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ELE GY

TO THE MEMORY OF AN

UNFORTUNATE LADY *.

W

HAT beck'ning ghost, along the moon-light fhade Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade? 'Tis fhe;-but why that bleeding bofom gor'd, Why dimly gleams the vifionary fword! Oh ever beauteous, ever friendly! tell, Is it, in heav'n, a crime to love too well? To bear too tender, or too firm a heart, To act a Lover's or a Roman's part? Is there no bright reversion in the sky, For those who greatly think, or bravely die?

5

IO

Why

NOTES.

* See the Duke of Buckingham's verfes to a Lady defigning to retire into a monaftery, compared with Mr. Pope's Letters to feveral Ladies, p. 206. quarto Edition. She feems to be the fame person whofe unfortunate death is the subject of this

P.

poem.

"What gentle ghoft befprent with April dew,
Hails me fo folemnly to yonder yew?
And beck'ning wooes me?”.

VER. 1. What beck'ning ghoft,] Who does not, by this striking abruptnefs, imagine, with the poet, that he fuddenly beholds the phantom of his murdered friend? He might, perhaps, have a paffage of Ben Jonfon in his head, in an elegy on the Marchionefs of Winchester, which opens thus ;

The

Why bade ye elfe, ye Pow'rs! her foul afpire
Above the vulgar flight of low defire?
Ambition first sprung from your blest abodes;
The glorious fault of Angels and of Gods:
Thence to their images on earth it flows,
And in the breafts of Kings and Heroes glows.
Moft fouls, 'tis true, but peep out once an age,
Dull fullen pris'ners in the body's cage:
Dim lights of life, that burn a length of
Ufelefs, unfeen, as lamps in fepulchres;

years

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20 Like

NOTES.

The cruelties of her relations, the defolation of the family, the being deprived of the rights of fepulture, the circumftance of dying in a country remote from her relations, are all touched with great tendernefs and pathos, particularly the four lines from the 51ft.

By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd;

Which lines may remind one of that exquifite stroke in the Philoctetes of Sophocles, who, among other afflicting circumftances, had not near him any cúngr upa. ver. 171. The true caufe of the excellence of this elegy is, that the occafion of it was real; fo true is the maxim, that nature is more powerful than fancy; and that we can always feel more than we can imagine; and that the most artful fiction must give way to truth, for this Lady was beloved by Pope. After many and wide enquiries, I have been informed that her name was Wainsbury; and that (which is a fingular circumstance) fhe was as ill-shaped and deformed as our author. Her death was not by a sword, but, what would lefs bear to be told poetically, fhe hanged herself. Johnson has too feverely cenfured this elegy, when he fays, "that it has drawn much attention by the illaudable fingularity, of treating fuicide with respect;" and, "that poetry has not often been worfe employed, than in dignifying the amorous fury of a raving girl." She feems to have been driven to this defperate act by the violence and cruelty of her uncle and guardian, who forced her to a convent abroad; and to which circumstance Pope alludes in one of his letters.

Like Eaftern Kings a lazy ftate they keep,
And, clofe confin'd to their own palace, fleep.

From these perhaps (ere nature bade her die)
Fate fnatch'd her early to the pitying sky.
As into air the purer fpirits flow,

And sep❜rate from their kindred dregs below;
So flew the foul to its congenial place,

Nor left one virtue to redeem her Race.

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But thou, faife guardian of a charge too good, Thou, mean deferter of thy brother's blood! See on these ruby lips the trembling breath, These cheeks now fading at the blast of death; Cold is that breast which warm'd the world before, And thofe love-darting eyes must roll no more. Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball, 35 Thus fhall your wives, and thus your children fall: On all the line a fudden vengeance waits,

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And frequent herfes fhall befiege your gates;
There passengers shall stand, and pointing say,
(While the long fun'rals blacken all the way)
Lo! these were they, whose souls the Furies steel'd,
And curs'd with hearts unknowing how to yield.
Thus unlamented pafs the proud away,

The

What can atone (oh ever-injur'd fhade!) Thy fate unpity'd, and thy rites unpaid?

VOL. I.

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gaze of fools, and pageant of a day!

So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow 45 For others good, or melt at others woe.

No

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No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear
Pleas'd thy pale ghoft, or grac'd thy mournful bier.
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd,
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd,
By ftrangers honour'd, and by ftrangers mourn'd!
What tho' no friends in fable weeds appear,
Grieve for an hour, perhaps, then mourn a year,
And bear about the mockery of woe

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To midnight dances, and the public fhow?
What tho' no weeping Loves thy afhes grace,
Nor polish'd marble emulate thy face?
What tho' no facred earth allow thee room,
Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb?

бо

Yet

NOTES.

VER. 59. What tho' no weeping Loves, &c.] "This beautiful little Elegy had gained the unanimous admiration of all men of tafte. When a critic comes-But hold; to give his obfervation fair play, let us first analize the Poem. The Ghost of the injured person appears to excite the Poet to revenge her wrongs. He deferibes her Character-execrates the author of her misfortunesexpatiates on the feverity of her fate-the rites of fepulture denied her in a foreign land: Then follows,

"What tho' no weeping Loves thy afhes grace," &c. "Yet fhall thy grave with rifing flowers be dreft," &c. Can any thing be more naturally pathetic? Yet the Critic tells us, he can give no quarter to this part of the poem, which is eminently, he fays, difcordant with the fubject, and not the language of the heart. But when he tells us, that it is to be afcribed to imitation, copying indifcreetly what has been faid by others, [Elements of Crit. vol. ii. p. 182.] his criticism begins to fmell furiously of old John Dennis. Well might our Poet's last wish be to commit his writings to the candour of a fenfible and reflecting judge, rather than to the malice of every fhort-fighted and malevolent critic."

W.

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