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Poetical And Grammatical Deaths
by [?]

It will appear by the following anecdotes, that some men may be said to have died poetically and even grammatically.

There must be some attraction existing in poetry which is not merely fictitious, for often have its genuine votaries felt all its powers on the most trying occasions. They have displayed the energy of their mind by composing or repeating verses, even with death on their lips.

The Emperor Adrian, dying, made that celebrated address to his soul, which is so happily translated by Pope. Lucan, when he had his veins opened by order of Nero, expired reciting a passage from his Pharsalia, in which he had described the wound of a dying soldier. Petronius did the same thing on the same occasion.

Patris, a poet of Caen, perceiving himself expiring, composed some verses which are justly admired. In this little poem he relates a dream, in which he appeared to be placed next to a beggar, when, having addressed him in the haughty strain he would probably have employed on this side of the grave, he receives the following reprimand:–

Ici tous sont egaux; je ne te dois plus rien;
Je suis sur mon fumier comme toi sur le tien.

Here all are equal! now thy lot is mine!
I on my dunghill, as thou art on thine.

Des Barreaux, it is said, wrote on his death-bed that well-known sonnet which is translated in the “Spectator.”

Margaret of Austria, when she was nearly perishing in a storm at sea, composed her epitaph in verse. Had she perished, what would have become of the epitaph? And if she escaped, of what use was it? She should rather have said her prayers. The verses however have all the naivete of the times. They are–

Cy gist Margot, la gente demoiselle,
Qu’eut deux maris, et si mourut pucelle.

Beneath this tomb is high-born Margaret laid,
Who had two husbands, and yet died a maid.

She was betrothed to Charles VIII. of France, who forsook her; and being next intended for the Spanish infant, in her voyage to Spain, she wrote these lines in a storm.

Mademoiselle de Serment was surnamed the philosopher. She was celebrated for her knowledge and taste in polite literature. She died of a cancer in her breast, and suffered her misfortune with exemplary patience. She expired in finishing these verses, which she addressed to Death:–

Nectare clausa suo,
Dignum tantorum pretium tulit illa laborum.

It was after Cervantes had received extreme unction that he wrote the dedication of his Persiles.

Roscommon, at the moment he expired, with an energy of voice that expressed the most fervent devotion, uttered two lines of his own version of “Dies Irae!” Waller, in his last moments, repeated some lines from Virgil; and Chaucer seems to have taken his farewell of all human vanities by a moral ode, entitled, “A balade made by Geffrey Chaucyer upon his dethe-bedde lying in his grete anguysse.”[1]

Cornelius de Witt fell an innocent victim to popular prejudice. His death is thus noticed by Hume:–“This man, who had bravely served his country in war, and who had been invested with the highest dignities, was delivered into the hands of the executioner, and torn in pieces by the most inhuman torments. Amidst the severe agonies which he endured he frequently repeated an ode of Horace, which contained sentiments suited to his deplorable condition.” It was the third ode of the third book which this illustrious philosopher and statesman then repeated.

Metastasio, after receiving the sacrament, a very short time before his last moments, broke out with all the enthusiasm of poetry and religion in these stanzas:–

T’ offro il tuo proprio Figlio,

Che gia d’amore in pegno,

Racchiuso in picciol segno

Si volle a noi donar.