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ON MR. GAY.
IN WESTMINSTER-ABBEY, 1732.
Of Manners gentle, of Affections mild;
Ver. 1. Of Munners gentle,] "The eight first lines," says Johnson, "have no grammar; the adjectives are without any substantives, and the epithets without a subject."
It is somewhat singular that there should be an improper expression in Bishop Warburton's own epitaph. His genius and learning are called two talents, but learning is an acquirement.
Ver. 12. Here lies Gay.] i. e. in the hearts of the good and worthy. Mr. Pope told me his conceit in this line was not generally understood. For, by peculiar ill-luck, the formulary expression which makes the beauty, misleads the reader into a sense which takes it quite away.
The conceit in the last line is certainly very puerile, and a false thought borrowed from Crashaw :
INTENDED FOR SIR ISAAC NEWTON,
Testantur Tempus, Natura, Cœlum :
Hoc marmor fatetur.
Nature and Nature's Laws lay hid in Night:
Ver. 1. Nature] The antithesis betwixt Mortalem and Immortalem is much unsuited to the subject; and the second English line, "God said," &c. borders a little on the profane. The magnificent Fiat of Moses will be always striking and admired, notwithstanding the cold objections of Le Clerc and Huet.
Ver. 2. Let Newton be!] He was born on the very day on which Galileo died. When Ramsay was one day complimenting him on his discoveries in philosophy, he answered, as I read it in Spence's Anecdotes," Alas! I am only like a child picking up pebbles on the shore of the great ocean of truth."
and all was Light.] It had been better-and there was Light, -as more conformable to the reality of the fact, and to the allusion whereby it is celebrated. W.
ON DR. FRANCIS ATTERBURY,
BISHOP OF ROCHESTER,
Who died in Exile at Paris, 1732, (his only Daughter having expired in his Arms, immediately after she arrived in France to see him.)
YES, we have liv'd-one pang, and then we part! May Heav'n, dear Father! now have all thy Heart. Yet ah! how once we lov'd, remember still, Till you are dust like me.
Dear Shade! I will:
Then mix this dust with thine-O spotless Ghost!
-He said, and died.
Ver. 1. Yes, we have liv'd-] I know not why this Dialogue should be called an Epitaph. Dr. Johnson says, "it is contemptible, and should have been suppressed for the author's sake." I see no reason for this harsh sentence passed upon it.
Ver. 9. Save my Country, Heav'n,] Alluding to the Bishop's frequent use and application of the expiring words of the famous
Father Paul, in his prayer for the state, "Esto perpetua." With what propriety the Bishop applied it at his trial, and is here made to refer to it in his last moments, they will understand who know what conformity there was in the lives of the Prelate and the Monk. The character of our countryman is well known. And that of the Father may be told in very few words. He was profoundly skilled in all divine and human learning. He employed his whole life in the service of the State, against the unjust encroachments of the Church. He was modest, humble, and forgiving, candid, patient, and just; free from all prejudices of party, and all the projects of ambition: in a word, the happiest compound of science, wisdom, and virtue. W.
This severe sarcasm would certainly, if he had seen it, been highly displeasing to Pope, who retained for Atterbury the warmest affection and respect. But from the Letters of Atterbury, printed in three volumes, by Mr. Nicholls, and particularly from those in p. 148 to p. 168, it almost indisputably appears that the Bishop was engaged in a treasonable correspondence, and in the intrigues of the Pretender.
ON EDMUND DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM,
WHO DIED IN THE NINETEENTH
YEAR OF HIS AGE, 1735.
Ir modest Youth, with cool Reflection crown'd, And ev'ry op'ning Virtue blooming round, Could save a Parent's justest Pride from fate, Or add one Patriot to a sinking state; This weeping marble had not ask'd thy Tear, Or sadly told, how many Hopes lie here! The living Virtue now had shone approv'd, The Senate heard him, and his Country lov'd. Yet softer Honours, and less noisy Fame Attend the shade of gentle BUCKINGHAM: In whom a Race, for Courage fam'd and Art, Ends in the milder Merit of the Heart: And Chiefs or Sages long to Britain giv'n, Pays the last Tribute of a Saint to Heav'n.
"THIS epitaph," says Johnson, " is preferred by Dr. Warburton 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."