Page images
PDF
EPUB

That her soul was on heaven so bent
No minute but it came and went;
That, rendy her last debt to pay,
She summ'd her life up every day;
Modest as morn, as mid-day bright,
Gentle as evening, cool as night;
"Tis true ; but all too weakly said ;
"Twere more significant, She's Dead.

ANONYMOUS.

The following epitaphs must be styled anonymous, though it is conjectured that they were prepared by the poets themselves for their own monuments :

EPITAPH ON NÆVIUS.

Translated by Hookham Frere.
If goddesses for mortal men might weep,

A tear on Nævius should the Muse bestow;
Since Rome no longer does her language keep,

Now he is destined to the shades below. Nævius was a native of Campania, and one of the earliest Roman poets. The epitaph is preserved by Aulus Gellius, who observes of it that it is full of Campanian arrogance; and Amos, in his “ Gems of Lutin Poetry,” justly remarks that it is “entertaining from being one of the most impudent epitaphs on record.”

EPITAPH ON PLAUTUS.

Translated by Hookham Frere.
When comic Plautus first departed,
The scene was left, the stage deserted ;
And wit and merriment, together

With mirth and humour, fled for ever. Plautus was born, it is generally supposed, at Sarsina, a town in Umbria. He was the greatest of the Roman comic dramatists, and is described as a man of such bodily deformities, that Nature would seem to have designed to make his countrymen laugh at his person :18 well as his wit." This epitaph also is preserved by Aulus Gellius, and is scarcely less impudent than that of Nævius.

ARABIAN EPIGRAMMATISTS.

A.D. 719-A.D. 988.

ARABIAN EPIGRAMS. The following translations of Arabian epigrams are taken from a Folume published in 1796, entitled, “Specimens of Arabian Poetry, from the

earliest times to the extinction of the Khaliphat, with some account of the authors, by J. D. Carlyle, B.D., F.R.S.E., Chancellor of Carlisle, and Professor of Arabic in the University of Cambridge." The sentiments of many of the epigrams and poems are exceedingly beautiful, and the English dress in which they are clothed is very graceful.

IBRAHIM BEN ADHAM. A hermit of Syria, equally celebrated for his talents and piety, born about the 97th year of the Hegira, i.e., A.D. 719.

TO THE KHALIPH HAROUN ALRASHID,
Upon his undertaking a Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Religion's gems can ne'er adorn
The flimsy robe by pleasure worn;
Its feeble texture soon would tear,
And give those jewels to the air.
Thrice happy they who seek th' abode
Of peace and pleasure, in their God !
Who spurn the world, its joys despise,

And grasp at bliss beyond the skies. The following, by an uncertain author of James I.'s reign, is taken from Ellis' “Specimens of the Early English Poets,” 1803, III. 143 :

Happy, oh happy he who, not affecting

The endless toils attending worldly cares,
With mind repos’d, all discontents rejecting,

In silent peace his way to heaven prepares !

Deeming his life a scene, the world a stage,

Whereon man acts his weary pilgrimage. The danger and short-lived happiness of mere pleasure are as expressively as elegantly portrayed in Dr. Johnson's translation of some French lines written under a print of persons skating:

O'er crackling ice, o'er gulphs profound,

With nimble glide the skaters play;
O’er treach rous Pleasure's flow'ry ground

Thus lightly skim, and haste away. This translation, which was not the first he made, was repeated by Johnson extempore, after reading one by Mr. Pepys, a friend of Mrs. Piozzi, who tells us in her“ Anecdotes," that the Doctor was exceedingly angry when he found she had asked several of her acquaintances to translate the lines, declaring “it was a piece of treachery, and done to make everyone else look little when compared to my favourite friends the Pepyses, whose translations were unquestionably the best,” as the Doctor acknowledged. The following is the one upon which he founded his extempore :

Swift o'er the level how the skaters slide,

And skim the glittring surface as they go :
Thus o'er life's specious pleasures lightly glide,

But pause not, press not on the gulph below. Though this surpassed Johnson's first translation, that it is not equal to his second all must acknowledge.

