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Quisque suis vicibus, masto stant ordine flentes;
Oreque velato femina triste silet.
Emittit tremula lugubre voce melos.
Quin eadem repetat funebre carmen avis,
Hæc pietas soli debita vera fuit.
Sumptibus hic nullis luctus emendus erit.
The ancient fane that crowned thy flashing head,
There have been several editions of Vincent Bourne ; three of them deserve, bibliographically, a word. The first is the third of his publications, a very rare and beautiful book, which by the kindness of Mr. Austin Dobson I have been privileged to examine. This is Poematia, Latine partim reddita, partim scripta, printed by J. Watts, 1734, and dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle ; it is a small volume printed in italics of the tribe of Aldus, with quaint head and tail pieces, and red lines ruled by hand. The next is the Miscellaneous Poems of 1772, a handsome quarto, published by subscription. The third is Poems by Vincent Bourne published by Pickering in 1840, with a memoir and notes by the Rev. John Mitford. This is a carefully and beautifully printed book, with but one drawback. Whenever an ornamental head-piece is inserted at the top of a page, the number of the page is omitted. This tiresome affectation makes it very difficult to find any particular poem.
An exhaustive account of Vincent Bourne's Latinity would be a long enumeration of minute mistakes—mistakes arising from the imperfect acquaintance of the scholars of the day with the principles of correct Latinity. To give a few obvious instances, metrically, Bourne is not aware of the rule which forbids a short syllable to stand before sp, sc, st, sq.
In classical Latin, such a collocation of consonants does not lengthen the preceding short syllable, but is simply inadmissible. Then again, he is very unsound in the quantity of final o. I am not speaking of such words as quando, ego, where there is a certain doubt. But he makes short such words as fallo, and even such a word as experiendo, which is quite impossible. He also ends his pentameters with trisyllables such as niteat, a practice which has no Ovidian countenance. Grammatically, a considerable licence is observable in the use of the indicative for the subjunctive, as, for instance, after si forsitan and nedum. But these, it may be said, are minor points, and in form and arrangement his Latin is pure enough. His verse is of the school of Ovid and Tibullus, but his vocabulary is not Augustan; this, however, may be due to the fact that his choice of subjects necessitates the use of many words for which there is no Augustan authority.
It can hardly be expected that Vincent Bourne will be read or appreciated by the general reader. But any one with an adequate stock of Latin, who is given to wandering among the byways of literature, will find him a singularly original and poetical writer. His was no academic spirit, writing, with his back to the window, of frigid generalities and classical ineptitudes. He was rather a man with a warm heart and a capacious eye, finding any trait of human character, any grouping of the grotesque or tender furniture of life, interesting and memorable. He reminds one of the man in Robert Browning's poem, "How it Strikes a Contemporary," who went about in his old cloak, with quiet observant eyes, noting the horse that was beaten, and trying the mortar of the new house with his stick, and came home and wrote it all to his lord the king. Vincent Bourne had of course no moral object in his writings; he had merely the impulse to sing, and we may regret with Lamb that so delicate and sensitive a spirit chose a vehicle which must debar so many from walking in his company. With his greasy locks and dirty gown, his indolence and his good-humour, the shabby usher of Westminster, with his pure spirit and clear eyes, has a place reserved for him in the stately procession, "where is nor first, nor last."
VERY boy who leaves Eton creditably is
presented with a copy of the works of Gray, for which everything has been done that the art of printers, bookbinders and photographers can devise. This is one of the most curious instances of the triumphs of genius, for there is hardly a single figure in the gallery of Etonians who is so little characteristic of Eton as Gray. His only poetical utterance about his school is one which is hopelessly alien to the spirit of the place, though the feelings expressed in it are an exquisite summary of those sensations of pathetic interest which any rational man feels at the sight of a great school. though the attitude of the teacher of youth is professedly and rightly rather that of encouragement than of warning, though he points to the brighter hopes of life rather than brandishes the horrors that infest it, yet the last word that Eton says to her sons is spoken in the language of one to whom elegy was a habitual and deliberate tone.