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“ Eclogues” and “ Georgics." His book may that at the revival of letters it was translated continue in existence as long as it is the clandes- into Latin by one of the Beroalds. tine refuge of school-boys.
Whatever subjects employed his pen, he was Since the English ear has been accustomed to still improving our measures, and embellishing the mellifluence of Pope's numbers, and the our language. diction of poetry has become more splendid, In this volume are interspersed some short new attempts have been made to translate Vir- original poems, which, with his prologues, epigil; and all his works have been attempted by logues, and songs, may be comprised in Conmen better qualified to contend with Dryden. greve's remark, that even those, if he had writI will not engage myself in an invidious com- , ten nothing else, would have entitled him to parison, by opposing one passage to another; a the praise of excellence in his kind. work of which there would be no end, and One composition must however be distine which might be often offensive without use. guished. The “ Ode for St. Cecilia's Day,"
It is not by comparing line with line that the perhaps the last effort of his poetry, has been merit of great works is to be estimated, but by always considered as exhibiting the highest their general effects and ultimate result. It is fight of fancy, and the exactest nicety of art. easy to note a weak line, and write one more This is allowed to stand without a rival. If vigorous in its place; to find a happiness of ex- indeed there is any excellence beyond it, in pression in the original, and transplant it by some other of Dryden's works that excellence force into the version: but what is given to the must be found. Compared with the “ Ode on parts may be subducted from the whole, and Killegrew,” it may be pronounced perhaps suthe reader may be weary, though the critic may perior on the whole, but without any single commend. Works of imagination excel by their part equal to the first stanza of the other. allurement and delight; by their power of at- It is said to have cost Dryden a fortnight's tracting and detaining the attention. That labour ; but it does not want its negligences; book is good in vain which the reader throws some of the lines are without correspondent away. He only is the master who keeps the rhymes ; a defect which I never detected but mind in pleasing captivity; whose pages are after an acquaintance of many years, and which perused with eagerness, and in hope of new the enthusiasm of the writer might hinder him pleasure are perused again; and whose conclu- from perceiving. sion is perceived with no eye of sorrow, such as His last stanza has less emotion than the the traveller casts upon departing day.
former; but it is not less elegant in the diction. By his proportion of this predomination I The conclusion is vitious; the music of “ Tiwill consent that Dryden should be tried; of motheus,” which raised a mortal to the skies, had this, which, in opposition to reason, makes only a metaphorical power; that of “ Cecilia,” Ariosto the darling and the pride of Italy; of which drew an angel down, had a real effect : this, which in defiance of criticism, continues the crown, therefore, could not reasonably be Shakspeare the sovereign of the drama,
divided. His last work was his “ Fables,” in which In a general survey of Dryden's labours, he he gave us the first example of a mode of writ- appears to have a mind very comprehensive by ing which the Italians call refaccimento, a re- nature, and much enriched with acquired know, novation of ancient writers, by modernizing ledge. His compositions are the effects of a vitheir language. Thus the old poem of “ Boi-gorous genius operating upon large materials. ardo” has been new-dressed by Domenichi and The power that predominated in his intellecBerni. The works of Chaucer, which upon tual operations was rather strong reason than this kind of rejuvenescence has been bestowed quick sensibility. Upon all occasions that were by Dryden, require little criticism. The tale of presented he studied rather than felt, and prothe Cock seems hardly worth revival; and the duced sentiments not such as nature enforces,
tory of “ Palamon and Arcite,"containing an but meditation supplies. With the simple and action unsuitable to the times in which it is elemental passions, as they spring separate in the placed, can hardly be suffered to pass without mind, he seems not much acquainted ; and selcensure of the hyperbolical commendation which dom describes them but as they are complicated Dryden has given it in the general Preface, and by the various relations of society, and confused in a poetical Dedication, a piece where his ori- in the tumults and agitations of life. ginal fondness of remote conceits seems to hav What he says of Love may contribute to the revived.
explanation of his character : Of the three pieces borrowed from Boccace,
Love various minds does variously inspire : “Sigismunda" may be defended by the celebrity
It stirs in gentle bosoms gentle fire, of the story. “ Theodore and Honoria,” though
Like that of incense on the altar laid; it contains not much moral, yet afforded oppor
But raging flames tempestuous souls invade . tunities of striking description. And “ Cy- A fire which every windy passion blows, mvo" was formerly a tale of such reputation, With pride it mounts, or with revenge it gl., tis.
