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So far, all is plain, but the description is after all a vague one. Much is said about "point," but nothing of the nature of it. We are indeed taught to dedicate the epigram to wounding "folly and vice," but that is obviously too limited an aim.

As a matter of fact, the English epigram has exhibited in the course of its career a remarkable variety of characteristics. At one time it has consisted of a moral sentencefitting, indeed, but not particularly pointed :-

A just man's like a rock that turns the wroth
Of all the raging waves into a froth.


At another, it has been devoted to the celebration of a lady's charms-a celebration sometimes witty, sometimes only elegant and refined :

For Phoebus' aid my voice I raise

To make the charms of Celia known ;

But Phoebus cannot bear to praise

A face that 's brighter than his own.



Now, it is found utilized as the vehicle of coarse abuse directed against persons or communities and classes. example :

"Why tax not asses ?" Bob did say:
"Why, if they did, you'd have to pay."


Or :

A single doctor like a sculler plies,

And all his art and all his physic tries;
But two physicians, like a pair of oars,

Conduct you soonest to the Stygian shores.


Sometimes it is merely the form chosen in the versifica

tion of a witty saying:

When Charles, at once a monarch and a wit,

Some smooth soft flattery read, by Waller writ,

Waller, who erst to sing was not ashamed

That Heav'n in storm great Cromwell's soul had claimed,—

Turned to the bard, and with a smile said he,

"Your strains for Noll excel your strains for me."

The bard, his cheeks with conscious blushes red,
Thus to the King return'd and bow'd his head :
"Poets, so Heaven and all the Nine decreed,
In fiction better than in truth succeed."


Frequently it is nothing but the introduction to a pun :

When ask'd by Allen t'other day,

What fish I fain would face,
Turbot, I said, was my delight!

But Allen swore 't was plaice.


Too often it is but the means adopted for uttering a mere impertinence :

James Allen Park

Came naked stark

From Scotland,

And now he goes

In very fine clothes
In England.


It has ranged, in fact, from grave to gay, from lively to severe; and in arranging the following collection I have felt bound to give a few specimens, at least, of all or nearly all of these varieties.

The question of what an epigram ought properly to be is quite another matter. We may accept the universally

accepted rule, that it must be brief, and must be witty, and must be pointed. But it must be more than that. It must be not only strong at the conclusion, but strong everywhere; there must not be a word too many, or a word too few; nor must there be, indeed, a word out of its place. Moreover, an epigram must have but one idea, and the object of the epigrammatist must be to express that idea in the briefest and the wittiest way, reserving the sting of it to the last.

Then come the further questions of the point and of the subject. Are puns, for instance, allowable in epigram? I should be inclined to answer-Yes, if the wit does not consist in them, and them alone. The mere play upon words ought not to be sufficient, unless there is wit, too, in the idea that animates the epigram. Then the pun may justifiably be used to point the thought. Unquestionably, however, the point which does not rest upon a pun is keener and much more legitimate than the point which does. Keener, also, and much more legitimate, is the point which rests upon the witty application of a well-known phrase, or on the amusing juxtaposition of opposed ideas. The variety of possible point is really only circumscribed by the range of wit itself, which, in its turn, is limited only by the range of our ideas. Barrow has told us in a famous passage how wide that range is, and it is therefore all the more regrettable that so many of our epigrammatists should have been content to turn their wit so much to punning merely.

As for the subjects of an epigram,-here, too, the field is wide enough, even if we adopt the modern view, and restrict the epigram to compliment and satire. The popular notion will not, indeed, admit the idea of compliment; but that is a restriction which the most stringent should decline to make. Insist, if you please, upon brevity, and wit,

and point, as the characteristics of this form of verse; and exclude, if you please, the moral or sententious epigram, which consists only of an elegant idea elegantly stated. That may be conceded, though hardly by the lovers of the Greek Anthology: it is very different, however, from tabooing the epigram of compliment, in which wit is as available and as effective as it is in the epigram of satire. Who shall say, for example, that Luttrell's couplet on Miss Tree, the singer, is not as truly epigrammatic as Rogers's distich on Lord Dudley? Both give the pleasure that wit always gives: they fulfil the requirements of epigram, and are admissible accordingly.

For the moral and sententious epigram of the Greeks I am not, personally, inclined to argue. Beautiful and admirable in itself, it seems to me outside the range of epigram as conceived, and, as a rule, produced by modern writers. It lacks the one great quality of point, which is really the distinguishing mark of modern epigram. I confess I do not see the utility of a learned resuscitation of the primitive epigram-suited as it was to the genius of its inventors, and unsuited as it is to the genius of the moderns. It was more than suited to the Greeks; it was to them in the position of a necessity. They had a passion for the commemoration both of persons and events; their notion of perpetuation was to work by means of stone, either in the way of monument or statue; and, working in a difficult material, they were naturally led to express their feelings with the greatest possible brevity. To brevity succeeded the elegance that comes of intelligence and practice; the mere inscription (epigramma) rose into a work of art; and the Greek epigram was soon launched upon a successful career of about a thousand years.

It would be a mistake, of course, to conceive of the Greek epigram as being wholly moral or sententious. At least a

small proportion of the Greek Anthology is as bitter and unrefined in tone as anything produced by Martial; the personalities are as keen, the general characterization is as vitriolic. Specimens of this class of work are given in Book XII., and I need only refer here to the names of Lucillius, Lucian, Palladas, and Rufinus as those of masters in the art of witty and pointed epigram of the modern stamp. Unquestionably the great bulk of the Anthology is of a very different character; but so much critical abuse has been directed against Martial, for what is termed his prostitution of the epigram from its original purity, that it is only fair to show how much in this, as in other departments of literature, the Romans were indebted to the Greeks.

Martial himself must always be interesting to the student, not only for the intrinsic merit of his work, but also because of the immense attraction he has always had for English writers. There is often the danger of describing as of English origin distichs or quatrains which owe their inspiration, directly or indirectly, to the Roman satirist. This is a testimony at once to the literary genius of Martial, and to the invariable characteristics of high civilization in all times and climes. Human nature is everywhere the same, and always most strikingly so where the conditions under which it exists are similar. Thus, the biting monographs of Martial appeal as irresistibly to us as they did to the Heywoods and Haryngtons of earlier generations. It is certain that they settled the future of epigram with a decisiveness to which there is hardly a parallel in literature. We could not now return to the purely idyllic epigram if we would; Martial has set his mark so firmly that it cannot be obliterated. Yet, on the whole, one cannot help regretting that this should really be the case. It is not necessary to join in the indiscriminate detraction which the poet has suffered at the hands of certain censors, but it is

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