Page images
PDF
EPUB

Still Ajax fights, still Hector's dragg'd along :
Such strange enchantment dwells in Homer's song:
Whose birth could more than one poor realm adorn,

For all the world is proud that he was born.
Duke, in lines addressed “To Mr. Dryden, on his “Troilus and
Cressida,' 1679," says:

Boast then, O Troy! and triumph in thy flames,
That make thee sung by three such mighty names.
Had Ilium stood, Homer had ne'er been reid,
Nor the sweet Mantuan swan his wings display'd,
Nor thou, the third, but equal in renown,
Thy matchless skill in this great subject shown.
Not Prium's self, nor all the Trojan state,
Was worth the saving it so dear a rate.
But they now flourish by you mighty three,
In verse more lasting than their walls could be:
Which never, never shall like them decay,
Being built by hands divine as well as they.

ON A SAILOR RIDING (Book V. 38).
Translated in the Quarterly Review,” No. 233.
The sailor curses land's uneven tides,

While he, no rider, a wild horse bestrides. Butler, in “Hudibras" (Part III. canto iii. 59), describes a sailor's manner of riding:

As seamen ride with all their force,
And tug as if they row'd the horse,
And when the hackney sails most swift,
Believe they lag or run adrift.

RAPH. MACENTINUS.
Of this author no account has been found.
ON LYCUS (" Delitiæ Delitiarum,” 101).

Translated in the Quarterly Review," No. 233.
Lycus was ask'd the reason, it is said,
His beard was so much whiter than his head.
“The reason,” he replied, “ my friend, is plain :
I work my throat much harder than my brain !"

Traces of the mediæval epigrams are sometimes found in works where they are least expected. In “The Spirit of the Public Journals " for 1806, X. 239, the following appears. It is only styled “Epigram," with no hint of being a translation, or of its origin, but undoubtedly it is a version of Macentinus' epigram :

Black locks hath Gabriel, beard that's white;

The reason, sir, is plain ;
Gabriel works hard, from morn to night,

More with his jaw than brain. An epigram, "To Marcus,” though very inferior, may be compared with the above. It is a distich by Owen (Book I. 95) translated by Hayman, with an addition of two lines by the translator (Hayman's “Quodlibets, &c." 1628):

Thy beard grows fair and large; thy head grows thin;
Thou hast a light head, and a heavy chin.
Hence 'tis those light conceits thy head doth breed,

From thy dull heavy mouth so slow proceed.
The older English epigrammatists were fond of this subject. Sir John
Harington has an epigram, “Of One that had a Black Head and a Grey
Beard.” It is too long and worthless for insertion in full (Book III. 32):

Though many search, yet few the cause can find,
Why thy beard grey, thy head continues black :
Some think thy beard more subject to the wind,
Some think that thou dost use the new-found knack,

But we think most of these have missed the mark.

For this think we, that think we think aright,
Thy beard and years are grave, thy head is light.

TAREUS HEBUS.
Of this author no account has been found.
ON THE DEATH OF CATO (“Delitiæ Delitiarum," 158).

Translated by James Wright.
Many lived proudly, Cato died : now say

Who are most foolish, Plutarch, he or they? Martial answers the question (Book I. 9, “ To Decianus.” Translated by Hay):

That you, like Thrasea, or like Cato, great,
Pursue their maxims, but decline their fate ;
Nor rashly point the dagger to your heart;
More to my wish you act a Roman's part.
I like not him, who fame by death retrieves :
Give me the man who merits praise, and lives.

MODERN EPIGRAMMATISTS.

A.D. 1480—A.D. 18

PIERRE GRINGORE. A French poet, born between 1475 and 1480; whether in Lorraine or Normandy is doubtful. He died about 1544.

THE DRESS MAKES NOT THE MAN.
Translated from the French by Cary in The Early French Poets."

The lepers by the warning clack are known,
As by his pig Saint Anthony is shown;
The inky cloak makes not the monk devout,

Nor trappings proud the soldier brave and stout.
So, Hamlet says (Act I. sc. 2):

'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc'd breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly.

BEHAVIOUR IN CHURCH.
Translated from the French by Cary in The Early French Poets."