Dryden's was not one of the gentle bosoms : | upon the brink of meaning, where light and Love, as it subsists in itself, with no tendency darkness begin to mingle; to approach the prebut to the person loved, and wishing only for cipice of absurdity, and hover over the abyss of rorresponding kindness; such Love as shuts out unideal vacancy. This inclination sometimes all other interest, the Love of the Golden Age, produced nonsense which he knew ; as, was too soft and subtle to put his faculties in motion. He hardly conceived it but in its tur- Move swiftly, Sun, and fly a lover's pace,
Leave weeks and months behind thee in thy race, bulent effervescence with some other desires ;
Amamel flies when it was inflamed by rivalry, or obstructed
To guard thee from the demons of the air; by difficulties; when it invigorated ambition,
My flaming sword above them to display, or exasperated revenge.
All keen, and ground upon the edge of day. He is, therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often pathetic; and had so little sensi- And sometimes it ssued in absurdities, of bility of the power of effusions purely natural, which perhaps he was not conscious : that he did not esteem them in others: simpli
Then we upon our orb's last verge shall go city gave him no pleasure; and for the first
And see the ocean leaning on the sky: part of his life he looked on Otway with con
From thence our rolling neighbours we shall know, tempt, though at last, indeed very late, he con- And on the lunar world securely pry. fessed that in his play there was Nature, which is the chief beauty.
These lines have no meaning; but may we We do not always know our own motives. not say, in imitation of Cowley on another I am not certain whether it was not rather the book, difficulty which he found in exhibiting the gen
'Tis so like sepse, 'twill serve the turn as well? uine operations of the heart, than a servile submission to an injudicious audience, that filled This endeavour after the grand and the new his plays with false magnificence. It was ne- produced many sentiments either great or bulky, cessary to fix attention; and the mind can be and many images either just or splendid : captivated only by recollection, or by curiosity; by reviving natural sentiments, or impressing I am as free as Nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began, new appearances of things; sentences were
When wild in woods the noble savage ran. readier at his call than images; he could more easily fill the ear with splendid novelty, than --'Tis but because the living death ne'er knew, awaken those ideas that slumber in the heart. They fear to prove it as a thing that's new:
The favourite exercise of his mind was ratio- | Let me th' experiment before you try, cination; and, that argument might not be too I'll show you first how easy'tis to die. soon at an end, he delighted to talk of liberty --There with a forest of their darts he strove, and necessity, destiny and contingence; these
And stood like Capaneus defying Jove, he discusses in the language of the school with With his broad sword the boldest beating down, so much profundity, that the terms which he While Fate grew pale lest he should win the town, uses are not always understood. It is indeed! And turn'd the iron leaves of his dark book learning, but learning out of place.
To make new dooms, or mend what it mistook. When once he had engaged himself in disputation thoughts flowed in on either side: he was - I beg no pity for this mouldering clay; now no longer at a loss; he had always objec- For if you give it burial, there it takes
Possession of your earth : tions and solutions at command; “ verbaque If burnt, and scatter'd in the air, the winds provisam rem”-gave him matter for his verse,
That strew my dust diffuse my royalty, and he finds without difficulty verse for his And spread me o'er your clime; for where one atom matter.
Of mine shall light, know there Sebastian reigos. In comedy, for which he professes himself not naturally qualified, the mirth which he excites Of these quotations the two first may be alwill perhaps not be found so much to arise from lowed to be great, the two latter only tumid. any original humour, or peculiarity of charac
Of such selection there is no end. I will ter nicely distinguished and diligently pursued, add only a few more passages : of which the as from incidents and circumstances, artifices first, though it may not perhaps be quite clear and surprises; from jests of action rather than in prose, is not too obscure for poetry, as the of sentiment. What he had of humorous or meaning that it has is noble:** passionate, he seems to have had not from nafure, but from other poets; if not always as a
* I cannot see why Johnson has thought there w plagiary, at least as an imitator.
any want of clearness in this passage even in prose Next to argument, his delight was in wild and Addison has given us almost the very same thought daring sallies of sentiment, in the irregular and in very good prose : “ If we look forward to Him eccentric violence of wit. He delighted to tread (the Deity) for help, we shall never be in danger of
No, thero is a necessity in fate,
Of this a broad extinguisher he makes Why still the brave bold man is fortunate;
And hoods the flames that to their quarry strove. He keeps his object ever full in sight; And that assurance holds him firm and right; When he describes the last day, and the decisive True, 'tis a narrow way that leads to bliss,
tribunal, he intermingles this image : But right before there is no precipice; Fear makes men look aside, and so their footing
When rattling bones together fiy, miss.
