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instances of Chiabrera's Epitaphs, but I must content myself with saying that if he had abstained from the introduction of heathen mythology, of which he is lavish-an inexcusable fault for an inhabitant of a Christian country, yet admitting of some palliation in an Italian who treads classic soil and has before his eyes the ruins of the temples which were dedicated to those fictitious. beings of objects of worship by the majestic people his ancestors—had omitted also some uncharacteristic particulars, and had not on some occasions forgotten that truth is the soul of passion, he would have left his Readers little to regret. I do not mean to say that higher and nobler thoughts may not be found in sepulchral inscriptions than his contain; but he under
. stood his work, the principles upon which he composed are just. The Reader of the Friend has had proofs of this : one shall be given of his mixed manner, exemplifying some of the points in which he has erred.
O Lelius beauteous flower of gentleness,
To read the record with as copious tears. This epitaph is not without some tender thoughts, but a comparison of it with the one upon the youthful Pozzobonelli (see Friend, No. ...) will more clearly shew that Chiabrera has here neglected to ascertain whether the passions expressed were in kind and degree a dispensation of reason, or at least commodities issued under her licence and authority.
The epitaphs of Chiabrera are twenty-nine in number, all of them save two probably little known at this day in their own country and scarcely at all beyond the limits of it; and the
Reader is generally made acquainted with the moral and intellectual excellence which distinguished them by a brief history of the course of their lives or a selection of events and circumstances, and thus they are individualized; but in the two other instances, namely those of Tasso and Raphael, he enters into no particulars, but contents himself with four lines expressing one sentiment upon the principle laid down in the former part of this discourse, where the subject of an epitaph is a man of prime note.
Torquato Tasso rests within this tomb:
Let every one conclude what this man was. The epitaph which Chiabrera composed for himself has also an appropriate brevity and is distinguished for its grandeur, the sentiment being the same as that which the Reader has before seen so happily enlarged upon.
As I am brought back to men of first rate distinction and public benefactors, I cannot resist the pleasure of transcribing the metrical part of an epitaph which formerly was inscribed in the church of St. Paul's to that Bishop of London who prevailed with William the Conqueror to secure to the inhabitants of the city all the liberties and privileges which they had enjoyed in the time of Edward the Confessor.
These marble monuments to thee thy citizens assigne,
Thus have I attempted to determine what a sepulchral inscription ought to be, and taken at the same time a survey of what epitaphs are good and bad, and have shewn to what deficiencies in sensibility and to what errors in taste and judgement most commonly are to be ascribed. It was my intention to have given a few specimens from those of the ancients; but I have already I fear taken up too much of the Reader's time. I have not animadverted upon such, alas ! far too numerous, as are reprehensible from the want of moral rectitude in those who have composed them or given it to be understood that they should be so composed ; boastful and haughty panegyrics ludicrously contradicting the solid remembrance of those who knew the deceased; shocking the common sense of mankind by their extravagance, and affronting the very altar with their impious falshood. Those I leave to general scorn, not however without a general recommendation that they who have offended or may be disposed to offend in this manner, would take into serious thought the heinousness of their transgression.
Upon reviewing what has been written I think it better here to add a few favourable specimens such as are ordinarily found in our country church-yards at this day. If those primary sensations upon which I have dwelt so much be not stifled in the heart of the Reader, they will be read with pleasure, otherwise neither these nor more exalted strains can by him be truly interpreted.
Aged 87 and 83.
At the Last Day I'm sure I shall appear,
Aged 3 Months.
Aged 10 Weeks.
When God did call him to his rest. In an obscure corner of a country church-yard I once espied, half overgrown with hemlock and nettles, a very small stone laid upon the ground, bearing nothing more than the name of the deceased with the date of birth and death, importing that it was an infant which had been born one day and died the following. I know not how far the Reader may be in sympathy with me; but more awful thoughts of rights conferred, of hopes awakened, of remembrances stealing away or vanishing, were imparted to my mind by that inscription there before my eyes than by any other that it has ever been my lot to meet with upon a tomb-stone.
The most numerous class of sepulchral inscriptions do indeed record nothing else but the name of the buried person ; but that he was born upon one day and died upon another. Addison in the Spectator making this observation says, 'that he cannot look upon those registers of existence, whether of brass or marble, but as a kind of satire upon the departed persons who had left no other memorial of them than that they were born and that they died.' In certain moods of mind this is a natural reflection ; yet not perhaps the most salutary which the appearance might give birth to. As in these registers the name is mostly associated with others of the same family, this is a prolonged companionship, however shadowy: even a tomb like this is a shrine to which the fancies of a scattered family may return in pilgrimage; the thoughts of the individuals without any communication with each other must oftentimes meet here. Such a frail memorial then is not without its tendency to keep families together. It feeds also local attachment, which is the tap-root of the tree of Patriotism.
I know not how I can withdraw more satisfactorily from this long disquisition than by offering to the Reader as a farewell memorial the following Verses, suggested to me by a concise epitaph which I met with some time ago in one of the most retired vales among the mountains of Westmoreland. There is nothing in the detail of the poem which is not either founded upon the epitaph or gathered from enquiries concerning the deceased, made in the neighbourhood.
Beneath that pine which rears its dusky head
The vernal cuckoo shouted, not for him