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some future poet to amalgamate with Dryden's in a manner worthy of both, and so carry England's noble heroic rhyme to its pitch of perfection.' It need not be said that Pope's magnificent eulogy solely respects Dryden as a rhyming poet. His blank verse, though in general good enough for the stage, and better than that of most of his contemporaries, is utterly destitute of the sweetness and variety of the Elizabethans.

Dryden's works were edited with exemplary zeal and fidelity by Sir Walter Scott. The standard modern edition is Mr. Saintsbury's; the one most convenient for general use, Mr. Christie's.

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CHAPTER II.

POETS CONTEMPORARY WITH DRYDEN.

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The contemporary of Dryden who approached him most

nearly in satiric force, and, generally speaking, Oldham

in the borderland between poetry and prose, (1653-1683).

was John Oldham (1653-1683). Not much is known of his life. The son of a Nonconformist minister, he nevertheless obtained a university education, but after leaving college was glad to accept the position of usher in Archbishop Whitgift's free school at Croydon. Coming to town he filled the post of tutor in various families, and by his Satires upon the Jesuits (1681) gained the acquaintance of Dryden and other men of letters and the patronage of the Earl of Kingston, who seemed likely to provide for him, but at whose seat in Nottinghamshire he died of the smallpox, December, 1683.

Oldham's poems consist partly of odes, formal and elaborate compositions, and partly of the satires which in his age in some measure supplied the place of the modern journal and review. A secret and unconscious harmony pervades all branches of the contemporary art of every epoch ; and in the stately and somewhat stilted lyrics of Oldham and his compeers we discern the counterpart of the elaborate frontispieces with temples and triumphal arches, chariots and cornucopias, tritons and nereids, which the engravers of the age prefixed to its literature. The engraving is hardly art, and the verse is hardly poetry; we are nevertheless conscious of a vigour and a substance which command respect. The work is compact and solid at any rate, and displays much of the force of the Giants, if little of the inspiration of the Gods. Oldham would fain be extravagant in praise of wine ; but there is not the least trace of genuine Bacchic frenzy in his laboured dithyramb. The epicedion on his friend Mouvent is a serious composition indeed, forty-two mortal stanzas, with, nevertheless, sufficient good things to justify the praise bestowed on it by Pope. The ode to Ben Jonson is remarkable as express, ing the feelings of the men of the Restoration towards the poet who they really thought had reformed the stage, and delivered it from the reprehensible licentiousness of Shakespeare.

Like Oldham's other lyrical compositions, it abounds with most dissonant lines, but has also some noble ones, as these, for example:

'Let meaner spirits stoop to low precarious fame,

Content on gross and coarse applause to live
And what the dull and senseless rabble give;
Thou didst it still with noble scorn contemn,

Nor wouldst that wretched alms receive,
The

poor subsistence of some bankrupt, sordid name : Thine was no empty vapour, raised beneath,

And formed of common breath,
The false and foolish fire, that's whisked about
By popular air, and glares awhile, and then goes out;
But 'twas a solid, whole, and perfect globe of light,

That shone all over, was all over bright,
And dared all sullying clouds, and feared no darkening night.'

Oldham's principal celebrity, however, is derived from his satires. He had the knack of stinging invective, and has been not unjustly compared to Churchill. His Satires on the Jesuits exactly suited the time of the Popish Plot, at present they repel by their one-sidedness. All satire,

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except that inspired by fancy, is apt to become repulsive by its natural tendency to dwell upon the meanest and lowest aspects of human nature; and this is pre-eminently the case with Oldham, who is always ridiculing or denouncing, always drawing his illustrations from the base and offensive, and seldom diversifies his low matter with an ennobling thought. Yet he evinces so much manly sense, and his style is so nervous, that it is impossible not to admire his vigour, and wish him a more inviting subject. His metre and rhyme frequently stand in need of Dryden's generous apology:

O early ripe ! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might, what Nature never gives the young,
Have taught the smoothness of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not these, and wit will shine

Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.' All this notwithstanding, Oldham had the root of the matter in him, and has described, as only a poet could, the ambition, the toil, and the triumph of a poet:

• 'Tis endless, Sir, to tell the many ways
Wherein my poor deluded self I please :
How, when the fancy lab’ring for a birth,
With unfelt throes, brings its rude issue forth :
How, after, when imperfect, shapeless thought
Is, by the judgment, into fashion wrought :
When at first search, I traverse o'er my mind,
None, but a dark and empty void I find :
Some little hints, at length, like sparks break thence,
And glimm’ring thoughts, just dawning into sense :
Confus'd, awhile, the mixt ideas lie
With nought of mark to be discover'd by ;
Like colours undistinguish'd in the night,
Till the dusk images mov'd to the light,
Teach the discerning faculty to choose,
Which it had best adopt, and which refuse.

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Here rougher strokes, touch'd with a careless dash,
Resemble the first setting of a face :
There finish'd draughts in form more full appear,
And in their justness ask no further care,
Meanwhile, with inward joy, I proud am grown,
To see the work successfully go on;
And prize myself in a creating-power,
That could make something, what was nought before.

Sometimes a stiff unwieldy thought I meet,
Which to my laws, will scarce be made submit:
But when, after expense of pains and time,
'Tis manag'd well, and taught to yoke in rhime,
In triumph, more than joyful warriors would,
Had they some stout and hardy foe subdu'd :
And idly think, less goes to their command,
That makes arm’d troops in well-placed order stand,
Than to the conduct of my words, when they
March in due ranks, are set in just array.

Sometimes on wings of thought I seem on high,
As men in sleep, tho' motionless they lie,
Hedg’d by a dream, believe they mount and fly:
So witches some inchanted wand bestride,
And think they thro’ the airy regions ride,
Where fancy is both trav’ller, way and guide :
Then straight I grow a strange exalted thing,
And equal in conceit at least a king :
As the poor drunkard, when wine stums his brains,
Anointed with that liquor, thinks he reigns ;
Bewitch'd by these delusions, 'tis I write,
(The tricks some pleasant devil plays in spite)
And when I'm in the freakish trance, which I,
Fond silly wretch, mistake for ecstacy,
I find all former resolutions vain,
And thus recant them, and make new again.

“What was't I rashly vow'd ? shall ever I
Quit my beloved mistress, Poetry?
Thou sweet beguiler of my lonely hours,
Which thus glide unperceiv’d, with silent course :
Thou gentle spell, which undisturb'd dost keep
My breast, and charm intruding care asleep :

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