From the four quarters of the sky. Of the images which the two following cita
It was indeed never in his power to resist tions afford, the first is elegant, the second mag- the temptation of a jest. In his “ Elegy on
Cromwell :" nificent; whether either be just, let the reader judge :
No sooner was the Frenchman's cause embraced,
Than the light Monsieur the grave Don outweigh’d; What precious drops are these,
His fortune turo'd the scaleWhich silently each other's track pursue, Bright as young diamonds in their infant dew! He had a vanity, unworthy of his abilities,
to show, as may be suspected, the rank of the -Resign your castle
company with whom he lived, by the use of Enter, brave Sir: for, when you speak the word, French words, which had then crept into conThe gates shall open of their own accord;
versation : such as fraicheur for coolness, fougue The genius of the place its Lord shall meet,
for turbulence, and a few more, none of which And bow its towery forehead at your fect.
the language has incorporated or retained. They These bursts of extravagance Dryden calls the continue only where they stood first, perpetual Dalilahs of the Theatre; and owns that many warnings to future innovators. noisy lines of " Maximin and Almanzor” call out These are his faults of affectation; his faults. for vengeance upon him ; " but I knew,” says of negligence are beyond recital. Such is the he, “ that they were bad enough to please, even unevenness of his compositions, that ten lines when I wrote them." There is surely reason are seldom found together without soinething to suspect that he pleased himselt as well as his of which the reader is ashamed. Dryden was audience; and that these, like the barlots of no rigid judge of his own pages; he seldom other men, had his love, though not his appro- struggled after supreme excellence, but snatched bation.
in haste what was within his reach; and when He had sometimes faults of a less generous he could content others, was himself contented. and splendid kind. He makes, like almost all | He did not keep present to his mind an idea of other poets, very frequent use of mythology, pure perfection ; nor compare his works, such and sometimes connects religion and fable too as they were, with what they might be made. closely without distinction.
He knew to whom he should be opposed. He He descends to display his knowledge with had more music than Waller, more vigour than pedantic ostentation; as when, in translating Denham, and more nature than Cowley; and Virgil, he says, tack to the larboard—and veer from his contemporaries he was in no danger. starboard; and talks in another work, of virtue Standing therefore in the highest place, he had spooning before the wind.--His vanity now and no care to rise by contending with himself; but, then betrays his ignorance:
while there was no name above his own, was
willing to enjoy fame on the easiest terms. They Nature's king through Nature's optics view'd;
He was no lover of labour. What he thought Reversed, they view'd him lessen'd to their eyes.
sufficient, he did not stop to make better; and He had heard of reversing a telescope, and un
allowed himself to leave many parts unfiuished, luckily reverses the object.
in confidence that the good lines would overbal
ance the bad. What he had once written, he He is sometimes unexpectedly mean. When dismissed from his thoughts; and I believe he describes the Supreme Being as moved by there is no example to be found of any correcprayer to stop the fire of London, what is his tion or improvement made by him after publizxpression ?
cation. The hastiness of his productions might
be the effect of necessity; but his subsequent & hollow crystal pyramid he takes,
neglect could hardly have any other cause than In firmamental water dipp'd above,
impatience of study.
What can be said of his versification will be falling down those precipices which our imagination little more than a dilatation of the praise given is apt to create. Like those who walk upon a line, it by Pope: ü we keep our eye fixed upon one point we may step forward securely; whereas an imprudent or Waller was smooth : but Dryden taught to join cowardly glance on either side will infallibly destroy 'The varying verse, the full-resounding line, Us." Spec. No. 615.-J. B.
The long majestic march, and energy divine.
