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fion prompted, or meditation produced; those thoughts that were generated in his own mind, and might be usefully applied to some future purpose. Such is the labour of those who write for immortality.
But human works are not easily found without a perishable part. Of the ancient poets every reader feels the mythology tedious and oppressive. Of Hudibras the manners, being founded on opinions, are temporary and local, and therefore become every day less intelligible and less Itriking. What Cícero says of philosophy is true likewise of wit and humour, that « time effaces the fictions of opi“ nion, and confirms the determinations of “ Nature.” Such manners as depend upon standing relations and general passions are coextended with the race of man; but those modifications of life, and peculiarities of practice, which are the progeny of error and perverseness, or at best of Tome accidental influence or transient persuasion, must perish with their parents,
Much therefore of that humour which transported the last century with merriment is loft to us, who do not know the four folemnity, the sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples of the ancient Puri. tans; or, if we knew them, derive our information only from books, or from tradition, have never had them before our eyes, and cannot but by recollection and study understand the lines in which they are satirised. Our grand-fathers knew the picture from the life; we judge of the life by contemplating the picture.
It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present time, to image the tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction, that perplexed doctrine, and disturbed both publick and private quiet, in that age, when subordination was broken, and awe was hissed away; when any unsettled innovator who could hatch a half-formed notion produced it to the publick; when every man might become a preacher, and almost every preacher could collect a congregation.
The wisdom of the nation is very reasonably, supposed to refide in the parliament. What can be concluded of the lower clasies of the people, when in one of the parliaments summoned by Cromwell it was seriously proposed, that all the records in the Tower should be burnt, that all memory of things past should be effaced, and that the whole system of life should commence anew?
We have never been witnesses of animosities excited by the use of minced pies and plumb porridge; nor seen with what abhorrence those who could eat them at all other times of the year would shrink from them in December. An old Puritan, who was alive in my childhood, being at one of the feasts of the church invited by a neighbour to partake his cheer, told him, that, if he would treat him at an alehouse with beer, brewed for all times and leafons, he should accept his kindness, but would have none of his superstitious meats or drinks.
One of the puritanical tenets was the illegality of all games of chance; and he that reads Gataker upon Lots, may see how much learning and reason one of the first scholars of
his age thought necessary, to prove that it was no crime to throw a die, or play at cards, or to hide a shilling for the reckoning.
Astrology however, against which so much of this fatire is directed, was not more the folly of the Puritans than of others. It had in that time a very extensive dominion. Its predictions raised hopes and fears in minds which ought to have rejected it with contempt. In hazardous undertakings, care was taken to begin under the influence of a propitious planet; and when the king was prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, an astrologer was consulted what hour would be found most favourable to an escape.
What effect this poem had upon the publick, whether it shamed imposture or reclaimed credulity, is not easily determined. Cheats can seldom stand long against laughter. It is certain that the credit of planetary intelligence wore fast away; though some men of knowledge, and Dryden among them, continued to believe that conjunctions and oppositions had a great part in the distribution of good or evil, and in the government of sublunary things.
Poetical Action ought to be probable upon certain suppositions, and such'probability as burlesque requires is here violated only by one incident. Nothing can fhew more plainly the necessity of doing something, and the difficulty of finding something to do, than that Butler was reduced to transfer to his hero the flagellation of Sancho, not the most agreeable fiction of Cervantes; very suitable indeed to the manners of that age and nation, which ascribed wonderful efficacy to voluntary penances ; but so remote from the practice and opinions of the Hudibrastick time, that judgement and imagination are alike offended.
The Diction of this poem is grosy familiar, and the numbers purposely neglected, except in a few places where the thoughts by their native excellence secure themselves from violation, being such as mean language cannot express. The mode of versification has been blamed by Dryden, who regrets that the heroic -measure was not rather chosen. To the criatical sentence of Dryden the highest reverence would be due, were not his decisions often precipitate, and his opinions immature. When he wilhed to change the measure, he probably would have been willing to change more. If he intended that, when the numbers were heroick, the diction should still remain vul. gar, he planned a very heterogeneous and unnatural composition. If he preferred a general stateliness both of found and words, he can be only understood to wish that Butler had undertaken a different work. ***
The measure is quick, spritely, and colloquial, suitable to the vulgarity of the words and the levity of the sentiments. But such numbers and such diction can gain regard only when they are used by a writer whose vigour of fancy and copiousness of knowledge entitle him to contempt of ornament, and who, in confidence of the novelty and justness of his conceptions, can afford to throw metaphors and epithets away. To another that conveys common thoughts in careless versification, it will only be said, “ Pauper videri Cin“ na vult, & eit pauper." The meaning and
diction will be worthy of each other, and criticism may justly doom them to perish together.
Nor, even though another Butler should arise, would another Hudibras obtain the samne regard. Burlesque consists in a disproportion between the stile and the sentiments, or between the adventitious sentiments and the fundamental subject. It therefore, like all bodies compounded of heterogeneous parts, contains in it a principle of corruption. All disproportion is unnatural, and from what is unnatural we can derive only the pleasure which novelty produces. We admire it awhile as a strange thing; but, when it is no longer strange, we perceive its deformity. It is a kind of artifice, which by frequent repetition detects itself; and the reader, learning in time what he is to expect, lays down his book, as the spectator turns away from a second exhibition of those tricks, of which the only use is to shew that they can be played.
DR Y D E N.