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have designed it for his honour; and I take an opportunity from it to advise others, that when they would praise they cautiously avoid every looser qualification, and fix only where there is a real foundation in merit.
ON EURIPIDES, BY ION.
Divine Euripides, this tomb, we see
“ The thought here is fine, but its fault is, that it is general, that it may belong to any great man, because it points out no particular character. It would be better if, when we light upon such a turn, we join it with something that circumscribes and bounds it to the qualities of our subject. He who gives his praise in gross, will often appear either to have been a stranger to those he writes upon, or not to have found any thing in them which is praise-worthy.
ON SOPHOCLES, BY SIMONIDES.
“ This epigram I have opened more than any of the former; the thought towards the latter end seemed closer couched, so as to require an explication. I fancied the poet aimed at the picture which is generally made of Apollo and the Muses, he sitting
his harp in the middle, and they around him. This looked beautiful to my thought ; and because the image arose before me out of the words of the original as I was reading it, I ventured to explain them so.
ON MENANDER; THE AUTHOR UNNAMED.
The very bees, O sweet Menander, hung
“ This epigram has a respect to the character of its subject ; for Menander writ remarkably with a justness and purity of language. It has also told the country he was born in, without either a set or a hidden manner, while it twists together the glory of the poet and his nation, so as to make the nation depend upon his for an increase of its own.
o I will offer no more instances at present to show that they who deserve praise have it returned them from different ages ; let these which have been laid down show men that envy will not always prevail. And to the end that writers may more successfully enliven the endeavours of one another, let them consider, in some such manner as I have attempted, what may be the justest spirit and art of praise. It is indeed
very hard to come up to it. Our praise is trifling when it depends upon fable; it is false when it depends upon wrong qualifications; it means nothing when it is general; it is extremely difficult to hit when we propose to raise characters high, while we keep to them justly. I shall end this with transcribing that excellent epitaph of Mr.Cowley, wherein, with a kind of grave and philosophic humour, he
very beautifully speaks of himself, withdrawn from the world, and dead to all the interests of it, as of a man really deceased. At the same time, it is an instruction how to leave the public with a good grace.
EPITAPHIUM VIVI AUTHORIS.
Hic, O viator, sub lare parvulo
Defunctus humani laboris
Sorte, supervacuaque vita ;
Vanoque dilectis popello
Divitüïs animosus hostis.
Exempta sit curis, viator,
Terra sit illa levis, precare.
Herbisque odoratis corona
THE LIVING AUTHOR'S EPITAPH.
From life's superfluous cares enlarged,
Whilst yet with life his ashes glow.
The publication of these criticisms having procured me the following letter from a very ingenious gentleman. I cannot forbear inserting it in the volume *, though it did not come soon enough to have a place in any of my single papers.
MR. SPECTATOR, “ Having read over in your paper, No. 551. of the epigrams made by the Grecian wits, in commendation of their celebrated poets, I could not forbear sending you another, out of the same collection; which I take to be as great a compliment to Homer
any that has yet been paid him.
Τις ποθ' ο τον Τροΐης πόλεμον, &c.
Who first transcribed the famous Trojan war,
And wise Ulysses' acts, 0 Jove, make known;
No more let Homer boast they are his own.
think it worthy of a place in your speculations, for aught I know, by that means, it may
in time be printed as often in English as it has already been in Greek. I am, like the rest of the world,
6. Your great admirer, 4th Dec.
“ G. R."
The reader may observe that the beauty of this epigram is different from that of
in the foregoing An irony is looked upon as the finest palliative of praise : and very often conveys the noblest panegyric under the appearance of satire. Homer is here seem
* The translation of Cowley's epitaph, and all that follows, except the concluding letter signed Philonicus, was not printed in the Spectator in folio, but added in the 8vo. edition of 1712.
ingly accused and treated as a plagiary; but what is drawn up in the form of an accusation is certainly, as my correspondent observes, the greatest compliment that could have been paid to that divine poet.
“ DEAR MR. SPECTATOR, “I am a gentleman of a pretty good fortune, and of a temper impatient of any thing which I think an injury. However, I always quarrelled according to law, and instead of attacking my adversary by the dangerous method of sword and pistol, I made my assaults by that more secure one of writ or warrant. I cannot help telling you, that either by the justice of my causes or the superiority of my counsel, I have been generally successful: and to my great satisfaction I can say it, that by three actions of slander, and half a dozen trespasses, I have for several years enjoyed a perfect tranquillity in my reputation and estate: by these means also I have been made known to the judges; the sergeants of our circuit are my intimate friends; and the ornamental counsel pay a very profound respect to one who has made so great a figure in the law. Affairs of consequence having brought me to town, I had the curiosity the other day to visit Westminster-hall; and, having placed myself in one of the courts, expected to be most agreeably entertained. After the court and counsel were with due ceremony seated, up stands a learned gentleman, and began, When this matter was last stirred before your lordship; the next humbly moved to 'quash' an indictment; another complained that his adversary had snapped' a judgement; the next informed the court that his client was 'stripped of his possession; another begged leave to acquaint his lordship that they had been saddled with costs. At last up got a grave sergeant