ALY BEN AHMED BEN MANSOUR.
A poet and historian, who excelled and delighted in satire. He died
at Bagdad, in the year of the Hegira 302, i.e., A.D. 924.
TO THE VIZIR CASSIM OBID ALLAH, ON THE DEATH OF

ONE OF HIS SONS.
Poor Cassim! thou art doom'd to mourn

By destiny's decree;
Whatever happen it must turn

To misery for thee.
Two sons hadst thou, the one thy pride,

The other was thy pest;
Ah, why did cruel death decide

To snatch away the best?
No wonder thou should'st droop with wo6,

Of such a child bereft;
But now thy tears must doubly flow,

For ah !--- the other's left.

THE KHALIPH RADHI BILLAH-SHEMS ALMAALI CABUS. 97

Cassim's son, Hosein, was Vizir to the Khaliph Moctader; and the other, Mohammed, to his successor, Kaher. Professor Carlyle says: " The sarcasm might apply to either without much impropriety; for Hosein was condemned to suffer punishment for his impiety, in the reign of Radhi; and Mohammed was the favourite minister of Kaher, who appears to have been the greatest monster that ever presided over the Khaliphat."

THE KHALIPH RADHI BILLAH. The twentieth Khaliph of the house of Abbas, and the last of those princes who possessed any substantial power. He died in the 329th year of the Hegira, i.e., A.D. 951.

TO A LADY UPON SEEING HER BLUSH.
Leila! whene'er I gaze on thee

My alter'd cheek turns pale,
While upon thine, sweet maid, I see

A deep'ning blush prevail.
Leila, shall I the cause impart

Why such a change takes place?
The crimson stream deserts my heart,

To mantle on thy face.

This is one of the most elegant epigrams to be found in any language, and deserves particular attention.

SHEMS ALMAALI CABUS. Ascended the throne of Georgia in the year of the Hegira 366, i.e., A.D. 988, reigned for thirty-five years, and was then deposed. He possessed almost every virtue and every accomplishment, and was as unfortunate as he was amiable.

ON THE CAPRICES OF FORTUNE.
Probably composed during the writer's exile in Khorassan.

Why should I blush that Fortune’s frown

Dooms me life's humble paths to tread ?
To live unheeded, and unknown?

To sink forgotten to the dead?

'Tis not the good, the wise, the brave,

That surest shine, or highest rise ;
The feather sports upon the wave,

The pearl in ocean's cavern lies.
Each lesser star that studs the sphere

Sparkles with undiminish'd light;
Dark and eclips'd alone appear

The lord of day, the queen of night.

In the “Festoon ” is a translation from the Greek of Solon, which well expresses the indifference of Fortune to worth:

Some wicked men are rich, some good men poor;
Yet I'd not change my virtue for their store.
Virtue's a sure possession, firm as fate,

While wealth now flies to this man, now to that. One of the best epigrams on Fortune is by Samuel Wesley, the usher of Westminster School, which he says is “From a hint in the minor poets":

No, not for those of women born,

Not so unlike the die is cast;
For, after all our vaunt and scorn,

How very small the odds at last !
Him rais'd to Fortune's utmost top

With him beneath her feet compare;
And one has nothing more to hope,

The other nothing more to fear.

UNKNOWN AUTHORS.

ON TAHER BEN HOSEIN,

Who was ambidexter, and one-eyed.
A pair of right hands and a single dim eye
Must form not a man, but a monster, they cry:
Change a hand to an eye, good Taher, if you can,

And a monster perhaps may be changed to a man. “Taher appears to have been the most celebrated general of his time, He commanded the forces of Mamun, second son to Haroun Alrashid, and it was chiefly owing to his abilities that Mamun arrived at the throne."-Carlyle.

“This epigram," says Professor Carlyle,“ reminds us of the wellknown lines upon a brother and sister, both extremely beautiful, but

« PreviousContinue »