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“ Not thus the looser Chronograms prepare,
Careless their troops, undisciplined to war;
The Chronogram seems now. to have gone entirely out of fashion,-yet the day has been when it held a highly distinguished rank among the various species of composition. We have, indeed, Addison's authority for saying, that there were formerly foreign universities, where, as you praise a man in England for being an excellent philosopher or poet, it was an ordinary character to be a great chronogrammatist : and if fame and reward were to be proportioned to toil, there would be nothing deserving of more praise, because nothing is more difficult in the construction, than this elaborate kind of wit. We hear, from the above author, that one of your laborious German beaux-esprits would turn over a whole dictionary for an ingenious device of this nature, and when one would have thought he was searching for an apt classical term, he was only looking for a word that had an L, an M, or a D, in it. But, alas ! labour is not generally considered as the test of genius, and where the only beauty consists in overcoming a difficulty, the ill-natured world is too often apt to term such studies—" stultus labor ineptiarum.” But, waiving the pretensions the chronogram has to rank and fame, let us merely lay down the rules for its construction, and give a few examples, that future candidates in this art may not be without guides to its attainment.
In Europe, the chronogram is generally used for medals, marking in the inscription the year in which they were struck; but in Asia (for there it is equally, if not more, prevalent than with us) it is chiefly applied to epitaphs, and serves to denote the year in which the persons died. Generally speaking, the Asiatic is much more ingeniously composed than the European chronogram, as our following examples will shew,—with us it is necessary that all the letters which represent the Roman numerals, being picked out of the inscription, should together form the date required, as in this one,—“ ChrIst Vs DuX ergo trIVMph Vs;” which being placed in due order, gives MDCXXVII, or 1627, the year in which this medal of Gustavus Adolphus was stamped.
was stamped. (The occasion was of course a victory-and, for this—“ Christ was our leader, therefore we triumphed”-is sufficiently appropriate.)