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'Tis true, it looks at distance fair;
But if we do approach,
And perish at a touch ;
And so desire is done;
The channels where they run;
But ne'er true bliss possess ;
But one may make it less ;
More weak and swift than fame!
And its attendant shame.
most popular piece. It often echoes the imagery of Shakspeare, but has some fine lines, descriptive of the elvish queen
She on a dewy leaf doth bathe,
Made of the pure light from the sun. Mirth and Melancholy is another of these fanciful personifications. The former woos the poetess to dwell with her, promising sport and pleasure, and drawing a gloomy but forcible and poetical sketch of her rival, Melancholy :
Her voice is low, and gives a hollow sound;
She loves to live, and there alone she dwells.
I dwell in groves that gilt are with the sun ;
[A Country Life.] How sacred and how innocent
A country-life appears,
From flattery or fears!
When man enjoy'd himself,
And happiness for pelf. 'Twas here the poets were inspir'd,
Here taught the multitude;
And civilis'd the rude.
No passion but of love:
Did ne'er their fancies move.
A cottage will suffice:
Of earth, but to despise.
From hence our peace doth flow; I have a better fate than kings,
Because I think it so.
How unconcern'd am I!
Who never could be high.
I think not on the state,
From his ambition's height.
A heart that's nobly true,
That do the world subdue !
MRS KATHERINE PHILIPS (1631-1664) was honoured with the praise of Cowley and Dryden, and Jeremy Taylor addressed to her a Discourse on Friendship.' Her poetical name of Orinda was highly popular with her contemporaries ; but her effusions are said to have been published without her consent. This amiable lady was the wife of James Philips of the Priory, Cardigan. She died of small-pox, a distemper then prevalent and fatal.
[Against Pleasure—an Ode.]
'Tis all a perfect cheat,
Whose charm is but deceit;
JOHN DRYDEN. John DRYDEN, one of the great masters of English verse, and whose masculine satire has never been excelled, was born at Oldwinckle, in Northamptonshire, in August 1631. His father, Erasmus Driden (the poet first spelled the name with a y), was a strict Puritan, of an ancient family, long established in Northamptonshire. John was one of fourteen
children, but he was the eldest son, and received a lished a long poem, Annus Mirabilis, being an account good education, first at Westminster, and afterwards of the events of the year 1666. The style and versiat Trinity college, Cambridge. Dryden's first poetical fication seem to have been copied from Davenant ;
but Dryden's piece fully sustained his reputation. About the same time he wrote an Essay on Dramatic Poesy, in which he vindicates the use of rhyme in tragedy. The style of his prose was easy, natural, and graceful. The poet now undertook to write for the king's players no less than three plays a year, for which he was to receive one share and a quarter in the profits of the theatre, said to be about £300 per annum. He was afterwards made poet-laureate and royal historiographer, with a salary of £200. These were golden days; but they did not last. Dryden, however, went on manufacturing his rhyming plays, in accordance with the vitiated French taste which then prevailed. He got involved in controversies and quarrels, chiefly at the instigation of Rochester, who set up a wretched rhymster, Elkanah Settle, in opposition to Dryden. The great poet was also successfully ridiculed by Buckingham in his
Rehearsal.' In 1681, Dryden published the satire of Absalom and Achitophel, written in the style of a scriptural narrative, the names and situations of personages in the holy text being applied to those contemporaries, to whom the author assigned places in his poem. The Duke of Monmouth was Absalom, and the Earl of Shaftesbury Achitophel ; while the Duke of Buckingham was drawn under the character of Zimri. The success of this bold political satirethe most vigorous and elastic, the most finely versified, varied, and beautiful, which the English language can boast–was almost unprecedented. Dryden
was now placed above all his poetical contemporaries. prodr.ction was a set of "heroic stanzas' on the death Shortly afterwards, he continued the feeling against of Cromwell, which possess a certain
ripeness of style Shaftesbury in a poem called The Medal, a Satire and versification that promised future excellence. In against Sedition. The attacks of a rival poet, Shadall Waller's poem on the same subject, there is no- well, drew another vigorous satire from Dryden, thing equal to such verses as the following : Mac-Flecknoe. A second part of Absalom and His grandeur he deriv'd from heaven alone,
Achitophel was published in 1684, but the body of For he was great ere Fortune made him so;
the poem was written by Nahum Tate. Dryden conAnd wars, like mists that rise against the sun,
tributed about two hundred lines, containing highlyMade him but greater seem, not greater grow.
