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Of The ELEGY to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, The PROLOGUE to Cato, and The EPILOGUE to Jane Shore.


HE ELEGY to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, which is next to be spoken of, as it came from the heart, is very tender and pathetic; more fo, I think, than any other copy of verfes of our author. We are unacquainted with her history, and with that feries of misfortunes, which feems to have drawn on the melancholy catastrophe, alluded to in the beginning of this ELEGY. She is faid to be the fame perfon, to whom the Duke of Buckingham has addressed some lines, viz. "To a Lady defigning to retire into a Monaftery." This defign is also hinted at in POPE'S Letters *, where he says in a letter addreffed, I prefume, to this very perfon, "If you are refolved, in revenge, to rob the world of so much example as you may

Vol. vii. Pag. 193. Octavo Edition.

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afford it, I believe your defign will be vain : for even, in a monaftery, your devotions cannot carry you so far towards the next world, as to make this lose fight of you: but you will be like a star, that, while it is fixed in heaven, fhines over all the earth. Wherefoever providence shall dispose of the most valuable thing I know, I fhall ever follow you with my fincerest wishes; and my best thoughts will be perpetually waiting upon you, when you never hear of me or them. Your own guardian angels cannot be more conftant, nor more filent."

THIS ELEGY opens with a striking abruptnefs, and a strong image; the poet fancies he beholds suddenly the phantom of his murdered friend;

What beck'ning ghoft along, the moonlight shade,
Invites my fteps, and points to yonder glade?
'Tis fhe!but why that bleeding bofom gor'd,
Why dimly gleams the vifionary sword?

This question alarms the reader; and puts one in mind of that lively and affecting image

in the prophecy of Ifaiah, fo vigorously conceived, that it places the object full in "Who is this that cometh

one's eyes.

"from Edom? With dyed garments from Bofra *?” Akenfide has begun one of his odes in the like manner;

Ófly! 'tis dire SUSPICION's mein;

And meditating plagues unseen,

The forc'refs hither bends!
Behold her torch in gall imbru'd;
Behold, her garments drop with blood

Of lovers and of friends!

The execrations on the cruelties of this lady's relations, which had driven her to this deplorable extremity, are very spirited and forcible; especially where the poet fays emphatically,

Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball,

Thus fhall your wives, and thus your children fall.

He defcribes afterwards the defolation of this family, by the following lively circumstance and profopopœia:

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There paffengers shall stand, and pointing say,
(While the long funerals blacken all the way)
Lo! these were they, whofe fouls the furies fteel'd,
And curft with hearts unknowing how to yield!
So perifh all, whofe breaft ne'er learn'd to glow
For others good, or melt at others woe.

The incident of her dying in a country remote from her relations and acquaintance, is touched with great tenderness, and introduced with propriety, to aggravate and heighten her lamentable fate;

No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear, *
Pleas'd thy pale ghoft, or grac'd thy mournful bier;
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd,
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd,
By strangers honour'd, and by strangers mourn'd!

The force of the repetition of the fignificant epithet foreign, need not be pointed out to any reader of fenfibility. The rite of sepulture of which he was deprived, from the

* Something like that pathetic ftroke in the Philoctetes of Sophocles, who, among other heavy circumftances of diftrefs, is faid not to have near him, any ougopov quμa. Ver. 171.-Not to be tranflated!


manner of her death, is glanced at with great delicacy; nay, and a very poetical use is

made of it.

What though no facred earth allow thee room,
Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb?
Yet fhall thy grave with rifing flowers be drest,
And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast;
There shall the morn her earliest tears beftow,
There the first rofes of the year fhall blow.

IF this ELEGY be fo excellent, it may be afcribed to this caufe; that the occafion of it was real; for it is certainly an indifputable maxim, "That nature is more powerful than fancy; that we can always feel more than we can imagine; and that the most artful fiction must give way to truth." When Polus the celebrated actor, once affected his audience with more than ordinary emotions, it was "luctû et lamentis veris," by bursting out into real cries and tears; for in perfonating Electra weeping over the supposed urn of her brother Orestes, he held in his hands the real afhes of his own fon lately dead *. Events that have actu

*Aul. Gell, Noct. Attic. Lib. 7. Cap. 5.


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