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We fhall conclude this fpecies of poetry with a droll and fatirical Epitaph written by Mr. Pope, which we tran fcribed from a monument in Lord Cobham's gardens at Stow in Buckinghamshire.
To the Memory
An Italian of good Extraction;
Not to bite us, like most of his Countrymen,
Regardless of the Praise of his Friends,
Tho' he doubted of none of the 39 Articles.
and to refpect the Laws of Society,
he was a perfect Philofopher;
a faithful Friend,
diftinguish'd by a numerous Offpring,
all which he liv'd to fee take good Courses.
to the House of a Clergyman in the Country,
and died an Honour and an Example to the whole Species.
This Stone is guiltlefs of Flattery,
for he to whom it is infcrib'd
was not a MAN,
but a GREY-HOUND.
HE Elegy is a mournful and plaintive, but yet a fweet and engaging kind of poem. It was firit 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, wishes, prayers, expoftulations, reproaches, admonitions, and almost every other fubject, 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, addresses to things or perfons, fhort and proper digreffions, allufions, comparisons, profopopaias or feigned perfons, and fometimes with fhort defcriptions. The diction ought to be free from any harshness; 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 juft 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 step, and points to yonder glade ?
'Tis fhe! but why that bleeding bosom gor'd?
From these perhaps (ere nature bade her die)
And fep'rate from their kindred dregs below;
But thou, falfe guardian of a charge too good,
Thus fhall your wives, and thus your children fall:
So perish all, whose breaft ne'er learnt to glow
What can atone (oh ever-injur'd shade!)
To midnight dances, and the public show ;
Poets themselves muft fall, like those they fung,
But of Elegies on the fubject of death, this by Mr. Gray is one of the beft that has appeared in our language, and may be justly efteem'd a masterpiece.
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.
And leaves the world to darkness, and to me.
The moping owl does to the moon complain
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 ftraw-built fhed, 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 fhall burn, Or busy housewife ply her evening care: No children run to lifp their fire's return,
Or climb his knees the envy'd kiss to share.
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 ftroke! Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
'Their homely joys, and deftiny obfcure; Nor grandeur hear with a difdainful smile,
The fhort and fimple annals of the poor. The boast 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.