wrought characters of Settle and Shadwell, under
the names of Doeg and Og. His antagonists,' says Nor was he like those stars which only shine
Scott, 'came on with infinite zeal and fury, disWhen to pale mariners they storms portend;
charged their ill-aimed blows on every side, and exHe had his calmer influence, and his mien
hausted their strength in violent and ineffectual Did love and majesty together blend.
rage ; but the keen and trenchant blade of Dryden When monarchy was restored, Dryden went over never makes a thrust in vain, and never strikes but with the tuneful throng who welcomed in Charles II. at a vulnerable point.' In the same year was pubHe had done with the Puritans, and he wrote poetical lished Dryden's Religio Laici, a poem written to deaddresses to the king and the lord chancellor. The fend the church of England against the dissenters, amusements of the drama revived after the Restora- yet evincing a sceptical spirit with regard to revealed tion, and Dryden became a candidate for theatrical religion. The opening of this poem is singularly laurels. In 1662, and two following years, he pro- solemn and majesticduced The Wild Gallant, The Rival Ladies, and Dim as the borrow'd beams of moon and stars The Indian Emperor ; the last was very successful. To lonely, weary, wandering travellers, Dryden's name was now conspicuous; and in 1665 Is Reason to the soul; and as on high he married the Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter Those rolling fires discover but the sky, of the Earl of Berkshire. The match added Not light us here; so Reason's glimmering ray neither to his wealth nor his happiness, and the Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way, poet afterwards revenged himself by constantly But guide us upward to a better day. inveighing against matrimony. When his wife And as those nightly tapers disappear, wished to be a book, that she might enjoy more When day's bright Iord ascends our hemisphere; of his company, Dryden is said to have replied, So pale grows Reason at Religion's sight; * Be an almanac then, my dear, that I may change So dies, and so dissolves, in supernatural light. you once a-year.'. In his play of the Spanish Friar, Dryden's doubts about religion were soon dispelled he most unpolitely states, that “woman was made by his embracing the Roman Catholic faith. Satisfrom the dross and refuse of a man;' upon which fied or overpowered by the prospect of an infallible his antagonist, Jeremy Collier, remarks, with some guide, he closed in with the court of James II., and humour and smartness, 'I did not know before that
gladly exclaimeda man's dross lay in his ribs; I believe it sometimes lies higher.' AU Dryden's plays are marked with Good life be now my task-my doubts are done. licentiousness, that vice of the age, which he fostered, His change of religion happening at a time when it rather than attempted to check. In 1667 he pub-1 suited his interests to become a Catholic, was looked upon with suspicion. The candour evinced by Dr Virgil excels in tenderness and in a calm and serene Johnson on this subject, and the patient inquiry of dignity. This laborious undertaking brought the Sir Walter Scott, have settled the point. We may poet a sum of about £1200. His publisher, Tonson, lament the fall of the great poet, but his conduct is endeavoured in vain to get the poet to inscribe the not fairly open to the charge of sordid and unprin- translation to King William, and, failing in this, he cipled selfishness. He brought up his family and died in his new belief. The first public fruits of Dryden's change of creed were his allegorical poem of the Hind and Panther, in which the main argument of the Roman church, all that has or can be said for tradition and authority, is fully stated. “The wit in the Hind and Panther,' says Hallam, "is sharp, ready, and pleasant; the reasoning is sometimes admirably close and strong; it is the energy of Bossuet in verse. The Hind is the church of Rome, the Panther the church of England, while the Independents, Quakers, Anabaptists, and other sects, are represented as bears, hares, boars, &c. The Calvinists are strongly but coarsely caricaturedMore haughty than the rest, the wolfish race Appear, with belly gaunt and famish'd faceNever 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. The obloquy and censure which Dryden's change of religion entailed upon him, is glanced at in the “Hind and Panther,' with more depth of feeling than he usually evincedIf joys hereafter must be purchas'd here With loss of all that mortals hold so dear, Then welcome infamy and public shame, And last, a long farewell to worldly fame! 'Tis said with ease, but, oh, how hardly tried
Burleigh House, By haughty souls to human honour tied !
where part of the translation of Virgil was executed. O sharp convulsive pangs of agonizing pride!
took care to make the engraver . aggravate the nose, Down, then, thou rebel, never more to rise,
of Æneas in the plates, into a sufficient resemblance And what thou did'st, and dost so dearly prize, of the hooked promontory of the Deliverer's counteThat fame, that darling fame, make that thy sacrifice ! nance. The immortal Ode to St Cecilia, commonly 'Tis nothing thou hast given; then add thy tears called Alexander's Feast, was Dryden's next work ; For a long race of unrepenting years :
and it is the loftiest and most imaginative of all his 'Tis nothing yet, yet all thou hast to give;
compositions. No one has ever qualified his ad. Then add those may-be years thou hast to live: miration of this noble poem.' In 1699 Dryden pubYet nothing still; then poor and naked come; lished his Fables, 7500 verses, more or less, as the Thy Father will receive his unthrift home,
contract with Tonson bears, being a partial delivery And thy blest Saviour's blood discharge the mighty sum. to account of 10,000 verses, which he agreed to furHe had previously, in the same poem, alluded to the nish for the sum of 250 guineas, to be made up to
weight of ancient witness,' or tradition, which had £300 upon publication of a second edition. The poet prevailed over private reason; and his feelings were was now in his sixty-eighth year, but his fancy was strongly excited
brighter and more prolific than ever; it was like a
brilliant sunset, or a river that expands in breadth, But, gracious God ! how well dost thou provide
and fertilises a wider tract of country, ere it is finally For erring judgments an unerring guide !
engulfed in the ocean. The Fables' are imitations Thy throne is darkness in th' abyss of light,
of Boccaccio and Chaucer, and afford the finest spe. A blaze of glory that forbids the sight. O teach me to believe thee thus conceal’d,
cimens of Dryden's happy versification. No narraAnd search no farther than thyself reveal'd;
tive-poems in the language have been more generally But her alone for my director take,
admired or read. They shed a glory on the last Whom thou hast promised never to forsake!
days of the poet, who died on the 1st of May 1700.
A subscription was made for a public funeral; and My thoughtless youth was wing'd with vain desires, My manhood, long misled by wandering fires,
his remains, after being embalmed, and lying in state Follow'd false lights, and when their glimpse
was gone, minster Abbey.
twelve days, were interred with great pomp in WestMy pride struck out new sparkles of her own. Such was I; such by nature still I am ;
Dryden has been very fortunate in his critics, anBe thine the glory, and be mine the shame!
notators, and biographers. His life by Johnson is
the most carefully written, the most eloquent and The Revolution in 1688 deprived Dryden of his discriminating of all the 'Lives of the Poets.' Malone office of laureate. But the want of independent collected and edited his essays and other prose writincome seems only to have stimulated his faculties, ings; and Sir Walter Scott wrote a copious life of the and his latter unendowed years produced the noblest poet, and edited a complete edition of his works, the of his works. Besides several plays, he now gave to whole extending to eighteen volumes. the world versions of Juvenal and Persius, and-a It has become the fashion to print the works of still weightier task--a translation of Virgil. The some of our poets in the order in which they were latter is considered the least happy of all his great written, not as arranged and published by themselves. works. Dryden was deficient in sensibility, while I Cowper and Burns have been presented in this shape,
and the consequence is, that light ephemeral trifles, He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit, or personal sallies, are thrust in between the more Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit. durable memorials of genius, disturbing their sym- Great wits are sure to madness near allied, metry and effect. In the case of Dryden, however, And thin partitions do their bounds divide;* such a chronological survey would be instructive; Else why should he, with wealth and honour blest, for, between the * Annus Mirabilis' and the Ode to Refuse his age the needful hours of rest? St Cecilia' or the ‘Fables,' through the plays and Punish a body which he could not please ; poems, how varied is the range in style and taste ! Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease ? It is like the progress of Spenser's 'Good Knight,' And all to leave what with his toil he won, through labyrinths of uncertainty, fantastic conceits, To that unfeather'd two-legg'd thing, a son ; flowery vice, and unnatural splendour, to the sober Got, while his soul did huddled notions try, daylight of truth, virtue, and reason. Dryden never
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy. attained to finished excellence in composition. His In friendship false, implacable in hate; genius was debased by the false taste of the age, and Resolv’d to ruin or to rule the state: his mind vitiated by its bad morals. He mangled To compass this, the triple bond he broke, the natural delicacy and simplicity of Shakspeare's The pillars of the public safety shook, • Tempest ;' and where even Chaucer is pure, Dryden And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke : is impure. This great high-priest of all the nine,' Then, seized with fear, yet still affecting fame, remarks Mr Campbell, ‘was not a confessor to the Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name. finer secrets of the human breast. Had the subject So easy still it proves, in factious times, of “ Eloisa” fallen into his hands, he would have left With public zeal to cancel private crimes ; but a coarse draught of her passion.' But if Dryden How safe is treason, and how sacred ill was deficient in the higher emotions of love and ten
