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The ninth line, which is far the strongest and most elcgant, is borrowed from Dryden. The conclusion is the same with that on Harcourt, but is here more elegant, and better connected.
ON SIR GODFREY KNELLER.
In Westminster-Abbey, 1723.
Kneller, by Heaven, and not a master, taught,
Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie
Of this epitaph, the first couplet is good, the second not bad, the third is deformed with a broken metaphor, the word crowned not being applicable to the honours or the lays; and the fourth is not only borrowed from the epitaph on Raphael, but of very harsh construction.
ON GENERAL HENRY WITHERS.
In Westminster-Abbey, 1729.
Here, Withers, rest! thou bravest, gentlest mind,
The epitaph on Withers affords another instance of common-places, though somewhat diversified by mingled qualities, and the peculiarity of a profession.
The second couplet is abrupt, general, and unpleasing; exclamation seldom succeeds in our language; and, I think, it may be observed that the particle O! used at the beginning of the sentence, always offends.
The third couplet is more happy; the value expressed for him by different sorts of men, raises him to esteem; there is yet something of the common cant of superficial satirists, who suppose that the insincerity of a courtier destroys all bis sensations, and that he is equally a dissembler to the living and the dead.
At the third couplet I should wish the epitaph to close, but that I should be unwilling to lose the two next lines, which yet are dearly bought, if they cannot be retained without the four that follow them.
ON MR. ELIJAH FENTON,
At Easthamstead in Berkshire, 1730.
The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed from Crasbaw. The four next lines contain a species of praise, peculiar, original, and just. Here, therefore, the inscription should have ended, the latter part containing nothing but what is common to every man who is wise and good. The character of Fenton was so amiable, that I cannot forbear to wish for some poet or biographer to display it
more fully for the advantage of posterity. If he did not stand in the first rank of genius, he may claim a place in the second; and, whatever criticism may object to his writings, censure could find very little to blame in his life.
ON MR, GAY,
In Westminster-Abbey, 1732.
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 lwo parts of the first line are 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; for a man so mild and gentle to temper his rage, 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 man that dies is, at least by the writer of his epitaph, supposed to be lamented; and therefore this general lamentation does no honour to Gay.
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.
and nature's laws, lay hid in night:
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 mortalis, 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,
Who died 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 and prosaic. Art is in another couplet used for arts, that a rhyme may be had to heart. The last six 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 :