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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 4.djvu/76

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46
POEMS OF JULY—SEPTEMBER, 1816.

The humblest of all sepulchres, and gazed

With not the less of sorrow and of awe

    Martin-le-Grand ("a small deserted cemetery in an obscure lane behind [i.e. above] the market"). See note by Charles De la Pryme, Notes and Queries, 1854, Series I. voL x. p. 378). There is a tablet to his memory on the south wall of St. Mary's Church, and the present headstone in the graveyard (it was a "plain headstone" in 1816) bears the following inscription:—

    "1764.
    Here lie the remains of the celebrated
    C. Churchill.
    'Life to the last enjoy'd, here Churchill lies.'"

    Churchill had been one of Byron's earlier models, and the following lines from The Candidate, which suggested the epitaph (lines 145-154), were, doubtless, familiar to him:—

    "Let one poor sprig of Bay around my head
    Bloom whilst I live, and point me out when dead;
    Let it (may Heav'n indulgent grant that prayer)
    Be planted on my grave, nor wither there;
    And when, on travel bound, some rhyming guest
    Roams through the churchyard, whilst his dinner's drest,
    Let it hold up this comment to his eyes;
    Life to the last enjoy'd, here Churchill lies;
    Whilst (O, what joy that pleasing flatt'ry gives)
    Reading my Works he cries—here Churchill lives."

    Byron spent Sunday, April 25, 1816, at Dover. He was to sail that night for Ostend, and, to while away the time, "turned to Pilgrim" and thought out, perhaps began to write, the lines which were finished three months later at the Campagne Diodati.

    "The Grave of Churchill," writes Scott (Quarterly Review, October, 1816), "might have called from Lord Byron a deeper commemoration; for, though they generally differed in character and genius, there was a resemblance between their history and character.... both these poets held themselves above the opinion of the world, and both were followed by the fame and popularity which they seemed to despise. The writings of both exhibit an inborn, though sometimes ill-regulated, generosity of mind, and a spirit of proud independence, frequently pushed to extremes. Both carried their hatred of hypocrisy beyond the verge of prudence, and indulged their vein of satire to the borders of licentiousness."

    Save for the affectation of a style which did not belong to him, and which in his heart he despised, Byron's commemoration of Churchill does not lack depth or seriousness. It was the parallel between their lives and temperaments which awoke reflection and sympathy, and prompted this "natural homily." Perhaps, too, the shadow of impending exile had suggested to his imagination that further parallel which Scott deprecated, and deprecated in vain, "death in the flower of his age, and in a foreign land."]