And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

torsdag 23. mai 2013

An Oxford Epigram

Songs, sonnets, epigrams the winds uplift,
And whisk them back to Evans, Young, and Swift.
- The Dunciad, Alexander Pope

One of the books I mentioned in the previous blogpost was a collection of verse pertaining to Oxford. In this book I came across a lovely little epigram of anonymous provenance about Abel Evans (1679-1737), who entered St John's college in 1692 and became a clergyman in 1700. Evans was a controversial figure in the contemporary religio-political climate, and also in the university system, in great part thanks to a speech criticising the college president which cost him his chaplaincy in 1707. The epigram in question plays quite nicely with Evans' penchant for controversy.

St. John's College, Oxford
Courtesy of Wikipedia

On Dr. Evans Cutting Down a Row of Trees at St. John's College, Oxford

Indulgent Nature on each kind bestows
A secret instinct to discern its foes:
The goose, a silly bird, avoids the fox;
Lambs fly from wolves; and sailors steer from rocks.
Evans, the gallows as his fate foresees,
And bears the like antipathy to trees.

This row of trees was drawn by Alfred-Louis Brunet-Debaines (1845-1939)

I know of two slightly different versions of this epigram found in different anthologies of quotations. In Elegant Extracts 1816: 882, instead of "Evans" it reads "The rogue", while in Joe Miller's Jests: 176, the text contains "The thief".


Pursgrove, Glyn and Ricketts, Alistair (eds.), Oxford in Verse, Perpetua, 1999

Sambrook, James, ‘Evans, Abel (1675–1737)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

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