Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Tho' the best Epigrams are faid to be such as are comprized in two or four verses, we are not to understand it as if none can be persect which exceed those limits. Neither the antients nor moderns have been so scrupulous with respect to the length of their Epigrams; but however, Brevity in general is always to be studied in these compositions.

For examples of good Epigrams in the Englijh language, we shall make choice of several in the difterent tastes we have mention'd; some remarkable for their delicate turn and simplicity of expression, and others for their falt and sharpness, their equivocating pun, or pleafant allusion. In the sirst place, take that of Mr. Pope, faid to be written on a glass with the earl of Chesterfield's diamond pencil:

Accept a miracle, instead of wit;

See two dull lines by Stanhope's pencil writ.

The Beauty of this Epigram is more easily seen than described. For my part I am at a loss to determine whether it does more honour to the poet who wrote it, or to the nobleman for whom the compliment is designed.—The following Epigram of Mr. Prior is written in the fame taste, being a sine encomium on the performance of an excellent painter.

On a Floiver, painted by Varelst.
When fam'd Varelst this little wonder drew,
Flora vouchsaf'd the growing work to view:
Finding the painter's science at a stand,
The Goddess fnatch'd the pencil from his hand,
And, sinishing the piece, she smiling faid,
Behold one work of mine which ne'er Jhall fade.

Another compliment of this delicate kind he has made Mr. Howard in the following Epigram.

Venus mistaken.

When Chloe's picture was to Venus shown;
Surpriz'd, the Goddess took it for her own.
And what, faid -she, does this bold painter mean?
When was I bathing thus, and naked seen?
I'leas'd Cupid heard, and check'd his mother's pride:
And who's blind now, mamma? the urchin cry'd.
D S

'Tis Chloe's eye, and cheek, and lip, and breast:
Friend Howard's genius fancy'd all the rest.

Most of Mr. Prior's Epigrams are of this delicate cast, and have the thought, like those of Catullus, diffused thro" the whole. Of this kind is his address

To CBlOI weeping.

See, whilst thou weep'st, fair Cbloe, see
The world in sympathy with thee.
The chearsul birds no longer sing,
Each drops his head, and hangs his wing..
The clouds have bent their bosom lower,
And died their sorrow in a show'r.
The brooks beyond their limit flow,
And louder murmurs speak their woe:
The nymphs and swains adopt thy cares:
They heave thy sighs, and weep thy tears.
Fantastick nymph! that grief should move
Thy heart obdurate against love.
Strange tears! whose pow'r can soften all,
But that dear breast on which they fall.

The Epigram written on the leaves of a Fan by Dr: Atttrhury, late bishop of Rochester, contains a pretty thought, expressed with ease and conciseness, and closed in a beautiful manner.

On a F A N.

Flawa the least and slightest toy
Can with resistless art employ.
This fan in meaner hands would prove
An engine of small force in love:
Yet she, with gracesul air and mien,
Not to be told or fasely seen,
Directs its wanton motion so,
That it wounds more than Cupid's bow,
Gives coolness to the matchless dame,
To ev'ry other breast a flame.

We shall now select some Epigrams of the biting and satirical kind, and such as turn upon the Pun or Equivoque, as the French call it: in which fort the Point is more conspicuous than in those of the former character,

The following distich, in my opinion, is an admirable Epigram, having all the necessary qualities of one, especially Point and Brevity.

On a company of bad Dancers to good Mufick.

How ill the motion with the music suits!

So Orpheus siddled, and so dane'd the brutes.

This puts me in mind of another Epigram upon a bad siddler, which I shall venture to insert merely for the humour of it, and not for any real excellence it contains.

To a bad Fiddler.

Old Orpheus play'd so well, he mov'd Old Nick;
But thou mov'st nothing but thy siddle-stick.

One of Martial's Epigrams, wherein he agreeably rallies the foolish vanity of a man who hired people to make verses for him, and published them as his own, has been thus translated into Englijb.

