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beautiful. It is true that they do not agree in all points with the well-known definition,

An epigram should be, if right,

Short, simple, pointed, keen, and bright,—
A lively little thing!

Like wasp with taper body, bound

By lines-not many-neat and round;

All ending in a sting.

But this is a modern definition, according to which an epigram must be a little poem whose hum, charming as it does the ear, must, like

The bees of Trebizond,

That from the sunniest flowers which glad
With their pure smile the garden round,
Draw venom forth that drives men mad,

end with that peculiar sting which is now looked for in a French or English
epigram; the want of this in the old Greek compositions doubtless has caused
them to be looked upon as tame or tasteless. The true or the best form of
the early Greek epigram does not aim at wit or seek to produce surprise, and
although this element is present in some, it was not, as now, deemed an essen-
tial. Their simplicity is perhaps their most striking feature.

In Roman hands the epigram excelled in pungency; it is the Roman satirists
to whom we are indebted for the idea that it should have a spice of malice.
Omne epigramma sit instar apis sit aculeius illi,
Sint sua mella, sit et corporis exigui,-

chants the Latin poet, or, as he has been felicitously rendered into English,-
Three things must epigrams, like bees, have all,—
A sting, and honey, and a body small.

But, though men of high literary genius, the great Latin epigrammatists Catullus and Martial could not easily divest themselves, in this kind of verse, of the old Roman sylvestris animus, and forget the freedom of the early Fescennine license, and hence too much of what they have left behind is vitiated by brutality and obscenity. On the subsequent history of the epigram, indeed, Martial has exercised an influence as baneful as it is extensive, and he may be counted as the far-off progenitor of a host of verses the scurrility of which would put himself to blush. Nevertheless, among much that is simply coarse and brutal, there may be found in Martial many epigrams which for polish and rapier-pointed, if malicious, pungency are unsurpassed:

Petit Gemellus nuptias Maronillæ,

Et cupit, et instat, et precatur, et donat.
Adeone pulchra est? Imo fœdius nil est.
Quid ergo in illa petitur et placet? Tussit.

The effect of this epigram lies in the sudden tussit ("she coughs"), which stops the hurried questions, bringing them down as with a pistol-shot. The rendering of the same by G. H. Lewes happily preserves the effect:

Gemellus wants to marry Maronilla,

Sighs, ogles, prays, and will not be put off.

Is she so lovely? Hideous as Scylla!

What makes him ogle, sigh, and pray? Her cough!

And here is another, with the genuine waspish characteristic of the stinging tail:

While in the dark on thy soft hand I hung,

And heard the tempting siren in thy tongue,

What flames, what darts, what anguish I endured!

But when the candles entered, I was cured!

Equally pointed, if less delicate, is the sarcasm directed against the doctor turned undertaker,

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Nuper erat medicus, nunc est vespillo Diabus;
Quod vespillo facit, fecerat et medicus,-

which probably inspired Boileau to write the delicious couplet,—
Il vivait jadis à Florence un médecin,

Savant hableur, dit-on, et célèbre assassin.

More in the gnomic vein are his lines reproving suicide :
When all the blandishments of life are gone,

The coward creeps to death-the brave lives on.

If brevity is the soul of wit, the following monostich must be deemed perfect : Pauper videri vult Cinna-et est pauper.

("Cinna pretends to be poor-and is what he pretends.")

But the happiest conceit of Martial is that contained in the following. Pætus, condemned to die and ordered by the emperor to slay himself, the heroic wife, Arria, having seized the knife and stabbed herself, even in death feels no other pain than that which Pætus is now about to inflict upon himself:

When Arria from her wounded side

To Pætus gave the reeking steel,
"I feel not what I've done," she cried;
"What Pætus is to do-7 feel!"'—

which Gray probably had in mind when he composed the “Epitaph on Mrs. Clark :" In agony to death resigned,

She felt the wound she left behind.

Scaliger, in the third book of his "Poetics," divides epigrams into five classes: the first takes its name from mel, or honey, and consists of adulatory specimens; the second from fel, or gall; the third from acetum, or vinegar; and the fourth from sal, or salt; while the fifth is styled the condensed, or multiplex. The classification is fanciful and of no practical value. Of the exceedingly numerous specimens of this style of composition, the most numerous are the variety which might be arranged under the rubric salt, with more or less admixture of gall and vinegar. Such, for instance, would be Scaliger's own

The sot Loserus is drunk twice a day,
Bibinus only once; now of these say,

Which may

man the greatest drunkard call? Bibinus still, for he's drunk once for all;

or this, on Pope Paul II., by Jean de Cisinge (better known as Janus Pannonius, who was a great favorite with the pope, and was made a bishop at twenty-six):

which play upon

"Holy" I may not," Father" I may call

Thee, since I see thy daughter, Second Paul;

"Father" calls to mind that delightful little bit on "Pius

Eneas" by Mr. James Smith:

Virgil, whose magic verse enthralls,

(And who in verse is greater?)

