Page images

unity; but is weak enough to ask, why since we see without knowing how, we may not have an infallible judge without knowing where'.

The Hind at one time is afraid to drink at the common brook, 287 because she may be worried'; but walking home with the Panther talks by the way of the Nicene Fathers 3, and at last declares herself to be the Catholic Church *.

This absurdity was very properly ridiculed in The City Mouse 288 and Country Mouse of Montague and Prior 5; and in the detection and censure of the incongruity of the fiction chiefly consists the value of their performance, which, whatever reputation it might obtain by the help of temporary passions, seems to readers almost a century distant not very forcible or animated.

Pope, whose judgement was perhaps a little bribed by the sub- 289 ject', used to mention this poem as the most correct specimen of Dryden's versification. It was indeed written when he had completely formed his manner, and may be supposed to exhibit, negligence excepted, his deliberate and ultimate scheme of


We may therefore reasonably infer that he did not approve 290 the perpetual uniformity which confines the sense to couplets3. since he has broken his lines in the initial paragraph:

A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang'd,
Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang'd;

For 'that wondrous wight, Infallibility,' as the Panther calls it, see Part ii. 1. 65.

2 Part i. 1. 528.

3 Part ii. 1. 156.

* Part ii. ll. 394-662.
5 Ante, DRYDEN, 127.

Is it not as easy to imagine two Mice bilking coachmen and supping at the Devil, as to suppose a Hind entertaining the Panther at a hermit's cell, discussing the greatest mysteries of religion?... What relation has the Hind to our Saviour? or what notion have we of a panther's Bible? If you say he means the Church, how does the Church feed on lawns and range in the forest? Let it be always a Church, or always the cloven-footed beast, for we cannot bear his shifting the scene every line.' Halifax's Works, pp. 33, 35.

[ocr errors]


Pope was a Roman Catholic. Dryden, in his Essay of Dramatic Poesy, says:-'Though most commonly the sense is to be confined to the couplet, yet nothing that does perpetuo tenore fluere, run in the same channel, can please always. 'Tis like the murmuring of a stream, which, not varying in the fall, causes at first attention, at last drowsiness.' Works, xv. 363. See ante, DENHAM, 37; DRYDEN, 217.

Enfin Malherbe vint, et le premier en

Fit sentir dans les vers une juste

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


Without unspotted, innocent within,

She fear'd no danger, for she knew no sin 1.

Yet had she oft been chac'd with horns and hounds
And Scythian shafs, and many winged wounds
Aim'd at her heart; was often forc'd to fly,

And doom'd to death, though fated not to die"."

These lines are lofty, elegant, and musical, notwithstanding the interruption of the pause, of which the effect is rather increase of pleasure by variety than offence by ruggedness. 292 To the first part it was his intention, he says, 'to give the majestick turn of heroick poesy3'; and perhaps he might have executed his design not unsuccessfully had not an opportunity of satire, which he cannot forbear, fallen sometimes in his way. The character of a Presbyterian, whose emblem is the Wolf, is not very heroically majestick:


'More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race
Appear with belly gaunt and famish'd face:
Never was so deform'd a beast of grace.

His ragged tail betwixt his legs he wears,

Close clapp'd for shame; but his rough crest he rears,
And pricks up his predestinating ears".'


His general character of the other sorts of beasts that never go to church, though spritely and keen, has however not much of heroick poesy.

'These are the chief; to number o'er the rest,
And stand like Adam naming every beast,
Were weary work; nor will the Muse describe
A slimy-born and sun-begotten tribe,

Who, far from steeples and their sacred sound,
In fields their sullen conventicles found.

These gross, half-animated lumps I leave;

Nor can I think what thoughts they can conceive.
But if they think at all, 'tis sure no higher
Than matter, put in motion, may aspire;

[blocks in formation]

Souls that can scarce ferment their mass of clay;
So drossy, so divisible are they,

lay i}

As would but serve pure bodies for allay:
Such souls as shards produce, such beetle things
As only buz to heaven with evening wings,
Strike in the dark, offending but by chance;
Such are the blindfold blows of ignorance.
They know not beings, and but hate a name;
To them the Hind and Panther are the same ''

One more instance, and that taken from the narrative part, 294 where style was more in his choice, will shew how steadily he kept his resolution of heroick dignity.

'For when the herd, suffic'd, did late repair
To ferny heaths, and to their forest lair,
She made a mannerly excuse to stay,
Proffering the Hind to wait her half the way:
That, since the sky was clear, an hour of talk
Might help her to beguile the tedious walk.
With much good-will the motion was embrac'd,
To chat awhile on their adventures past:
Nor had the grateful Hind so soon forgot
Her friend and fellow-sufferer in the Plot.
Yet wondering how of late she grew estrang'd,
Her forehead cloudy and her count'nance chang'd,
She thought this hour th' occasion would present
To learn her secret cause of discontent,

Which well she hop'd, might be with ease redress'd,
Considering her a well-bred civil beast,

And more a gentlewoman than the rest.
After some common talk what rumours ran,

The lady of the spotted muff began ".'

