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be made. He knew to whom he should be opposed. He had more musick than Waller, more vigour than Denham, and more nature than Cowley ; and from his contemporaries he was in no danger. Standing therefore in the highest place, he had no care to rise by contending with himself; but while there was no name above his own, was willing to enjoy fame on the easiest terms.
He was no lover of labour. What he thought sufficient, he did not stop to make better; and allowed himself to leave many parts unfinished, in confidence that the good lines would overbalance the bad. What he had once written, he dismissed from his thoughts: and, I believe, there is no example to be found of any correction or improvement made by him after publication. The hastiness of his productions might be the effect of necessity; but his subsequent neglect could hardly have any other cause than impatience of study.
What can be said of his versification will be little more than a dilatation of the praise given it by Pope:
Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join
The long majestic march, and energy divine. . Some improvements had been already made in English numbers; but the full force of our language was not yet felt; the verse that was smooth was commonly feeble. If Cowley had sometimes a finished line, he had it by chance. Dryden knew how to chuse the flowing and the sonorous words: to vary the pauses, and adjust the accents; to diversify the cadence, and yet preserve the smoothness of his metre.
Of Triplets and Alexandrines, though he did not introduce the use, he established it. The triplet has long subsisted among us. Dryden seems not to have traced it higher than to Chapman's Homer; but it is to be found in Pliaer's Virgil, written in the reign of Mary; and in Hall's Satires, published five years before the death of Elizabeth.
The Alexandrine was, I believe, first used by Spenser, for the sake of closing his stanza with a fuller sound. We had a longer measure of fourteen syllables, into which the Eneid was translated by Phaer, and orber works of the ancients by other writers; of which Chapman's Iliad was, I believe, the last. The two first lines of Phaer's third Eneid will exemplify this measure :
When Asia's state was overthrown, and Priam's kingdom stout,
All guildless, by the power of gods above was rooted out. As these lines had their break, or cæsura, always at the eighth syllable, it was thought, in time, commodious to divide them; and quatrains of lines, alternately, consisting of eight and six syllables, make the most soft and pleasing of our lyrick measures ; as,
Relentless Time, destroying power,
Which-stone and brass obey,
To work some new decay, In the Alexandrine, when its power was once felt, some poems, as Drayton's Polyolbion, were wholly written ; and sometimes the measures of twelve and fourteen syllables were interchanged with one another, Cowley was the first that inserted the 'Alexandrine at pleasure among the heroick lines of ten syllables, and from him Dryden professes to have adopted it.
The Triplet and Alexandrine are not universally approved. Swift always censured them, and wrote some lines to ridicule them. In examining their propriety, it is to be considered that the essence of verse is regularity, and its ornament is variety. To write verse, is to dispose syllables and sounds harmonically by some known and settled rule ; a rule hou everlax enough to substitute similitude for identity, to admit change without breach of order, and to relieve the ear without disappointing it. Thus a Latin hexameter is formed from dactyls and spodees differently combined; the English heroick admits of acute or grave syllables variously disposed. The Latin never deviates into seven feet, or exceeds the number of seventeen .syllables ; but the English Alexandrine breaks the lawful bounds, and surprises the reader with two syllables more than he expected.
The effect of the Triplet is the same: the ear has been accustomed to expect a new rhyme in every couplet; but is on a sudden surprized with three rhymes together, to which the reader could not accommodate his voice, did he not obtain notice of the change from the braces of the Margins. Surely there is something unskilful in the necessity of such mechanical direction.
Considering the metrical art simply as a science, and consequently excluding all casuality, we must allow that Triplets and Alexandrines, inserted by caprice, are interruptions of that constancy to which science aspires. And though the variety which they produce may very justly be desired, yet, to make our poetry exact, there ought to be some stated mode of admitting them.
But'till some such regulation can be formed, I wish them still to be retained in their present state. They are sometimes convenient to the poet. Fenton was of opinion, that Dryden was too liberal, and Pope too sparing, in their use.
The rhymes of Dryden are commonly just, and he valued himself for his readiness in finding them ; but he is sometimes open to objection.