Unwise the man who heareth Mass, I wist,
With hound in leash, or hawk upon his fist;
He comes not into church to worship there,

But to disturb his neighbours at their prayer. The custom complained of at this early period extended into mode... times. Witbin the memory of the present generation, it was very common for country farmers to take their dogs to church-an irreverent practice, which occasionally resulted in a rat-hunt in the middle of service. It is well known that old S. Paul's was a fashionable promenade, the general rendezvous of the busy and the idle of all classes, who disgraced the sacred building by jests and quarrels. The number was increased by those who, having no means of procuring a dinner, atfected to loiter there. From this the phrase, "dining with Duke Humphrey” originated; for in this “ Powles Walke” was a huge monument of Sir John Beauchamp, buried in 1358, which, by a vulgar mistake, was called the tomb of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was buried at S. Alban's. The duke had kept an open table, where any gentleman was welcome to dine ; and after his death, to dine with Duke Humphrey—i.e., to loiter about his supposed tomb in S. Paul's --meant to go dinnerless. Bishop Hall, in his satires, touches upon this use to which the cathedral was put (Book III. sat. 7):

'Tis Ruffio. Trow'st thou where he din'd to-day?
In sooth I saw him sit with Duke Humphrey.
Many good welcomes, and much gratis cheer,
Keeps he for every straygling cavalier;
An open house, haunted with great resort;

Long service mix'd with musical disport.
In a humorous poem, published in 1674, by Samuel Speed, entitled,
- The Legend of his Grace, Humphrey, Duke of S. Paul's Cathedral
Walk, &c.," is the following passage:

Some with their beads unto a pillar crowd ;
Some mutter forth, some say their graces loud;
Some on devotion came to feed their muse;

Some came to sleep, or walk, or talk of news.
Bishop Corbet, in his “ Elegy on the Death of Dr. Ravis, Bishop of
London,” gives a still worse view of the use to which the cathedral was
put:

When I past Pauls, and travellid in that walk
Where all our Brittain-sinners swear and talk;
Old Harry-ruffians, bankrupts, soothsayers,

And youth, whose cozenage is as old as theirs.
At a later period we find a complaint with regard to new S. Paul's,
which is applicable to the present as well as a past day (“ Epigrams in
Distich," 1740):

This is God's House; but 'tis to be deplor'd,
More come to see the house than serve its Lord.

SIR THOMAS WYAT, Usually styled “ the elder” to distinguish him from his son, who was executed for high treason in Mary's reign, was born in 1503.

He was a man of many accomplishments, and was a great favourite of Henry VIII., who employed him in several embassies. He is said to have combined the wit of Sir Thomas More with the wisdom of Sir Thomas Cromwell. He died in 1541.

TO HIS LOVE, WHOM HE HAD KISSED AGAINST HER

WILL,
Alas, madam, for stealing of a kiss,
Have I so much your mind therein offended ?
Or have I done so grievously amiss,
That by no means it may not be amended ?
Revenge you then : the readiest way is this;
Another kiss, my life it shall have ended,

For to my mouth the first my heart did suck,

The next shall clean out of my breast it pluck. Plato, in a Greek distich, thus freely rendered by Moore, expresses the effect produced by a kiss (Jacobs I. 102, ii.):

Whene'er thy nectar'd kiss I sip,

And drink thy breath in trance divine,
My soul then flutters to my lip,

Ready to fly and mix with thine. Robert Greene, born about 1550, has a similar passage (“Lady Fitzwater's Nightingale."--Philomela's Ode):

With arms folded, and lips meeting,
Each soul another sweetly greeting!
For by the breath the soul flecteth,

And soul with soul in kissing meeteth.
So, Massinger in “The Fatal Dowry” (Act II. sc. 2):

Breath marry breath, and kisses mingle souls,

Two hearts and bodies here incorporate! William Habington has a pretty epigram, “ Upon a Trembling Kiss at Departure,” too long for insertion, but the last few lines are worth comparing with Wyat's epigram, and close with a curious conceit:

Or else you fear, lest you, should my heart skip
Up to my mouth, t' encounter with your lip,
Might rod me of it: and be judg'd in this,
T have Judas-like betray'd me with a kiss.

« PreviousContinue »