The second and third parts he professes to have reduced to 295 diction more familiar and more suitable to dispute and conversation; the difference is not, however, very easily perceived: the first has familiar, and the two others have sonorous, lines. The original incongruity runs through the whole: the king is now Cæsar, and now the Lyon; and the name Pan is given to the Supreme Being".

* Part i. 1. 308. 2 Part i. 1. 5543 'The Second Part, being matter of dispute, and chiefly concerning Church authority, I was obliged to make as plain and perspicuous as possibly I could. The Third,

which has more of the nature of

domestic conversation, is, or ought
to be, more free and familiar than
the two former.' Works, x. 117.

4 Part iii. 1. 60. 5 Part i. 1. 531.
• "This mean retreat did mighty Pan

Part ii. 1. 711. See ante, MILTON, 183,


But when this constitutional absurdity is forgiven the poem must be confessed to be written with great smoothness of metre, a wide extent of knowledge, and an abundant multiplicity of images; the controversy is embellished with pointed sentences, diversified by illustrations, and enlivened by sallies of invective. Some of the facts to which allusions are made are now become obscure, and perhaps there may be many satirical passages little understood.

297 As it was by its nature a work of defiance, a composition which would naturally be examined with the utmost acrimony of criticism, it was probably laboured with uncommon attention; and there are, indeed, few negligences in the subordinate parts. The original impropriety and the subsequent unpopularity of the subject, added to the ridiculousness of its first elements, has sunk it into neglect; but it may be usefully studied as an example of poetical ratiocination, in which the argument suffers little from the metre.

298 In the poem on The Birth of the Prince of Wales' nothing very remarkable but the exorbitant adulation, and that insensibility of the precipice on which the king was then standing, which the laureate apparently shared with the rest of the courtiers. A few months cured him of controversy, dismissed him from court, and made him again a play-wright and translator 3.


Of Juvenal there had been a translation by Stapylton, and another by Holiday; neither of them is very poetical. Stapylton is more smooth, and Holiday's is more esteemed for the learning of his notes. A new version was proposed to the poets of that time, and undertaken by them in conjunction". The main design

• Britannia Rediviva, Works, x.

See on his future subjects how he

Nor meanly flatters, nor with
craft beguiles;

But with an open face, as on his

Assures our birthrights, and as-
sumes his own.'

Brit. Redi., 1. 114. See also ante,
DRYDEN, 123.

3 Ante, DRYDEN, 136, 139, 140.
Sir Robert Stapylton's complete
Juvenal appeared in 1647, and Holy-

day's posthumously in 1673. 'In Holyday and Stapylton my ears are mortally offended." DRYDEN, Works, xiii. 121. 'The learned Holyday, who has made us amends for his bad poetry with his excellent illustrations,' &c. Ib. p. 247. See also ib, p. 119. For Stapylton see also ib. xvii. 325, and for Holyday, ante, DRYDEN, 107, 223.

Ante, STEPNEY, 4; DRYDEN, 140. In the title-page it is described as done by Mr. Dryden and several other Eminent Hands. Works, xiii. I.

was conducted by Dryden, whose reputation was such that no man was unwilling to serve the Muses under him.

The general character of this translation will be given when 300 it is said to preserve the wit, but to want the dignity of the original. The peculiarity of Juvenal is a mixture of gaiety and stateliness, of pointed sentences, and declamatory grandeur1. His points have not been neglected; but his grandeur none of the band seemed to consider as necessary to be imitated, except Creech, who undertook the thirteenth Satire. It is therefore perhaps possible to give a better representation of that great satirist, even in those parts which Dryden himself has translated, some passages excepted, which will never be excelled 3.

With Juvenal was published Persius, translated wholly by 301 Dryden. This work, though like all the other productions of Dryden it may have shining parts, seems to have been written merely for wages, in an uniform mediocrity, without any eager endeavour after excellence or laborious effort of the mind.

There wanders an opinion among the readers of poetry that 302 one of these satires is an exercise of the school. Dryden says that he once translated it at school; but not that he preserved or published the juvenile performance 3.

Not long afterwards he undertook perhaps the most arduous 803 work of its kind, a translation of Virgil, for which he had shewn how well he was qualified by his version of the Pollio, and two episodes, one of Nisus and Euryalus, the other of Mezentius and Lausus 7.

In the comparison of Homer and Virgil the discriminative 304 excellence of Homer is elevation and comprehension of thought,

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »