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As an approach to the historical truth was necessary, the action and catastrophe were not in the Poet's power; there is therefore an unpleasing disproportion between the beginning and the end. We are alarmned by a faction formed of many sects, various in their principles, but agreeing in their purpose of mischief; formidable for their numbers, and strong by their supports; while the King's friends are few and weak. The chief's on either part are set forth to view; but, when expectation is at the height, the King makes a speech, and
Henceforth a series of new times began. Who can forbear to think of an enchanted castle, with a wide moat and lofty battlements, walls of marble and gates of brass, which vanishes at once into air, when the destined knight blows his horn before it?
worse, it has neither tenderness nor dignity; He it is neither magnificent nor pathetic. seems to look round him for images which he cannot find, and what he has he distorts by en"He is," he says, deavouring to enlarge them. "petrified with grief;" but the marble sometimes relents, and trickles in a joke:
The sons of art all med'cines tried, And every noble remedy applied: With emulation each essay'd
His utmost skill: nay, more, they pray'd: Was never losing game with better conduct play'd.
He had been a little inclined to merriment before, upon the prayers of a nation for their dying sovereign: nor was he serious enough to keep heathen fables out of his religion : With him the innumerable crowd of armed prayers Knock'd at the gates of heaven, and knock'd aloud
The first well-meaning rude petitioners
In the second part, written by Tate, there is a long insertion, which, for its poignancy of satire, exceeds any part of the former. Personal resentment, though no laudable motive to satire, All would have bribed the skies by offering up their can add great force to general principles. love is a busy prompter.
"The Medal," written upon the same principles with "Absalom and Achitophel," but upon a narrower plan, gives less pleasure, though it discovers equal abilities in the writer. The superstructure cannot extend beyond the foundation; a single character or incident cannot furnish as many ideas as a series of events, or multiplicity of agents. This poem, therefore, since time has left it to itself, is not much read, nor perhaps generally understood; yet it
abounds with touches both of humorous and se
So great a throng not Heaven itself could bar
There is throughout the composition a desire of splendour without wealth. In the corclusion he seems too much pleased with the prospect of the new reign to have lamented his old
master with much sincerity.
He did not miscarry in this attempt for want of skill either in lyric or elegiac poetry. His poem on the death of Mrs. Killegrew is unrious satire. The picture of a man whose pro-doubtedly the noblest ode that our language pensions to mischief are such that his best actions are but inability of wickedness, is very skilfully delineated and strongly coloured:
Power was his aim; but, thrown from that pretence,
The wretch turn'd loyal in his own defence,
His counsels oft convenient, seldom just;
The "Threrodia," which, by a term I am afraid neither authorized nor analogical, he calls "Augustalis," is not among his happiest produetions. Its first and obvious defect is the irregularity of its metre, to which the ears of that agt, however, were accustomed. What is
ever has produced. The first part flows with a torrent of enthusiasm. Fervet immensusque ruit. All the stanzas indeed are not equal. An imperial crown cannot be one continued diamond: the gems must be held together by some less valuable matter.
In his first" Ode for Cecilia's Day," which is lost in the splendour of the second, there are passages which would have dignified any other poet. The first stanza is vigorous and elegant, though the word diapason is too technical, and the rhymes are too remote from one another.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
When Nature underneath a heap of jarring atoms.
And could not heave her head,
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
Arise, ye more than dead.
Then cold and hot, and moist and dry,
And music's power obey.
From harmony, from heavenly ha mony,
Though all these rare endowments of the mind
This piece, however, is not without its faults; there is so much likeness in the initial comparison, that there is no illustration. As a king would be lamented, Eleonora was lamented:
As, when some great and gracious monarch dies,
lady whom he celebrates: the praise being therefore inevitably general, fixes no impression upon the reader, nor excites any tendency to love, nor much desire of imitation. Knowledge of the subject is to the poet what durable materials are to the architect.
The "Religio Laici," which borrows its title from the "Religio Medici" of Browne, is almost the only work of Dryden which can be considered as a voluntary effusion; in this, therefore, it might be hoped, that the full effulgence of his genius would be found. But unhappily the subject is rather argumentative than poetical; he intended only a specimen of metrical disputation :
And this unpolish'd rugged verse I chose,
lence in its kind, in which the familiar is very This, however, is a composition of great excelproperly diversified with the solemn, and the grave with the humorous; in which metre has neither weakened the force, nor clouded the perspicuity of argument; nor will it be easy to find another example equally happy of this middle kind of writing, which, though prosaic in some parts, rises to high poetry in others, and neither towers to the skies, nor creeps along the ground.
Of the same kind, or not far distant from it, is "The Hind and Panther," the longest of all Dryden's original poems; an allegory intended to comprise and to decide the controversy been the Romanists and Protestants. The scheme of the work is injudicious and incommodious; for what can be more absurd than that one beast should counsel another to rest her faith upon a pope and council? He seems well enough skilled in the usual topics of argument, endeavours to show the necessity of an infallible judge, and reproaches the reformers with want since we see without knowing how, we may of unity but is weak enough to ask, why, not have an infallible judge without knowing where?
The Hind at one time is afraid to drink at the common brook, because she may be worried; but walking home with the Panther, talks by the way of the Nicene fathers, and at last declares herself to be of the catholic church.
This absurdity was very properly ridiculed in the "City Mouse" and "Country Mouse" of Montague and Prior; 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.
This is little better than to say in praise of a shrub, that it is as green as a tree; or of a brook, that it waters a garden, as a river waters Pope, whose judgment was perhaps a little a country. bribed by the subject, used to mention this Dryden confesses that he did not know the 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 metre.
We may therefore reasonably infer, that he did not approve the perpetual uniformity which confines the sense to couplets, since he has broken his lines in the initial paragraph.
