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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.
POETS CONTEMPORARY WITH DRYDEN.
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
Nor wouldst that wretched alms receive,
poor subsistence of some bankrupt, sordid name : Thine was no empty vapour, raised beneath,
And formed of common breath,
That shone all over, was all over bright,
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,
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
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
Here rougher strokes, touch'd with a careless dash,
Sometimes a stiff unwieldy thought I meet,
Sometimes on wings of thought I seem on high,
“What was't I rashly vow'd ? shall ever I