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To carry and conduct the compliment
Go now, her happy parents, and be sad,
escape this common known necessity ? most beautiful pieces, wrought by herself in needle-work, and presented to the University of Oxford, the one being the story of the Nativity, the other of the Passion of our Saviour.
“Blest mother of the church, he, in the list,
Poems, p. 196.
When we were all born, we began to die
6 Sir John Beaumont has also an elegy on the death of this lady, beginning with these lines :
“Can my poor lines no better office have,
But lie like scritch-owls still about the grave ?
Commending them that can commend again?” WHAL.
also be added that Eliot has an “ Elegy on the lady Jane Paulet, marchioness of Winchester," &c., in which he follows Milton, as to the immediate cause of her death. Though the poem, which is very long, is in John's best manner, I should not have mentioned it, had it not afforded me an opportunity of explaining a passage in Shakspeare which has sorely puzzled the commentators:
"Either says the gallant Henry V.)
Either our history shall, with full mouth,
Not worshipp'd with a waxen epitaph.” A. i. S. 2. Steevens says that the allusion is “ to the ancient custom of writing on waxen tablets,” and Malone proves, at the expense of two pages, that his friend has mistaken the poet's meaning, and that he himself is—just as wide of it.
In many parts of the continent, it is customary, upon the decease of an eminent person, for his friends to compose short laudatory poems, epitaphs, &c., and affix them to the herse, or grave, with pins, wax, paste, &c. Of this practice, which was once prevalent here also, I had collected many notices, which, when the circumstance was recalled to my mind by Eliot's verses, I tried in vain to recover : the fact, however, is certain.
In the bishop of Chichester’s verses to the memory of Dr. Donne, is this couplet :
" Each quill can drop his tributary verse,
And pin it, like a hatchment, to his herse.” Eliot's lines are these :
“Let others, then, sad Epitaphs invent,
And paste them up about thy monument;
The serpent's head ; gets above death and sin,
While my poor muse contents itself, that she
Poems, P. 39. It is very probable that the beautiful Epitaph on the countess of Pembroke, was attached, with many others, to her herse. We know that she had no monument; and the verses seem to intimate that they were so applied:
“ Underneath this sable herse
Lies the subject of all verse,
Sidney's sister,” &c. To this practice Shakspeare alludes. He had, at first, written paper epitaph, which he judiciously changed to waxen, as less ambiguous, and altogether as familiar to his audience. Henry's meaning therefore is; "I will either have my full history recorded with glory, or lie in an undistinguished grave :--not merely without an inscription sculptured in stone, but unworshipped, (unhonoured,) even by a waxen epitaph, i. e. by the short-lived compliment of a paper fastened on it.”