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terested them, whether of a foreign or domestic character. "Thus the history of an epoch is sometimes contained in a few distichs, which are easily remembered and referred to without trouble.'
The epigrams which have come down to us from a vast number of authors,* are justly distinguished for grandeur and nobleness of sentiment, and for the chaste and elegant language in which they are expressed. Fine thoughts, conveyed in natural and beautiful attire, are to the man of refined and cultivated taste an ample equivalent for the satire, or the wit, that are regarded as essential ingredients in a modern epigram. And we ought, moreover, to bear in mind that all that remain to us from that early period are but fragmentary productions of their lyric bards, and furnish perhaps but a sorry gauge of the salt and the smartness that may have marked their highest efforts in this branch of literature. A people so eminent in literature and the fine arts, as they are shown to have been, by the monuments which we possess, and which are still the confessed 'standard of excellence,' in the judgment of the most polished nations of modern times, would not, we may reasonably conclude, have been inferior to any writers who came after them in that kind of composition forwhich they have been considered by the French wits insipid and defective. It would be no difficult matter to select a few Greek epigrams as virulently personal and stinging as any to be met with amongst our volatile neighbours; but they are the rare exception to a very general rule,' and show that biting sarcasm and personal invective were held in light esteem by that noble and illustrious nation. The Greek epigrammatists created, not the ideas which were common to them and to their audience, but the harmonious and appropriate language in which those ideas were conveyed; and their gems, richly strewn over the pages of the Greek Anthology, are for the most part
* The Greek Anthology contains about 4,500 epigrams by about 300 authors. - See Preface to Liddell and Scott's Lexicon.
distinguished for their terse simplicity, for their liveliness without guile, and their pungency without intent to vex or offend.'*
With the exception of Martial and Claudian, we have no one amongst the Roman poets of any great reputation as a writer of epigrams. Catullus has left us one or two which have been praised for their simplicity and delicacy of expression, and for their close imitation of the patterns of the Greeks; and which, for these reasons, have obtained amongst good critics great praise and favour; but
* Quarterly Review, January 1865.
his poems generally are justly reprobated for the vile and indecent thoughts that lie beneath this pretty outside covering ; and which render his verses unwholesome to read, and totally unfit for translation. In the epigrams of Claudian, whose reputation for purity of language and real poetical genius is deservedly great, we have a certain smartness of wit, and that too in the most beautiful Latin phrase.
There is no originality, if we except a few, but much of obscenity in those of Ausonius, whose reputation as a poet, but for his skill in versification, would not be of much account.
Martial, on the contrary, has left us a great number of epigrams, the creations of his own fertile imagination. Many of them refer to odious vices which in his time were common, and perhaps then little condemned, but which in modern days are unfit to be mentioned. In a considerable number of them he endeavours to give a sting to the last line or two; and in some he succeeds in exciting our admiration at his power of ridicule, wit, irony, sagacity, good sense, and knowledge of the world ; but his thoughts are not always just, his humour often borders upon affectation, whilst his adulation of Domitian, one of the most execrable of the Roman Emperors, makes one blush for the depth
of moral depravity into which our nature can descend.
In our own day, and in our own language, an epigram is understood to mean a poem distinguished for its point, elegance and brevity ; confined to one principal thought or subject; and so briefly and forcibly put, as to leave a sensible impression on the mind. A facetious application of an old proverb, or of some well-known passage of history or of ancient mythology, or the lucky application of a motto from a classical or modern author, are some of the requirements looked for in a modern epigram. If one striking thought be uniformly pursued to a point through the entire poem, it may justly, we think, be considered as an epigram though it be of some length. Harmony and smoothness of versification are essentially necessary to its success. In a word, the Moderns seem to follow the Romans, and are not satisfied if an epigram does not contain stinging personal satire, tickling humour or wit, so happily wrapped up as to create surprise, pleasure, or indignation in the mind of the reader.
Though this definition confines the term epigram to a poem, and may therefore by some critics be considered defective, inasmuch as it originally meant an inscription, and its use was certainly not restricted to verse, yet there is an obvious distinction between what is epigrammatic and what is properly an epigram ; just as there is between a poem and what is poetic. To compensate however for this deficiency, if such it be, the editor has subjoined a few of those epigrammatic sentiments which have obtained some degree of notoriety in the world. Every one will admit that this is an epigram : ‘The blood of the Gracchi was the seed sown, and Marius was the fruit;' and that Canning uttered an epigram when he said of Addington's government, 'Every thing is at sea, but the fleet.' The same character may be claimed for Byron's remark, ‘Dr. Polidori has no patients, for his patients are no more ;' or Chamfort's division of mankind into those who have more dinner than appetite, and those who have more appetite than dinner ;' or Heine's classification of all that is into
eatable and not eatable ;' or Voltaire's definition when he said, the Frenchman was a cross between an ape and a tiger,tiger predominating;' or Burke's sneer that Chatham's force was fancy, while his feebleness was ignorance ;' or La Borde's answer to a coquette who told him he was the last man she would choose, that "he was charmed, because his turn would come ;' or Dean Swift's remark that the