It is the common practice of our poets to end the second line with a weak or grave syllable:
· Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly,
Fill'd with ideas of fair Italy,
Dryden sometimes puts the weak rhymes in the first :
Laugh, all the powers that favour tyranny,
And all the standing army of the sky, Sometimes he concludes a period or paragraph with the first line of a couplet, which, though the French seem to do it without irregularity, always displeases in English poetry.
The Alexandrine, though much his favourite, is not always very diligently fabricated by himn. It invariably acquires a break at the sixth syllable ; a rule which the modern French poets never violate, but which Dryden sometimes neglected :
And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne. Of Dryden's works it was said by Pope, that “ he could select from them ," better specimens of every mode of poetry than any other English writer “ could supply.” Perhaps no nation ever produced a writer that enriched his language with such variety of models. To him we owe the the improvement, perhaps the completion of our metre, the refinement of our language, and much of the correctness of our sentiments. By him we were taught " sapere & fari,” to think naturally and express forcibly. Though Davis has reasoned in rhyme before him, it may be perhaps maintained that he was the first who joined argument with poetry. He shewed us the true bounds of a translator's liberty. What was said of Rome, adorned by Augustus, may be applied by an easy metaphor to English poetry embellished by Dryden,“ late“ ritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit.” He found it brick, and he left it marble.
THE invocation before the Georgicks is here inserted from Mr. Milbourne's version, that, according to his own proposal, his verses may be compared with those which he censures.
What makes the richest tilth, beneath what signs
To plough, and when to match your elms and vines;
Whose snowy heifers on her flow’ry plains
And thou, great Cæsar ! though we know not yet
There yet remains a spacious room for thee;
Mr. DRYDEN, having received from Rymer his Remarks ow the Tragedies of the last Age, wrote observations on the blank leaves; which, having been in the possession of Mr. Garrick, are by his favour communicated to the publick, that no particle of Dryden may be lost.
“That we may the less wonder why pity and terror are not now the only “ springs on which our tragedies move, and that Shakspeare may be more ex“cused, Rapin confesses that the French tragedies now all run on the tendre; " and gives the reason, because love is the passion which most predominates in Four souls, and that therefore the passions represented become insipid, unless “ they are conformable to the thoughts of the audience. But it is to be “ concluded, that this passion works not now amongst the French so strongly “ as the other two did amongst the ancients. Amongst us, who have a <stronger genius for writing, the operations from the writing are much “ stronger: for the raising of Shakspeare's passions is more from theexcellency F of the words and thoughts, than the justness of the occasion; and, if he " has been able to pick single occasions, he has never founded the whole rea“sonably: yet, by the genius of poetry in writing, he has succeeded.
• Rapin attributes more to the dictio, that is to the words and discourse of * a tragedy, than Aristotle has done, who places them in the last rank of beauiff tiesperhaps, only last in order, because they are the last product of the s design, of the disposition or connection of its parts; of the characters, of “ the manners of those characters, and of the thoughts proceeding from the " manners. Rapin's words are remarkable: 'Tis not the admirable intrigue, “the surprising events, and extraordinary incidents, that make the beauty of "a tragedy; 'tis the discourses, when they are natural and passionate : so só are Shakspeare's.
“The parts of a poem, tragick or heroick, are, "1. The fable itself,
“2. The order or example of its contrivance, in relation of the parts to the 56 whole.
“ 3. The manners, or decency, of the characters, in speaking or acting " 'what is proper for them, and proper to be shewn by the poet.
“ 4. The thoughts which express the manners. “5. The words which express those thoughts,
“ In the last of these, Homer excels Virgil; Virgil all other ancient poets; " and Shakspeare all modern poets.
« For the second of these, the order: the meaning is, that a fable ought « to have a beginning, middle, and an end, all just and natural; so that that “ part, e.g. which is the.middle, could not naturally be the beginning or end, “ and so of the rest : all depend on one another, like the links of a curious, "chain. If terror and pity are only to be raised, certainly this author fol« lows Aristotle's rules, and Sophocles' and Euripides's example: but joy