Where none can sin against the people's will! derness, their absence is partly atoned for in his late Where crowds can wink, and no offence be known, works, by wide surveys of nature and mankind, by Since in another's guilt they find their own! elevated reasoning and declamation, and by the Yet fame deserv'd no enemy can grudge ; hearty individuality of his satire. The brave negli- The statesman we abhor, but praise the judge. gence of his versification, and his 'long resounding In Israel's courts ne'er sat an Abethdin line,' have an indescribable charm. His style is like With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean, his own Panther, of the spotted kind,' and its faults Unbrib'd, unsought, the wretched to redress, and virtues lie equally mixed; but it is beloved in Swift of despatch, and easy of access. spite of spots and blemishes, and pleases longer than oh! had he been content to serve the crown the verse of Pope, which, like the milk-white hind, Or had the rankness of the soil been freed
With virtues only proper for the gown; is immortal and unchanged.' The satirical portraits From cockle, that oppress’d the noble seed; of Pope, excepting those of Addison and Lord Her- David for him his tuneful harp had strung, vey, are feeble compared with those of Dryden, whom And heaven had wanted one immortal song, he acknowledged to be his master and instructor in But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand ; versification. The bard of Twickenham is too subtile, And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land. polished, and refined. Dryden drew from the life, and hit off strong likenesses. Pope, like Sir Joshua Achitophel, grown weary to possess Reynolds, refined in his colours, and many of his Disdain'd the golden fruit to gather free,
A lawful fame, and lazy happiness, pictures are faint and vanishing delineations. Dry; And lent the crowd his arm to shake the tree. den, with his tried and homely materials, and bold pencil, was true to nature; his sketches are still fresh as a genuine Vandyke or Rembrandt. His lan
[Character of Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.] guage, like his thoughts, was truly English. He
[From the same.) was sometimes Gallicised by the prevailing taste of the day; but he felt that this was a license to be Some of their chiefs were princes of the land : sparingly used. •If too many foreign words are A man so various that he seem'd to be,
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand ; poured in upon us,' said he, “it looks as if they were Not one, but all mankind's epitome : designed not to assist the natives, but to conquer Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong, them. His lines, like the Sibyl's prophecies, must Was ev'rything by starts, and nothing long; be read in the order in which they lie. In better But, in the course of one revolving moon, times, and with more careful culture, Dryden's Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon ; genius would have avoided the vulgar descents which Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking, he seldom escaped, except in his most finished pas- Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking. sages and his choicest lyrical odes. As it is, his Blest madman! who could ev'ry hour employ muse was a fallen angel, cast down for manifold sins with something new to wish, or to enjoy. and impurities, yet radiant with light from heaven. Railing and praising were his usual themes ; The natural freedom and magnificence of his verse And both, to show his judgment, in extremes ; it would be vain to eulogise.
So over-violent, or over-civil,
That ev'ry man with him was God or devil. (Character of Shaftesbury.]
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
Nothing went unrewarded but desert :
* The proposition of Dryden, that great wit is allied to madFor close designs and crooked counsels fit;
ness, will not bear the test of scrutiny. It has been successfully Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit ;
combated by Hazlitt and Charles Lamb. • The greatest wits,'
says Lamb, will ever be found to be the sanest writers. It is Restless, unfix'd in principles and place;
impossible for the mind to conceive of a mad Shakspeare. The In power unpleas’d, impatient of disgrace:
greatness of wit, by which the poetic talent is here chietly to be A fiery soul, which, working out its way,
understood, manifests itself in the admirable balance of all the Fretted the pigmy body to decay,
faculties. Madness is the disproportionate straining or excess And o'er-inform’d the tenement of clay.
of any one of them.' Shaftesbury's restlessness was owing to his A daring pilot in extremity;
arnbition and his vanity; to a want of judgment and principle, Pleas’d with the danger when the waves went high,
not an excess of wit.
Beggar'd hy fools, whom still he found too late, And pond'ring which of all his sons was fit
To reign, and wage immortal war with Wit,
Should only rule who most resembles me. Fir, spite of him, the weight of business fell
Shadwell," alone, my perfect image bears, On Absalom and wise Achitophel :
Mature dulness from his tender years: Thus, wicked but in will, of means bereft,
Shadwell, alone, of all my sons, was he, He left not faction, but of that was left.
Who stands confirm'd in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence ; [Shaftesbury's Address to Monmouth.]
