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line, and write one more vigorous in its place; to find a happiness of expression in the original, and trans. plant it by force into the version : but what is given to the parts may be subducted from the whole, and the reader may be weary, though the critick may commend. Works of imagination excel by their alJurement and delight; by their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That book is good in vain, which the reader throws away. He only is the master, who keeps the mind in pleafing captivity ; whose pages are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure are perused again ; and whose conclu. fion is perceived with an eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day.
By his proportion of this predomination I will con. sent that Dryden should be tried; of this, which, in opposition to reason, makes Ariosto the darling and the pride of Italy; of this, which, in defiance of criticism, continues Shakspeare the sovereign of the drama.
His last work was his Fables, in which he gave us the first example of a mode of writing which the Italians call refaccimento, a renovation of ancient writers, by modernizing their language. Thus the old poem of Boiardo has been new-dressed by Domenichi and Berni. The works of Chaucer, which upon this kind of rejuvenescence has been bestowed by Dryden, require little criticism. The tale of the Cock seems hardly worth revival ; and the story of Palamon and Arcite, containing an action unsuitable to the times in which it is placed, can hardly be suffered to pass without censure of the hyperbolical commendation which Dryden has given it in the ge.
neral Preface, and in a poetical Dedication, a piece where his original fondness of remote conceits seems to have revived.
Of the three pieces borrowed from Boccace Sigifmunda may be defended by the celebrity of the story. Theodore and Honoria, though it contains not much moral, yet afforded opportunities of striking description. And Cymon was formerly a tale of such reputation, that at the revival of letters it was translated into Latin by one of the Beroalds. ,
Whatever subjects employed his pen he was still finproving our ineasures and embellishing our language.
In this volume are interspersed soine short original poems, which, with his prologues, epilogues, and songs, may be comprised in Congreve's remark, that even those, if he had written nothing else, would have entitled him to the praise of excellence in his kind.
One composition must however be distinguished. The ode to St. Cecilia's Day, perhaps the la of his poetry, has been always considered as exhibiting the highest fight of fancy, and the exactest nicety of art. This is allowed to stand without á rival. If indeed there is any excellence beyond it in some other of Dryden's works, that excellence must be found. Compared with the ode on Killigrew, it may be pronounced perhaps superior in the whole ; but, without any single part, equal to the first stanza of the other.
It is said to have coft Dryden a fortnight's labour; but it does not want its negligences ; some of the lines are without correspondent rhymes; a defect, Vol. IX.
which I never detected but after an acquaintance of many years, and which the enthusiasm of the writer might hinder him from perceiving.
His last stanza has less emotion than the former; but it is not less elegant in the diction. The conclufion is vicious; the musick of Timotheus, which raised a mortal to the skies, had only a metaphorical power; that of Cecilia, which drew an angel down, had a real effect: the crown therefore could not reasonably be divided.
In a general survey of Dryden's labours, he ap. pears to have a mind very comprehensive by nature, and much enriched with acquired knowledge. His compositions are the effects of a vigorous genius operating upon large materials.
The power that predominated in his intellectual operations was rather strong reason than quick fenfibility. Upon all occasions that were presented, he studied rather than felt, and produced sentiments not such as nature enforces, but meditation supplies. With the finple and elemental passions, as they spring separate in the mind, he seems not much acquainted; and seldom describes them but as they are complicated by the various relations of society, and confused in the tumults and agitations of life.
What he says of love may contribute to the explanation of his character:
Love various minds does variously inspire;
Dryden's Dryden's was not one of the gentle bofoms: Love, as it subfifts in itself, with no tendency but to the person loved, and wishing only for correspondent kindness ; such Love as shuts out all other interest, the Love of the Golden Age, was too soft and subtle to put his faculties in motion. He hardly conceived it but in its turbulent effervescence with some other defires; when it was enflairied by rivalry, or obstructed by difficulties; when it invigorated ambition, or exasperated revenge.
He is therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often pathetick; and had so little fenfibility of the power of effufions purely natural, that he did not esteem them in others. Simplicity gave hiin no pleasure; and for the first part of his life he., looked on Qtway with contempt, though at last, indeed very late, he confessed that in his play there was Nature, which is the chief beauty.
We do not always know our own motives. I am not certain whether it was not rather the difficulty which he found in exhibiting the genuine operations of the heart, than a servile submission to an injudicious audience, that filled his plays with false magnificence. It was necessary to fix attention; and the mind can be captivated only by recollection, or by curiosity; by reviving natural sentiments, or im. preffing new appearances of things : sentences were readier at his call than images; he could more easily fill the ear with more splendid novelty, than awaken those ideas that slumber in the heart.
The favourite exercise of his mind was ratiocination; and, that argument might not be too soon at an end, he delighted to talk of liberty and neceflity,
destiny and contingence; these he discusses in the language of the school with so much profundity, that the terms which he uses are not always understood. It is indeed learning, but learning out of place.
When once he had engaged himfelf in disputation, thoughts flowed in on either side: he was now no longer at a loss; he had always objections and folutions at command ; ( verbaque provisam rem” give him matter for his verse, and he finds without difficulty verse for his matter.
In Comedy, for which he professes himfelf not naturally qualified, the mirth which he excites will perhaps not be found so much to arise from any original humour, or peculiarity of character nicely distinguifhed and diligently pursued, as from inci. dents and circumstances, artifices and furprizes; from jests of action rather than of sentiment. What he had of humorous or paffionate, he seems to have had not from nature, but from other poets; if not always as a plagiary, at least as an imitator.
Next to argument, his delight was in wild and dar. ing fallies of sentiment, in the irregular and eceentrick violence of wit. He delighted to tread upon the brink of meaning, where light and darkness begin to mingle ; to approach the precipice of absurdity, and hover over the abyss of unideal vacancy. This inclination sometimes produced nonsense, which he knew; as,
Move swiftly, Sun, and fly a lover's pace,