author of Hudibras.
While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive,
The poet's fate is here in emblem shown;
As thefe Compofitions are fhort, many of them have the reputation of being written extempore, though they are the effect of confideration and ftudy; the following Epigram, however, has that additional merit; for which reafon, and for it's uncommon Thought, we fhall prefent it to the Reader.
An EPIGRAM on an EPIGRAM.
Be like a Jelly-Bag.
The fimile, i'faith, is new;
But how can't make it out? fays Hugh.
Make it at top both wide and fit
We shall close this chapter with an Epigram written on the well-known story of Apollo and Daphne, by Mr. Smart: When Phabus was am'rous and long'd to be rude, Mifs Daphne cry'd Pish! and ran fwift to the wood; And rather than do fuch a naughty affair,
She became a fine laurel to deck the God's hair. The nymph was, no doubt, of a cold conftitution; For fure to turn tree was an odd refolution! Yet in this she behav'd like a true modern spouse, For fhe fled from his arms to distinguish his brows. *********
CHA P. IX.
Of the EPITAPH.
HESE Compofitions generally contain fome Elogium of the virtues and good qualities of the deceased, and have a turn of seriousness and gravity adapted
to the nature of the fubject. Their elegance confifts in a nervous and expreffive brevity; and fometimes, as we have elsewhere obferved, they are closed with an epigrammatic point. In these compofitions, no mere Epithet (properly fo called) should be admitted; for here illuftration would impair the ftrength, and render the fentiment too diffuse and languid. Words that are synonymous are alfo to be rejected.
Tho' the true characteristic of the Epitaph is seriousness and gravity, yet we find many that are jocofe and ludicrous; fome likewife have true metre and rhyme, while others are between profe and verse, without any certain measure, tho' the words are truly poetical; and the beauty of this laft fort is generally heighten'd by an apt and judicious Antithefis. We fhall give examples of each.
There are in the Spectator feveral old Greek Epitaphs very beautifully tranflated into English verfe, one of which I fhall take the liberty of tranfcribing. It is written on Orpheus, a celebrated antient poet and musician, whose story is well known. He is faid to have been the son of Apollo and Calliope, one of the Nine Mufes, the Goddess meant in the laft line of the Epitaph.
No longer, Orpheus, fhall thy facred ftrains
Lead ftones, and trees, and beasts along the plains;
For thou art gone; the Mufes mourn'd thy fall
Ye mortals idly for your fons ye moan,
The ingenious tranflator obferves, that if we take the fable for truth, as it was believed to be in the age when this was written, the turn appears to have piety to the gods, and a refigning spirit in the application ; but, if we confider the Point with refpect to our prefent knowledge, it will be less esteem'd; though the author himself, because he believ'd it, may ftill be more valued than any one who should now write with a point of the fame nature.
The following Epitaph on Sir Philip Sidney's fifter, the Countess of Pembroke, faid to be written by the famous Ben Johnson, is remarkable for the noble thought with which it concludes.
On MARY Countess Dowager of PEMBROKE.
Take another Epitaph of Ren Johnson's, on a beautiful and virtuous lady, which has been deservedly admired by very good judges..
Underneath this ftone doth lie
Mr. Pope has drawn the character of Mr. Gay, in an Epitaph now to be feen on his monument in WestminsterAbbey, which he has closed with such a beautiful turn, that I cannot help looking upon it as a master-piece in its kind, as indeed are most of the productions of that furprising genius.
On Mr. GA Y.
Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
With native humour temp'ring virtuous rage,
There is fomething fo tender and moving, and fuch a ftrain of paternal and filial affection in Mr. Pope's Epitaph on Dr. Atterbury, that we fhall give it a place among these examples, tho' the Critics, perhaps, will object to its being a true Epitaph.