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pofed 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 fpirited 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 music ode. The warmth and melody of these pieces, has never been excelled in our language, I mean in rhyme. As general and unexemplified criticifm is always useless and absurd, I must beg leave to select a few paffages from these three poems; and the reader must not think any obfervations on the character of Dryden, the conftant pat
*The falling off of his hair, said a man of wit, had no other confequence, than to make his laurels to be seen 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 despair,
He roar'd, he beat his breaft, he tore his hair.
THE image of the Suicide is equally picturesque 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 whofe fancy was eminently ftrong. "Catilina vero, longe a fuis, inter hoftium cadavera repertus eft, paululum
*Palamon and Arcite, Book I.
etiam fpirans; ferociamque animi, quam habuerat vivus, in vultu retinens." Nor must I omit that affecting image in Spenfer, who ever excels in the pathetic,
And him befides there lay upon the grass
When Palamon perceived his rival had escaped,
He ftares, he ftamps 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 lefs ftrongly impreffed on the reader, where he
The rage of Jealoufy then fir'd his foul,
Fairy Queen, Book I. Canto 9. Stanza 36.
Now cold despair fucceeding in her stead,
If we pafs on from defcriptions of perfons to those of things, we fhall find this poem equally excellent. The temple of Mars, is fituated with propriety, in a country defolate and joylefs; all around it,
The landscape was a foreft wide and bare;
The temple itself is nobly and magnificently ftudied; and, at the fame time, adapted to the furious nature of the God to whom it belonged; and carries with it a barbarous and tremendous idea.
* Thefe paffages are chiefly of the pathetic fort; for which Dryden in his tragedies is far from being remarkable. But it is not unusual for the fame person to fucceed in defcribing externally a distressful 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 burnish'd fteel that caft a glare
This scene of terror is judiciously contrafted by the pleasing and joyous imagery of the temples of Venus and Diana. The figure of the laft goddess, is a defign fit for GUIDO to execute.
The graceful Goddess was array'd in green;
That watch'd with UPWARD eyes the motions of
But above all, the whole defcription of the entering the lifts *, and of the enfuing
* The reader is defired all along to remember, that the firft delineation of all thefe images is in Chaucer, or Boccace, and it might be worth examining how much Dryden has added purely from his own ftock.