On Edmund Duke Of Buckingham, who died in the 19th Year of his Age, 1735.
If modest youth, with cool reflection crowned,
And every opening virtue blooming round,
Could save a parent's justest pride from fate,
Or add one patriot to a sinking state;
This weeping marble had not asked thy tear,
Or sadly told how many hopes lie here!
The living virtue now had shone approved,
The senate heard him, and his country loved.
Yet softer honours, and less noisy fame,
Attend the shade of gentle Buckingham:
In whom a race, for courage famed and art,
Ends in the milder merit of the heart;
And, chiefs or sages long to Britain given,
Pays the last tribute of a saint to heaven.
This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the rest, but I know not for what reason. To crown with reflection is surely a mode of speech approaching to nonsense. Opening virtues blooming round is something like tautology; the six following lines are poor and prosaic. Art is in another couplet used for arts, that a rhyme may be had to heart. The six last lines are the best, but not excellent.
The rest of his sepulchral performances hardly deserve the notice of criticism. The contemptible dialogue between He and She should have been suppressed for the author's sake.
In his last epitaph on himself, in which he attempts to be jocular upon one of the few things that make wise men serious, he confounds the living man with the dead: —
"Under this stone, or under this sill,
Or under this turf," etc.
When a man is once buried, the question, under what he is buried, is easily decided. He forgot that though he wrote the epitaph in a state of uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over him till his grave was made. Such is the folly of wit when it is ill employed.
The world has but little new, even this wretchedness seems to have been borrowed from the following tuneless lines: —
"Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa
Sub hoc marmore, vel sub hac humo, seu
Sub quicquid voluit benignus haeres
Siv haerede benignior comes, seu
Opportunius incidens Viator:
Nam scire haud potuit futura, sed nec
Tanti erat vacuum sibi cadaver
Ut utnam cuperet parere vivens,
Vivens ista tamen sibi paravit.
Quae inscribi voluit suo sepulchro
Olim siquod haberetis sepulchrum."
Surely Ariosto did not venture to expect that his trifle would have ever had such an illustrious imitator.