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Vel mediis vigil in somnis; ad herilia jussa
Hi mores, hæc vita fuit, dum fata sinebant,
Poor Irus' faithful wolf-dog here I lie,
Through tract of years in mute oblivion lost,
The virtues of the Beggar and the Dog. It may be noted that Lamb treats Lyciscus, which was evidently intended merely as a name, as referring to the species of dog ; Virgil uses Lycisca as a dog's name in the third Eclogue. Probably Bourne was thinking of a fox-terrier, and the term wolf-dog is pompous and incongruous.
Lamb's last line but three is a very lame one; it is a difficult point to determine, but did not he mean “ no ungrateful hand”? The true sense of the original line is, “ the slender gift of a hand which although poor is not ungrateful."
Bourne shows also a remarkable observation of street life, the quaint water-side manners, the odd obscure life that eddied near the river highway and round about the smoky towers of Wren. Absent-minded he may have been, but observant he was to a peculiar degree, and that not of broad poetical effects, but of the minute detail and circumstance of every-day life. It would be easy to multiply instances, but this extract from the "Iter per Tamisin," of the bargeman lighting his pipe, will serve to show what I mean. Why does he call tobacco pætum, it may be asked ? The only solution that I can suggest is that Pink-eye, or Squint-eye, was a cant term for some
species of the weed at the time. It can hardly be, I think, the word peat Latinised. The version, as in the case of those which follow, is my own.
His ita dispositis, tubulum cum pyxide magna
This thus disposed, a pipe with ample bowl
Vincent Bourne had that passionate sympathy with and delight in youth that is the surest testimony to a heart that does not grow old. The pretty ways and natural gestures of childhood pleased him. He was fond of his boys, and allowed that fondness to be evident, at a time when brow-beating and insolent severity were too much the fashion. In his epitaphs it is curious to note how many deal with the young, and touch on the immemorial fragrance of early death with a peculiar pathos. There is an epitaph on a Westminster boy of twelve years old, where he most touchingly alludes to the thought that he died both beautiful and innocent; and an epitaph on a little girl who, he said in quaint phrase, had the modest red of roses and the pure whiteness of lilies in her face. Again the inscription to the memory of the young Earl of Warwick, who died at the age of twenty-four, is full of delicate beauty ; but I will give in full what seems to me the sweetest of all. It is printed among the authentic epitaphs, but it is, I imagine, purely fanciful.
EPITAPHIUM IN SEPTEM ANNORUM
Quam suavis mea Chloris, et venusta,
My pretty Chloris-ah, how sweet
I subjoin to these a couple of epigrams which give a good idea of the natural and solemn way
in which he approaches death, as an event not necessarily of a gloomy and forbidding character, but as tending to draw out and develop an intimate and regretful hope in the survivors. There is nothing austere about his philosophy ; it puts aside pompous and formal consolations, and goes right to the heart of the matter, with a child-like simplicity. The first deals with the Pyramids, the second with an incident, real or fancied, connected with the burial of Queen Mary at Westminster.
Quid dignum tanta mole, quid intus habent ?
Durata in saxum est cui medicata caro.
Ergo tot annorum, tot manuumque labor !
Et poterunt tumulo sex satis esse pedes.
Aspiring monument of human toil
Dant et funereum fana, Maria, tholum.