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posed to have been of Chaucer's own contrivance : as is also the elegant Vision of the flower and the leaf, which has received new graces from the spirited and harmonious Dryden.
It is to his fables, though wrote in his old age *, that Dryden will owe his immortality, and among them, particularly, to Palamon and Arcite, Sigismunda and Guiscardo, Theodore and Honoria ; and above all, to his exquisite music ode. The warmth and melody of these pieces, has never been excelled in our language, I mean in rhyme. As general and unexemplified criticism is always useless and absurd, I must beg leave to select a few passages from these three poems; and the reader must not think any observations on the character of Dryden, the constant pat
• The falling off of his hair, faid a man of wit, had ng other consequence, than to make his laurels to be seen the more. A person who translated some pieces after Dryden used to say,
Experto credite, quantus
Crebillon was ninety when he brought his Catiline on the stage,
tern of POPE, unconnected with the main subject of this work. The picture of Arcite in the absence of Emilia, is highly expressive of the deepest distress, and a compleat image of anguish.
He rav'd with all the madness of despair,
The image of the Suicide is equally picturesque and pathetic.
The Player of himself yet saw I there
half-clos'd and gaping mouth he lay, And grim, as when he breath'd his sullen soul away.
This reminds me of that forcible description in a writer whose fancy was eminently strong. “ Catilina vero, longe a suis, inter hoftium cadavera repertus est, paululum
• Palamon and Arcite, Book I.
ctiam fpirans ; ferociamque animi, quam habuerat vivus, in vultu retinens." Nor must I omit that affecting image in Spenser, who ever excels in the pathetic,
And him besides there lay upon the grass
When Palamon perceived his rival had escaped,
- He stares, he stamps the ground; The hollow tow'r with clamour rings around : With briny tears he bath'd his fetter'd feet, And dropp'd all o'er with agony of fweat.
Nor are the feelings of Palamon less strongly impressed on the reader, where he says,
The rage of Jealousy then fir’d his soul,
• Fairy Queen, Book I. Canto g. Stanza 36.
Now cold despair succeeding in her stead,
If we pass on from descriptions of perfons to those of things, we shall find this poem equally excellent. The temple of Mars, is situated with propriety, in a country desolate and joyless; all around it,
The landscape was a foreft wide and bare;
The temple itself is nobly and magnificently studied; and, at the same time, adapted to the furious nature of the God to whom it belonged ; and carries with it a barbarous and tremendous idea,
• These passages are chiefly of the pathetic fort; for which Dryden in his tragedies is far from being remarkable. But it is not unusual for the same person to succeed in defcribing externally a diftressful character, who may miferably fail in putting proper words in the mouth of such a character. In a word, so much more difficult is DRAMATIC than DESCRIPTIVE poetry!
The frame of burnilh'd steel that cast a glare
This scène of terror is judiciously contrasted by the pleasing and joyous imagery of the teinples of Venus and Diana. The figure of the last goddess, is a design fit for GUIDO to execute.
The graceful Goddess was array'd in green;
But above all, the whole description of the entering the lists *, and of the ensuing
* The reader is desired all along to remember, that the first delineation of all these images is in Chaucer, or Boccace, and it might be worth examining how much Dryden has added purely from his own stock.