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inform us what a reader would most probably wish to know ; the cause of poor John's fate, and the spot of his interment. Rhyme could never have handled the subject in such a manner; -Reason goes straight to work, and developes the whole catastrophe. And I question whether the shade of John Doley receives not full as much consolation, from this plain, unsophisticated Epitaph, as if his death were recounted at a greater length, together with all the aid of flowery diction, and poetic hyperbole. I will select another : .
“ Gentle Reader, who standest by, my grave to view,
I was on earth, much the same as you :
And as I am, so you must be;
We shall have some difficulty in resolving such a metre as this, as I believe we cannot meet with it in any of the British Poets.
There are, you see, in the first line, twelve feet ;-in the second, nine ;-in the third, eight;-in the last, ten. À most unwarrantable license of version! Let me see—I believe I can do it by the Antispastus.* Yes—the first line comes right. Now for the second. Pish! I can make nothing of the second ! Is it dactylic? Is it tetrameter catalectic? Is it-by Jove! I must give it up, and console myself with that most infallible resource of all, -Poetic License. But observe, Reader, how civilly, and yet how forcibly, he admonishes you of your end. Mark, how he informs you that he has lived, as you do; that he has died, as you will. In these four lines a string of moral precepts is contained, which many elegiac writers would have dilated into a long, uninteresting, unintelligible composition, and dignified with the name of an Epitaph. Mark also the force of the words, “ I say.” They speak' volumes--they banish every shade of doubt from our minds. Scepticism itself would do well to listen to them. Take another extract:
“ Here I, the son of John and Mary Brown,
(Who liv'd until Death's scythe did cut I down),
Here again appears that amiable brevity, which designates a Country Churchyard Epitaph. It is evident, that the author of it was not a little proud of his family, and was determined that the passing traveller should know who he was. We can plainly perceive that he was in some measure infected with that most exuberant species of insanity, Genealogical Pride. Nor can we blame him. He tells us at once his origin :-he spares us those efforts of Patience and Labour which we so often must exert, if we take upon ourselves to peruse the inscriptions beneath which the bones of many a more illustrious Personage repose. How often do we, after having laboured to no purpose in discovering the various ancestors and various intermarriages which such an Inscription records, give up our task in disgust! But the son of John and Mary Brown obtains a patient reading from all. Despise not his example, ye Epitaph-Writers. Let us, after a few more specimens of the quaint, proceed to the other branch of our subject.
* * I must here inform such of my fair Readers who belong not to the legion of the Blues, that the Antispastus is a figure containing 61 forms—that it is eminently useful in solving all difficulties in metre, and that it enables us to scan Prose itself. I would, however, by no means recommend it in English Poetry.
“ Here lies a much-lov'd Son, for whom we cried ;
He only griev'd his parents when he died."
“ To the Memory of a faithful Wife, a friend sincere ;
Who died at Kew, and with her Child lies sleeping here."
“ My Parents dear, shed pot the tear,
Although I am dead and buried;
To happier shores I am ferried."
“ Death smote me hard ; but, though in earth I lie,
Some day he will be conquer'd, just as I.”
.“ To the Memory of Father, Mother, and I,
Who all of us died in one year;
And Mother and I lies here."
“ Her temper mild, her manners such;
Her language good, but not too much." What a variety of sentiment and expression is breathed in these lines ! Could Longinus, Scaliger, or Toup, live again, how many beauties would they not discover in them-how many dissertations would they not enter into, respecting them? Their inequaļity of measure, their freedom of system, their multitudinous combination of ideas, are equally entitled to the disquisitions and labours of the most eminent Commentators.
The more elegant Epitaphs which I have met with, and which I truly admire for their sweetness and simplicity, I will present to my readers without further observation. What comment is needed for such as the following ?
“ Just to her lips the cop, of life she prest;
Found the taste bitter, and refus’d the rest :
Death came with friendly care ;)
And bade it blossom there."
" How sweet a thing is Death, to all who know
That all on Earth is vanity and woe?.
The toilsome Journey, or the Trav’ller's Rest??"
“ A tender Plant, borde from the fost'ring gales
That breathe on Avon's margin, droop'd and died.
And flourisb in the Paradise of God!” My latest wish will be, that whenever I am no more of this world, my remains 'may be deposited in a Country Churchyard, and that my Eulogy may be entrusted to a Village Poet. I care not whether my Epitaph be short or long; whether it be elegant or quaint, so that it be divested of those pompous ornaments of Language, those gross effusions of Adulation, which too often disgrace the marble upon which they are engraved. Who can forget that our worldly Glory must end with our Life ;—that the Sculptor's art and the Panegyrist's abilities are alike unable to preserve our ashes from Annihilation, or our Fame from Oblivion ?
“ Mercy o' me, what a multitude are here!
They grow still too, from all parts they are coming,
The Sun hath shed a mellower beam,
Stay, Pegasus,—and let me ask,
To hear us row, and see us row,
Lord! what would be the Cynic's mirth,
at I'm thing Elself ;