Some improvements had been already made in The triplet and Alexandrine are not univerEnglish numbers; but the full force of our lan- sally approved. Swift always censured them, guage was not yet felt; the verse that was and wrote some lines to ridicule them. In exsmooth was commonly feeble. If Cowley had amining their propriety, it is to be considered, sometimes a finished line, he had it by chance. that the essence of verse is regularity, and its Dryden knew how to choose the flowing and ornament is variety. To write verse, is to disthe sonorous words; to vary the pauses, and pose syllables and sounds harmonically by some adjust the accents; to diversify the cadence, and known and settled rule; a rule however lax yet preserve the smoothness of his metre. enough to substitute similitude for identity, to
Of triplets and Alexandrines, though he did admit change without breach of order, and to not introduce the use, he established it. The relieve the ear without disappointing it. Thus triplet has long subsisted among us. Dryden a Latin hexameter is formed from dactyls and seems not to have traced it higher than to Chap- spondees differently combined ; the English heman's Homer; but it is to be found in Phaer's roic admits of acute or grave syllables variously Virgil, written in the reign of Mary; and in disposed. The Latin never deviates into seven Hall's “ Satires,” published five years before feet, or exceeds the number of seventeen syllathe death of Elizabeth.
bles; but the English Alexandrine breaks the The Alexandrine was, I believe, first used by lawful bounds, and surprises the reader with Spenser, for the sake of closing his stanza with two syllables more than he expected. a fuller sound. We had a longer measure of The effect of the triplet is the same; the ear fourteen syllables, into which the “ Æneid” has been accustomed to expect a new rhyme in was translated by Phaer, and other works of every couplet; but is on a sudden surprised with the ancients by other writers; of which Chap- three rhymes together, to which the reader could man's “ Iliad” was, I believe, the last.
not accommodate his voice, did he not obtain The two first lines of Phaer's third “ Æneid” | notice of the change from the braces of the marwill exemplify this measure:
gins. Surely there is something unskilful in the
necessity of such mechanical direction. When Asia's state was overthrown and Priam's
Considering the metrical art simply as a kingdom stout, All guiltless, by the power of gods above was rooted science, and consequently excluding all casualty,
we must allow that triplets and Alexandrines,
inserted by caprice, are interruptions of that As these line
their break, or cæsura, al- constancy to which science aspires. And though ways at the eighth syllable, it was thought, in the variety which they produce may very justly time, commodious to divide them: and qua- be desired, yet to make poetry exact, there ought trains of lines alternately, consisting of eight to be some stated mode of admitting them. and six syllables, make the most soft and pleas
But till some such regulation can be formed, ing of our lyric measure: as,
I wish them still to be retained in their present Relentless Time, destroying power,
state. They are sometimes convenient to the Which stone and brass obey;
poet. Fenton was of opinion, that Dryden was Who giv'st to ev'ry flying hour
too liberal, and Pope too sparing in their use. To work some new decay.
The rhymes of Dryden are commonly just, In the Alexandrine, when its power was
and he valued himself for his readiness in findence felt, some poems, as Drayton's “ Polyal- i ing them; but he is sometimes open to objec
tion. bion,” were wholly written; and sometimes the measures of twelve and fourteen syllables
It is the common practise of our poets to end were interchanged with one another. Cowley
the second line with a weak or grave syllable: was the first that inserted the Alexandrine at
Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly, pleasure among the heroic lines of ten syllables, Fill’d with ideas of fair Italy. and from him Dryden professes to have adopted it. *
Dryden sometimes puts the weak rhyme in
the first: • This is an error. The Alexandrine inserted
Laugh all the powers that fivour tyranny, among heroic lines of ten syllables is found in many And all the standing army of the sky. of the writers of Queen Elizabeth's reign. It will be sufficient to mention Hall, who has already been Sometimes he concludes a period vr paragraph quoted for the use of the triplet:
with the first line of a couplet, which, though As though the staring world hanged on his sleeve
the French seem to do it without irregularity, Whene er he smiles to laugh, and when he sighs to grieve. always displeases in English poetry.
Hall'. Sat. Book i. Sat. 7.
The A lexandrine, though much bis favourite, Take another instance :
is not always very diligently fabricated by him. For shame! or better write or Labeo write none.