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Some beams of wit on other souls inay fall, [From the same.]
Strike through, and make a lucid interval; Auspicious prince, at whose nativity
But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray; Some royal planet rul'd the southern sky,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day. Thy longing country's darling and desire,
Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye, Their cloudy pillar and their guardian fire ;
And seems design’d for thoughtless majesty : Their second Moses, whose extended wand
Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the plain, Divides the seas, and shows the promis'd land; And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign. Whose dawning day in every distant age
Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee,
Thou last great prophet of Tautology!
And, coarsely clad in Norwich drugget, came
To teach the nations in thy greater name. Swift unbespoken pomps thy steps proclaim,
My warbling lute, the lute I whilom strung, And stammering babes are taught to lisp thy name :
When to King John of Portugal I sung, How long wilt thou the general joy detain,
Was but the prelude to that glorious day, Starve and defraud the people of thy reign;
When thou on silver Thames didst cut thy way, Content ingloriously to pass thy days,
With well-tim’d oars, before the royal barge, Like one of Virtue's fools, that feed on praise ; Swell’d with the pride of thy celestial charge; Till thy fresh glories, which now shine so bright, And, big with hymn, commander of a host, Grow stale, and tarnish with our daily sight;
The like was ne'er in Epsom-blankets toss’d. Believe me, royal youth, thy fruit must be
Methinks I see the new Arion sail, Or gather'd ripe, or rot upon the tree :
The lute still trembling underneath thy nail. Heaven has to all allotted, soon or late,
At thy well-sharpen'd thumb, from shore to shore, Some lucky revolution of their fate;
The trebles squeak for fear, the bases roar: Whose motions, if we watch and guide with skill About thy boat the little fishes throng, (For human good depends on human will),
As at the morning toast that floats along. Our fortune rolls as from a smooth descent,
Sometimes, as prince of thy harmonious band, And from the first impression takes the bent; Thou wield'st thy papers in thy thrashing hand. But if unseiz’d, she glides away like wind,
St Andre's feet2 ne'er kept more equal time; And leaves repenting folly far behind.
Not e'en the feet of thine own Psyche's rhyme :3 Now, now she meets you with a glorious prize, Though they in number as in sense excel ; And spreads her locks before you as she flies ! So just, so like Tautology they fell, Had thus old David, from whose loins you spring, That, pale with envy, Singleton4 forswore Not dared, when fortune call'd him to be king, The lute and sword, which he in triumph bore, At Gath an exile he might still remain,
And vow'd he ne'er would act Villerius more. And heaven's anointing oil had been in vain.
Here stopp'd the good old sire, and wept for joy, Let his successful youth your hopes engage,
In silent raptures of the hopeful boy. But shun th' example of declining age;
All arguments, but most his plays, persuade, Behold him setting in his western skies,
That for anointed dulness he was made. The shadows lengthening as the vapours rise.
Close to the walls which fair Augusta bind He is not now as when on Jordan's sand,
(The fair Augusta, much to fears inclin'd) The joyful people throng'd to see him land,
An ancient fabric, raised t’inform the sight, Covering the beach, and blackening all the strand ! There stood of yore, and Barbican it hight,
A watch-tower once; but now, so fatc ordains, Mac-Flecknoe.
Of all the pile an empty name remains :
Near these a nursery erects its head, [The design of this poem is the sublime of personal satire. Where queens are form’d, and future heroes The leading idea is to represent the solemn inauguration of one Inferior poet as the successor of another in the monarchy of nonsense. The title involves this idea with a happy reference Where unfledg’d actors learn to laugh and cry, to the nation of the resigning sovereign—Mac, in Celtic, being Where infant punks their tender voices try,
And little Maximins the gods defy. Bon.)
Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here, All human things are subject to decay;
Nor greater Jonson dares in socks appear ;
But gentle Simkin just reception finds
I Thomas Shadwell, the dramatic author, was a rival of This aged prince, now flourishing in peace,
Dryden's both in politics and poetry. His scenes of low comedy And blest with issue of a large increase,
evince considerable talent in the style of Ben Jonson, whom
he also resembled in his person and habits. Worn out with bus'ness, did at length debate
% A fashionable dancing-master. To settle the succession of the state;
3 Psyche was the name of one of Shadwell's operas. 1 Richard Flecknoe, an Irish Roman Catholic priest, and a
* An actor in operas, celebrated for his performance of Vel
lerius in Davenant's. Siege of Rhodes.' wellknown hackneyed poetaster of the day.