By turns his wand'ring hero calls

Now pius and now pater.

But when, prepared the worst to brave

(An action that must pain us),

Queen Dido meets him in the cave,

He dubs him dux Trojanus.

And well he changes thus the word
On that occasion, sure:

Pius Eneas were absurd,

And pater premature.

Of the "salt" and "vinegar" epigram the French are doubtless the best cultivators, and many of their best authors have earned no small celebrity in this department. The French language lends itself more readily than any other to the neat and sparkling expression of thought for instance,

Eglé, belle et poëte, a deux petits travers:
Elle fait son visage, et ne fait pas ses vers.

Faire le visage is to paint; hence the point of Lebrun's couplet does not come out distinctly in the translation:

For but two faults our fair poet Eglé the worse is:

She makes her own face, though she don't make her verses!

Lebrun alone, notwithstanding Rapin's dictum, that a man ought to be content if he succeeded in writing one really good epigram, is the author of upwards of six hundred, and a very fair proportion of them would pass muster with Rapin himself.

Piron, who said of himself, in the mock-epitaph composed when he failed of admission to the "Académie," that he was nothing,-not even an "Acade. mician,"

Ci-git Piron, que ne fut rien:

Pas même Académicien,

("Here lies Piron, a man of no position,

Who was not even-an Academician"),

was, according to Grimm, "une machine à saillies, à épigrammes et bonmots." He had been the life-long satirist of the French Academy. He had called them "the invalids of wit," had described them as "forty with the wit of four." Yet in 1750 he sought to be elected to a vacancy. When asked what he would say if successful, he replied, "Only three words, 'Thank you, gentlemen,' and they will answer, It is not worth mentioning'" ("Il n'y a pas de quoi"). He failed, and consoled himself with the thought, "I could not make thirty-nine think as I do, still less could I think as thirty-nine do." Three years later he was elected, but Louis XV., through the influence of Madame de Pompadour, annulled the election, and substituted a pension of one thousand louis. Thereupon Piron sent his will to the Academy, with the well-known epitaph inscribed upon it.

Voltaire, among his myriad many-pointed things, wrote nothing happier than this little verse on "Killing Time," where "Time" is supposed to speak: There's scarce a point whereon mankind agree

So well as in their boast of killing me;

I boast of nothing, but when I've a mind

I think I can be even with mankind.

The following, also, is a rendering of a French original :

On death, though wit is oft displayed,
No epigram could e'er be made.
Poets stop short, and lose their breath,
When coming to the point of death.

Which not only has a point, but plays upon it.


Perhaps more than elsewhere has the epigram been recognized in France as the weapon of political and literary warfare. Victor Hugo's first thought, when in exile, was to score his betrayer in verse; and from the publication of his terrible "Châtiments," the empire of the perjured saviour of society, of the Dutch champion of the Latin race, was, to the literary men whom Hugo left behind, a despotism tempered by epigrams.

There is less salt than vinegar in the epigram on Charles II.,

Here lies our sovereign lord the king,

Whose word no man relies on;

Who never said a foolish thing,

And never did a wise one,

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and he betrayed a good deal of equanimity and good sense when he very wittily turned it by saying, "That is very true, for my words are my own, my actions are my ministry's." Neither is there much Attic flavor in the "deadly thrust" of Young at Voltaire, when, the latter having in Young's presence decried Milton's genius, and ridiculed particularly the personification in “Paradise Lost" of Death, Sin, and Satan, the Englishman retorted,—

Thou art so witty, wicked, and so thin,

Thou art at once the Devil, Death, and Sin.

In Germany the epigram was cultivated with a penchant to moral reflections by Logau, under the name of "Sinngedichte," but particularly and with success by the bright keen intellect of Lessing. According to Lessing, it is not enough that a poem be terse, short, illuminating in a flash a single point or thought; it must be characterized by the epigraphic form: "A true epigram should consist of two parts: first, that which raises our expectation, and secondly, the satisfying fulfilment. For example, in the distich of Piron above quoted, the first line raises our expectation. Why should Piron tell us that he is nobody? And if he is nobody, what then? But the second line makes the witty writer's meaning clear, and we are pleased and satisfied as by an inscription."