Ibid. B. ii. Sat. 1.-J. B. It invariably requires a break at the sixth sylJable; a rule which the modern French poets Guide the vast world, while thy great hand shall never violate, but which Dryden sometimes
bear neglected :
The fruits and seasons of the turning year,
And thy bright brows thy mother's myrtles wear; And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne.' Whether thou'lt all the boundless ocean sway,
And seamen only to thyself shall pray; Of Dryden's works it was said by Pope, that Thule, the fairest island kneel to thee, * he could select from them better specimens of And, that thou may'st her son by marriage bc, every mode of poetry than any other English Tethys will for the happy purchase yield writer could supply.” Perhaps no nation ever To make a dowry of her watery field: produced a writer that enriched his language Whether thou’lt add to heaven a brighter sigu, with such a variety of models. To him we owe
A id o'er the summer months serenely shine;
Where between Cancer and Erigone, the improvement, perhaps the completion, of
There yet remains a spacious room for thee; our metre, the refinement of our language, and much of the correctness of our sentiments. By And more to thee than half his arch resigus ;
Where the hot Scorpion too bis arm declines, him we were taught sapere et fari, to think na
Whate'er thou'lt be; for sure the realms below turally and express forcibly. Though Davies No just pretence to thy command can show: bas reasoned in rhyme before him, it may be No such ambition sways thy vast desires, perhaps maintained that he was the first who Though Greece her own Elysian fields admires. joined argument with poetry. He showed us
And now, at last, contented Proserpine, the true bounds of a translator's liberty. What
Can all her mother's earnest prayers decline.
Whate'er thou'lt be, O guide our gentle course ; was said of Kome, adorned by Augustus, may
And with thy siniles our bold attempts enforce; be applied by an easy metaphor to English poe- With me th’ unknowing rustics’ wants relieve, try embellished by Dryden, lateritiam invenit, And, though on earth, our sacred vows receive. marmoream reliquit. He found it brick, and he left it marble.
Mr. Dryden, having received from Rymer The invocation before the “ Georgics” is here his " Remarks on the Tragedies of the last inserted from Mr. Milbourne's version, that ac
Age,” wrote observations on the blank leaves : cording to his own proposal, his verses may be which, having been in the possession of Mr. compared with those which he censures.
Garrick, are by his favour communicated to
the public, that no particle of Dryden may be What makes the richest tilth, beneath what signs lost. To plough, and when to match your elms and vines;
“ That we may less wonder why pity and What care with flocks, and what with herds agrees, And all the management of frugal bees;
terror are not now the only springs on which I sing, Mæcenas! Ye immensely clear,
our tragedies move, and that Shakspeare may Vast orbs of light, which guide the rolling year!
be more excused, Rapin confesses that the Bacchus, and mother Ceres, if by you
French tragedies now all run on the tendre ; We fattning corn for hungry man pursue;
and gives the reason, because love is the passion If, taught by you, we first the cluster prest,
which most predominates in our souls, and And thin cold streams with sprightly juice refresht; that therefore the passions represented become Ye fawns, the present numens of the field,
insipid, unless they are conformable to the Wood-nymphs and fawns, your kind assistance yield; Your gifts I sing ; and thou, at whose fear'd stroke
thoughts of the audience. But it is to be conFrom rendiag earth the fiery courser broke,
cluded, that this passion works not now amongst Great Neptune, O assist my artful song!
the French so strongly as the other two did And thou to whom the woods and groves belong, amongst the ancients. Amongst us, who have Whose snowy heifers on her flow'ry plains
a stronger genius for writing, the operations In mighty herds the Cæan Isle maintains !
from the writing are much stronger; for the Pan, happy shepherd, if thy cares divine,
raising of Shakspeare's passions is more from E'er to improve thy Mänalus inclice,
the excellency of the words and thoughts, than Leave thy Lycæan wood and native grove And with thy lucky smiles our work approve;
the justness of the occasion; and, if he has been Be Pallas too, sweet oil's inventor, kind;
able to pick single occasions, he has never And he who first the crooked plough design'd,
founded the whole reasonably: yet, by the go Sylvanus, god of all the woods, appear,
nius of poetry in writing, he has succeeded. Whose hands a new-drawn tender cypress bear! “ Rapin attributes more to the dictio, that is, Ye gods and goddesses, who e'er with love
to the words and discourse of a tragedy, than Would guard our pastures, and our fields improve;
Aristotle has done, who places them in the last Ye, who new plants from unknown lands supply,
rank of beauties; perhaps, only last in order, And with condensing clouds obscure the sky,
because they are the last product of the design, And drop them softly thence in fruitful showers; Assist my enterprise, ye gentle powers !
of the disposition or connection of its parts; of And thou, great Cæsar! though we know not yet
the characters, of the manners of those characAmong what gods thou'lt fix thy lofty seat:
ters, and of the thoughts proceeding from those Whether thou'lt be the kind tutelar god
manners. Rapin's words are remarkable: ''Tis Of thy own Rome, or with thy awful nod
not the admirable intrigue, the surprisivg events,