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of Cowley. Chaucer is a perpetual fountain of good fenfe; learned in all sciences; and therefore fpeaks properly on all subjects: As he knew what to fay, so he also knows where to leave off; a continence, which is practised by few writers, and fcarcely by any of the ancients, excepting Virgil and Horace. One of our late great poets is funk in his reputation, because he could never forgive any Conceit that came in his way; but fwept, like a drag-net, great and fmall. There was plenty enough, but the dishes were ill-forted; whole pyramids of fweet-meats for boys and women; but little of folid meat, for men. All this proceeded not from any want of knowledge, but of judgment; neither did he want that, in difcerning the beauties and faults of other poets; but only indulged himself in the luxury of writing; and perhaps knew it was a fault, but hoped the reader would not find it. For this reafon, though he must always be thought a great poet, he is no longer esteemed a good writer; and for ten impreffions which his works have had
in fo many fucceffive years, yet at present a hundred books are scarcely purchased once a twelvemonth." It is a circumftance of literary history worth mentioning, that Chaucer was more than 60 years old when he wrote Palamon and Arcite, as we know Dryden was 70, when he verfified it. The lines of POPE, in the piece before us, are spirited and easy, and have, properly enough, a free colloquial air. One paffage, I cannot forbear quoting, as it acquaints us with the writers who were popular in the time of Chaucer. The jocofe old woman says, that her husband frequently read to her out of a volume that contained,
Valerius whole: and of Saint Jerome part;
* Ver. 359.
POPE has omitted a ftroke of humour; for in the original, fhe naturally mistakes the rank and age of St. Jerome: the lines muft be transcribed.
Yclepid Valerie and Theophraft,
In the library which Charles V. founded in France about the year thirteen hundred and seventy-fix, among many books of devotion, aftrology, chemistry and romance, there was not one copy of Tully to be found, and no Latin poet but Ovid, Lucan and Boethius; fome French tranflations of Livy, Valerius Maximus, and St. Austin's City of God. He placed these in one of the towers of the old Louvre, which was called the tower of the library. This was the foundation of the present magnificent royal library at Paris.
THE tale to which this is the Prologue, has been verfified by Dryden; and is fup
* Ver. 671,
posed to have been of Chaucer's own contrivance as is alfo 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, Sigifmunda and Guifcardo, Theodore and Honoria; and above all, to his exquifite mufic 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 abfurd, I must beg leave to select a few paffages 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 no other confequence, than to make his laurels to be feen the A person who tranflated fome 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 fubject of this work. The picture of Arcite in the absence of Emilia, is highly expreffive of the deepest distress, and a compleat image of anguish.
He rav'd with all the madness of defpair,
THE image of the Suicide is equally picturefque and pathetic.
The flayer of himself yet faw I there
The gore congeal'd was clotted in his hair:
This reminds me of that forcible defcription in a writer whose fancy was eminently ftrong. "Catilina vero, longe a fuis, inter hoftium cadavera repertus eft, paululum
Palamon and Arcite, Book I.