Paul so fond of the name of a poet is grown,
With gold he buys verses and calls them his own.
Go on, master Paul, nor mind what the world fays,
They are surely his own for which a man pays.

Another Epigram of the fame Latin poet is very prettily imitated in the following Tetrastic.

On an ugly Woman.

Whilst in the dark on thy soft hand I hung,
And heard the tempting Syren in thy tongue;
What flames, whas darts, what angui fe I enduedF
But when the candle enter'd I was cur'd.

We have a good Epigram by Mr. Coiuley, on Prometheus ifl painted; to understand which, we must remember his story. Prometheus is seign'd by the ancient poets to have formed men of clay, and to have put lise into them by sire stolen from heaven, for which crime- Jupiter caus'd him to be chain'd to a rock, where a vulture was set to gnaw his liver, which grew again as fast as it was devoured. On this siction the Epigram is sounded.

Prometheus drawn by a bad Painter.

How wretched does Prometheus' state appear,

Whilst he his second mis'ry suffers here!

Draw him no more, lest, as he tortur'd stands,

He blame great Jove's less than the painter's hands.

It would the Vulture's cruelty out go,

If once again his liver thus mould grow.

Pity him, Jove, and his bold theft allow;

The flames he once stole from thee grant him now.

Some bad writer having taken the liberty to censure Mr. Prior, the poet very wittily lash'd his impertinence in this Epigram.

While faster than his costive brain indites,
Pkilo's quick hand in flowing letters writes,
His case appears to me like honest Teagufs,
When he was run away with by his legs.
Phœbus, give Philo o'er himself command;
Quicken his senses, or restrain his hand:
Let him be kept from paper, pen, and ink;
So he may cease to write, and learn to think.

But perhaps there are none of Mr. Prior's little pieces that have more humour and pleafantry than the following.

A reasonable Affliction.
Helen was just slipt into bed:

Her eye-brows on the toilet lay:
Away the kitten with them fled,

As sees belonging to her prey.
For this misfortune careless Jane,

Assure yourself, was loudly rated;
And madam getting up again,

With her own hand the mouse-trap baited.
On little things, as Sages write,

Depends our human joy, or sorrow:
If we don't catch a mouse to-night,

Alas! no eye- brows for to-mOrrow.

Mr. Westley has given us a pretty Epigram alluding to a well-known text of scripture, on the setting up a monument in Westminster Abbey, to the memory of the ingenious Mr. Butler, author os Hudibrett,

While Butler, needy wretch, was yet alive, No generous patron would a dinner give. See him when (tarv'd to death, and turn'd to dust, Presented with a monumental bust! The poet's fate is here in emblem shown; He ask'd for Bread, and he receiv'd a Stone. As these Compositions are short, many of them have the reputation of being written extempore, though they are the effect of consideration and study; the following Epigram, however, has that additional merit; for which reason, and for it's uncommon Thought, we shall present it to the Reader.

An E p i c R A M Is Epigram,
One day in Chelsea gardens walking,
Of poetry and such things talking,

Says Ralph, a merry wag,
An Epigram, if smart and good,
In all its circumstances should

Be like a Jelly-Bag.
The simile, i'faith, is new;
But how can'st make it out? fays Hugh.

Quoth Ralph, I tell thee, friend;
Make it at top both wide and sit
To hold a budget sull of wit,
And point it at the End.
We shall, close this chapter with an Epigram written on
the well-known story of Apollo and Daphne, by Mr. Smart;
When Phœbus was am'rous and long'd to be rude,
Miss Daphne cry'd Pish! and ran swift to the wood;
And rather than do such a naughty affair,
She became a sine laurel to deck the God's hair.
The nymph was, no doubt, of a cold constitution;
For sure to turn tree was an odd resolution!
Yet in this she behav'd like a true modern spouse,
For me fled from his arms to distinguish his brows.

CHAP. IX.
Of the Epitaph.

THESE Compositions generally contain some Elogium of the virtues and good qualities of the deceased, and have a turn of seriousness and gravity adapted

« AnteriorContinuar »