A Receipt to Make a New-England Funeral Elegy (1722)

Give me the Muse, whose generous Force,

Impatient of the Reins,
Pursues an unattempted Course,

Breaks all the Criticks Iron Chains. Watts.

To the Author of the New-England Courant.


It has been the Complaint of many Ingenious Foreigners, who have travell’d amongst us, That good Poetry is not to be expected in New-England. I am apt to Fancy, the Reason is, not because our Countreymen are altogether void of a Poetical Genius, nor yet because we have not those Advantages of Education which other Countries have, but purely because we do not afford that Praise and Encouragement which is merited, when any thing extraordinary of this Kind is produc’d among us: Upon which Consideration I have determined, when I meet with a Good Piece of New-England Poetry, to give it a suitable Encomium, and thereby endeavour to discover to the World some of its Beautys, in order to encourage the Author to go on, and bless the World with more, and more Excellent Productions.

There has lately appear’d among us a most Excellent Piece of Poetry, entituled, An Elegy upon the much Lamented Death of Mrs. Mehitebell Kitel, Wife of Mr. John Kitel of Salem, &c. It may justly be said in its Praise, without Flattery to the Author, that it is the most Extraordinary Piece that ever was wrote in New-England. The Language is so soft and Easy, the Expression so moving and pathetick, but above all, the Verse and Numbers so Charming and Natural, that it is almost beyond Comparison,

    The Muse disdains
    Those Links and Chains,
  Measures and Rules of vulgar Strains,
And o’er the Laws of Harmony a Sovereign Queen she reigns

I find no English Author, Ancient or Modern, whose Elegies may be compar’d with this, in respect to the Elegance of Stile, or Smoothness of Rhime; and for the affecting Part, I will leave your Readers to judge, if ever they read any Lines, that would sooner make them draw their Breath and Sigh, if not shed Tears, than these following.

Come let us mourn, for we have lost a Wife, a Daughter, and a Sister,
Who has lately taken Flight, and greatly we have mist her.

In another Place,

Some little Time before she yielded up her Breath,
She said, I ne’er shall hear one Sermon more on Earth.
She Kist her Husband some little Time before she expir’d,
Then lean’d her Head the Pillow on, just out of Breath and tir’d.

But the Threefold Appellation in the first Line

a Wife, a Daughter, and a Sister,

must not pass unobserved. That Line in the celebrated Watts,

GUNSTON the Just, the Generous, and the Young,

is nothing Comparable to it. The latter only mentions three Qualifications of one Person who was deceased, which therefore could raise Grief and Compassion but for One. Whereas the former, (our most excellent Poet) gives his Reader a Sort of an Idea of the Death of Three Persons, viz.

a Wife, a Daughter, and a Sister,

which is Three Times as great a Loss as the Death of One, and consequently must raise Three Times as much Grief and Compassion in the Reader.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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