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Thus pencils can by one slight touch restore
Till some safe crisis authorize their skill. He bad not yet learned, indeed he never learned well, to forbear the improper use of mythology. After having rewarded the heathen deities for their care,
With Alga who the sacred altar strows ?
A ram to you, ye Tempests of the Main.
Prayer storm’d the skies, and ravish'd Charles from therice,
As heaven iiself, is took by violence. And afterwards mentions one of the most awful passages of Sacred History. Other conceits there are, too curious to be quite omitted ; as,
For by example most we sinn'd before,
And, glass-like, clearness mix'd with frailty bore. How far he was yet from thinking it necessary to found his sentiments on natare, appears from the extravagance of his fictions and hyperboles.
The winds, that never moderation knew,
It is no longer motion cheats your view;
The marks of penitence, and sorrow bears.
was in my time, I do not remember it.”
His poem on the Coronation has a more even tenour of thought. Some lines deserve to be quoted.
You have already quench'd sedition's brand ;
And their appeal alone to Cæsar make.
Nor is it duty, or our hope alone,
Creates that joy, but full fruition.
In open prospect nothing bounds our eye,
Except an emptiness had come between.
And as the Indies were not found before
So by your counsels we are brought to view
A new and undiscover'd world in you. There is another comparison, for there is little else in the poem, of wbich, though perhaps it cannot be explained into plain prosaick meaning, the mind perceives enough to be delighted, and readily forgives its obscurity, for its magnificence :
How strangely active are the arts of peace,
We rest in peace, and yet in motion share. To this succeed four lines, which perhaps afford Dryden's first attempt at those penetrating remarks on human nature, for which he seems to have been peculiarly formed :
Let envy then those crimes within you see,
The joy and the revenge of ruin'd pride. Into this poem he seems to have collected all his powers; and after this he did not often bring upon his anvil such stubborn and un malleable thoughts ; but, as a specimen of his abilities to unite the most unsociable matter, he has concluded with lines, of which I think not myself obliged to tell the meaning:
Yet unimpair'd with labours, or with time,
Because the centre of it is above. In the Annus Mirabilis he returned to the quatrain, which from that time he fotally quitted, perhaps from this experience of its inconvenience, for he complains of its difficulty. This is one of his greatest attempts. He had subjects equal to his abilities, a great naval war, and the Fire of London.
Battles have always been described in heroick poetry; but a sea-fight and artillery had yet something of novelty. New arts are long in the world before poets describe them; for they borrow every thing from their predecessors, and commonly derive very little from nature or from life. Boileau was the first French writer that had ever hazarded in verse the mention of modern war, or the effects of gunpowder. We, who are less afraid of novelty, had already possession of those dreadful images. Waller had described a sea-fight. Milton had not yet transferred the invention of fire-arms to the rebellious angels.
This poem is written with great diligence, yet does not fully answer the expectation raised by such subjects and such a writer. With the stanza of
. Davenant he has sometimes his vein of parenthesis, and incidental disquisition, and stops his narrative for a wise remark,
The general fault is, that he affords more sentiment than description, and does not so much impress scenes upon the fancy, as deduce consequences and make comparisons.
The initial stanzas have rather too much resemblance to the first lines of Waller's poem on the war with Spain ; perhaps such a beginning is natural, and could not be avoided without affectation. Both Waller and Dryden might take their hint from the poem on the civil war of Rome, “ Orbem jam to“tum," &c. Of the king collecting his navy, he says,
It seems as every ship their sovereign knows,
His awful summons they so soon obey ;
And so to pastúre follow through the sea. It would not be hard to believe that Dryden had written the two first lines seriously, and that some wag had added the two latter in burlesque. Who would expect the lines that immediately follow, which are indeed perhaps indecently hyperbolical, but certainly in a mode totally different ?
so see this fleet upon the ocean move,
Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies;
For tapers inade two glaring comets rise. The description of the attempt at Bergen will afford a very compleat specimen of the descriptions in this poem :
And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught
With all the riches of the rising sun :
The fatal regions where the war begun.
Their way-laid wealth to Norway's coast they bring i
And winter brooded on the eastern spring,
By the rich scent we found our perfum'd prey,
Which, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie;
At once to threaten and invite the
The English undertake th' unequal war:
Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare.
These fain would keep, and those more fain enjoy :
That what both love, both hazard to destroy:
And now their odours arm'd against them ily:
And some by aromatic splinters die :
In heaven's inclemency some ease we find :
And only yielded to the seas and wind. In this mannes is the sublime too often mingled with the ridiculous. The Dutch seek a shelter for a wealthy facet: this surely needed no illustration ; yet they must fly, not like all the rest of mankind on the same occasion, but“ like hunted castors ;" and they might with strict propriety be hunted; for we winded them by our noses—Their perfumes betrayed them. The Husband and the Lover, though of more dignity than the Castor, are images 100 domestick to mingle properly with the horrors of war. The two quatrains that follow are worthy of the author.
The account of the different sensations with which the two feets' retired, when the night parted them, is one of the fairest flowers of English poetry.
The night comes on, we eager to pursue
The combat still, and they asham'd to leave :
And doubtful moon-light did our rage deceive.
And loud applause of their great leader's fame :
And, slumbering, smile at the imagin'd flame.
Stretch'd on their decks like weary oxen lie ;