Ci-gît ma femme: ah, qu'elle est bien
Pour son repos,-et pour le mien !
("Beneath this stone my wife doth lie:
Now she's at rest, and so am I !")

Of course it is re

Here, too, the curiosity is excited in the same manner. poseful for the good woman to lie there; why should he be at the pains of telling us that? but the words "et pour le mien" give an unexpected and happy turn to the matter; they come with the effect of the unexpected, and answer our curiosity, raised by the telling us such an evident thing. And good for his own repose, too! We laugh and are satisfied. The epigram need not be in the nature of an epitaph; any other matter will do, so it has the requisite formal elements,-the expectation raised and satisfied by a striking or pleasing answer. We quote one of Lessing's "Sinngedichte," on the shoemaker who forsook the last and turned to making poems:

Es hat der Schuster Franz zum Dichter sich entzückt,
Und was er früher that, das thut er noch-er flickt!

which may be roughly rendered,—

Old cobbler Wax, the poets he would match;

He changed his trade, and yet kept on-to patch.

The flower of the epigram came late into the garden of English literature, and there remains much to be done in the way of cultivation before it will be brought to full bloom; although it is true there are a few good epigrams in the language. Henry Parrot, in "Springes to catch Woodcocks" (1613), likened the epigram to cheese, in the simile,

We make our epigrammes, as men taste cheese,
Which has his relish in the last farewell;


which is a woful fall from the bee with its honey and sting.
who was contemporary with him, is still remembered by his lines,-

Treason doth never prosper. What's the reason?

For if it prospers, none dare call it treason.

John Owen, a Welshman, an Oxonian and poor country school-master, was prolific, if not always happy. Among his Latin epigrams, published in 1620, was one which gained for his book a place on the Index, and lost him a legacy :

An Petrus fuerit Romæ, sub judice lis est :
Simonem Romæ nemo fuisse negat.

("If Peter ever was at Rome,

By many has been mooted;

That Simon there was quite at home,

Has never been disputed.")

Ben Jonson in his "Underwoods" has many small gems which might be classed as epigrams in the wider sense of the word. There are a few similar in Spenser, and many in Herrick. Cowley, Waller, Dryden, Young, and Goldsmith are occasionally successful, in a way, in their epigrammatical attempts. Swift's bludgeon was too heavy. It is all gall and vinegar with him, as in this on his own deafness :

Deaf, giddy, helpless, left alone,
To all my friends a burden grown;
No more I hear my church's bell
Than if it rang out for my knell;
At thunder now no more I start
Than at the rumbling of a cart;
And, what's incredible, alack!

No more I hear a woman's clack.

Than Pope, whose name is identified with the epigrammatical spirit in our literature, none has proved himself more to the manner born. His antithetical couplets are a veritable string of epigrams, but too often have too much the characteristic of the hornet rather than the bee, and he confounded wit and scurrility. His epitaph on Sir Isaac Newton, however, is worthy of

inclusion in the most select collection:

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said, Let Newton be,-and all was light.

This epitaph was not engraved on the monument in Westminster Abbey, but a prose Latin inscription was preferred, and the couplet condemned as irreverent.

Addison rather improved on his Latin prototype in his paraphrase of the lines "To a Capricious Friend:"

In all thy humors, whether grave or mellow,
Thou'rt such a touchy, testy, pleasant fellow,

Hast so much wit and mirth and spleen about thee,
There is no living with thee, nor without thee.

The singular death of Molière, who, while playing the rôle of a dying man in one of his own comedies, was seized with a mortal illness, and, being carried off the stage, died in a few hours, is commemorated in the following quaint lines:

Within this melancholy tomb confined,
Here lies the matchless ape of human kind,
Who while he labored with ambitious strife
To mimic death, as he had mimicked life,
So well, or rather ill, performed his part,
That Death, delighted with his wondrous art,
Snatched up the copy, to the grief of France,
And made it an original at once.

The number of lampooning epigrammatic verses directed against the common foibles, the painting women and the soporific parson, the rascally lawyer and the quack doctor, the miser and the plagiarist, are legion, and these topics have been worn threadbare with them. Very few are worth quoting. Here is one by Samuel Bishop which is above the average:

A fool and knave, with different views,

For Julia's hand apply;

The knave to mend his fortune sues,
The fool to please his eye.

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