A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchanged
She feared no danger, for she knew no sin.
Yet had she oft been chased with horns and hounds,
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.
To the first part it was his intention, he says, "to give the majestic turn of heroic poesy:" 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 majestic:
More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race
And pricks up his predestinating ears.
His general character of the other sorts of beasts that never go to church, though sprightly and keen, has, however, not much of heroic poesy:
These are the chief; to number o'er the rest,
For when the herd, sufficed, did late repair
Which well she hoped might be with ease redress'd,
Considering her a well-bred civil beast,
The second and third parts he professes to have reduced to 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 Lion; and the name Pan is given to the Supreme Being.
But when this constitutional absurdity is forgiven, the poem must be confessed to be written with 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.
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
In the poem "On the Birth of the Prince of
Souls that can scarce ferment their mass of clay,Wales," nothing is very remarkable but the ex
So drossy, so divisible are they,
As would but serve pure bodies for allay;
One more instance, and that taken from the narrative part, where style was more in his choice, will show how steadily he kept his resolution of heroic dignity.
orbitant 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.
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 prasad
to the poets of that time, and undertaken by them in conjunction. The main design 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 it is said to preserve the wit, but to want the dignity of the original. The peculiarity of Juvenal is a mixture of gayety and stateliness, of pointed sentences, and declamatory grandeur. 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.
With Juvenal was published Persius, translated wholly by Dryden. This work, though, like all other productions of Dryden, it may have shining parts, seems to have been written merely for wages, in a uniform mediocrity, without any eager endeavour after excellence, or laborious effort of the mind.
There wanders an opinion among the readers of poetry, that 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.
Not long afterwards he undertook perhaps the most arduous work of its kind, a translation of Virgil, for which he had shown 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.
In the comparison of Homer and Virgil, the discriminative excellence of Homer is elevation and comprehension of thought, and that of Virgil is grace and splendour of diction. The beauties of Homer are therefore difficult to be lost, and those of Virgil difficult to be retained. The massy trunk of sentiment is safe by its solidity, but the blossoms of elocution easily drop away. The author, having the choice of his own images, selects those which he can best adorn ; the translator must, at all hazards, follow his original, and express thoughts which perhaps he would not have chosen. When to this primary difficulty is added the inconvenience of a language so much inferior in harmony to the Latin, it cannot be expected that they who read the "Georgics" and the "Eneid" should be much delighted with any version.
All these obstacles Dryden saw, and all these he determined to encounter. The expectation of his work was undoubtedly great; the nation
considered its honour as interested in the event. One gave him the different editions of his author, another helped him in the subordinate
The arguments of the several books were given him by Addison.
The hopes of the public were not disappointed. He produced, says Pope, "the most noble and spirited translation that I know in any language.' It certainly excelled whatever had appeared in English, and appears to have satisfied his friends, and for the most part to have silenced his enemies. Milbourne, indeed, a clergyman, attacked it; but his outrages seem to be the ebullitions of a mind agitated by a stronger reser tment than bad poetry can excite, and previously resolved not to be pleased.
His criticism extends only to the Preface, Pastorals, and Georgics; and, as he professes to give his antagonist an opportunity of reprisal, he has added his own version of the first and fourth Pastorals, and the first Georgic. world has forgotten his book; but since his attempt has given him a place in literary history, I will preserve a specimen of his criticism, by inserting his remarks on the invocation before the first Georgic; and of his poetry, by annexing his own version.
"What makes a plenteous harvest, when to turn The fruitful soil, and when to sow the corn.
It's unlucky, they say, to stumble at the threshold; but what has a plenteous harvest to do here? Virgil would not pretend to prescribe rules for that which depends not on the husbandman's care, but the disposition of Heaven altogether. Indeed, the plenteous crop depends somewhat on the good method of tillage; and where the land's ill-manured, the corn, without a miracle, can be but indifferent: but the harvest may be good, which is its properest epithet, though the husbandman's skill were never so indifferent. The next sentence is too literal, and when to plough had been Virgil's meaning, and intelligible to every body; and when to sow the corn is a needless addition."
"The care of sheep, of oxen, and of kine, And when to geld the lambs, and shear the swine, would as well have fallen under the cura boum qui cultus habendo sit pecori, as Mr. D.'s deduction of particulars.”
"The birth and genius of the frugal bee
But where did experientia ever signify birth and genius? or what ground was there for such a figure in this place? How much more manly is Mr. Ogylby's version!"
"What makes rich grounds, in what celestial signs 'Tis good to plough, and marry elms with vines ;
"The patron of the world, and Rome's peculiar sonably imagined, that many who favoured his guard.
Idle, and none of Virgil's, no more than the sense of the precedent couplet; so again, he interpolates Virgil with that and the round circle of the year to guide powerful of blessings, which thou strew'st around; a ridiculous Latinism, and an impertinent addition; indeed the whole period is but one piece of absurdity and nonsense, as those who lay it with the original must find.”
Ver. 42, 43.
"And Neptune shall resign the fasces of the sea.
Was he consul or dictator there?
And watery virgins for thy bed shall strive. Both absurd interpolations."
design were ashamed of his insolence.
When admiration had subsided, the translation was more coolly examined, and found, like all others, to be sometimes erroneous, and sometimes licentious. Those who could find faults, thought they could avoid them; and Dr. Brady attempted in blank verse a translation of the "Eneid," which, when dragged into the world, did not live long enough to cry. I have never seen it; but that such a version there is, cr has been, perhaps some old catalogue informed
With not much better success, Trapp, when his Tragedy and his Prelections had given him reputation, attempted another blank version of the "Eneid ;" to which, notwithstanding the slight regard with which it was treated, he had afterwards perseverance enough to add the