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Though all these rare endowments of the mind
And every act stood ready to repeat. This piece, however, is not without its faults ; there is so much likeness in the initial comparison, that there is no illustration. As a king would be lamented, Eleonora was lamented;
As when some great and gracious monarch dies,
Till publick as the loss the news became. This is litle better than to say in praise of a shrub, that it is as green as a tree; or of a brook, that it waters a garden, as a river waters a country.
Dryden confesses that he did not know the lady whom he celebrates : thé praise being therefore inevitably general, fixes no impression upon the reader; nor excites any tendency to love, nor much desire of imitation. Knowledge of the subject is to the poet, what durable materials are to the architect.
The Religio Laici, which borrows its title from the Religio Medici of Browne, is almost the only work of Dryden which can be considered as a voluntary effusion; in this, therefore, it might be hoped, that the full effulgence of his ge
nius would be found. But unhappily the subject is rather argumentative than poetical: he intended only a specimen of metrical disputation,
And this unpolish'd rugged verse I chose,
As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose. This, however, is a composition of great excellence in its kind, in which the familiar is very properly diversified with the solemn, and the grave with the humorous ; in which merie has neither weakened the force, nor clouded the perspicuity of argument; nor will it be easy to find another example equally happy of this middle kind of writing, which, though prosaick in some parts, rises to high poetry in others, and neither towers to the skies, nor creeps along the ground.
of the same kind, or pot far distant from it, is the Hind and Panther, the longest of all Dayden's original poems; an allegory intended to comprize and to decide the controversy between the Romanists and Protestants. The scheme of the work is injudicious and incommodious; for what can be more absurd than thar one beast should counsel another to rest her faith upon a pope and council? He seems well enough skilled in the usual topicks of argument, endeavours to shew tle necessity of an infallible judge, and reproaches the Refor meis with want of unity; but is weak enough to ask why, since we see withøvr knowing how, we may not have an infallible judge withou knowing where.
The Hind at one time is afraid to drink at the common brook, because she may be worried; but walking home with the Panther, talks by the way of the Nicene Farners, and at last declares herself to be the Catholic church.
This absurdity was very properly ridiculed in the City Mause and Country Mouse of Montague and Prior; and in the detection and censure of the incongruity of the fiction chiefly consists the value of their performance, which, whatever reputation it might obtain by the help of temporåry passions, seeros, to readers almost a century distant, not very forcible or animated.
Pope, whose judgement was perhaps a little bribed by the subject, used to mention this poem as the most correct specimen of Dryden's versification. It was indeed written when he had completely formed his manner, and may
be supposed to exhibit, negligence excepted, his deliberate and ultimate scheme of meve,
We may therefore reasonably infer, that he did not approve the perpetual uniformity which confines the sense to couplets, since he has broken his lines in the initial paragrah.
A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang’d,
Yet had she oft been chac'd with horns and hounds,
And doom'd to death, though fated not to die. These lines are lofty, elegant, and musical, notwithstanding the interruprion of the pause, of which the effect is rather increase of pleasure by variety, than offense by ruggedness.
To the first part it was his intention, he says, “ to give the majestic turn " of heroick poesy ;” and perhaps he might have executed his design not unsuccessfully, had not an opportunity of satire, which he cannot forbear, fallen sometimes in his way. The character of a Presbyterian, whose emblem is the Wolf, is not very heroically majestick :
More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race
His general character of the other sorts of beasts that never go to church, though spritely and keen, has, however, not much of heroick poesy ;
These are the chief; to number o'er the rest,
weary work; nor will the Muse describe
One more instance, and that taken from the narrative part, where style was more in his choice, will show how steadily he kept his resolution of Heroic dignity,
For when the herd, suffic'd, did late repair
The second and third parts he professes to have jeduced to diction more miliar and more suitable to dispute and conversation ; the difference is not however, very easily perceived; the first has familiar, and the two other have sonorous lines. The original'incongruity runs through the whole; thi king is now Cæsar, and now the Lyon ; and the name Pan is given to th Supreme Being.
But when this constitutional absurdity is forgiven, the poem must be con fessed to be written with great smoothness of metre, a wide extent of know ledge, and an abundant multiplicity of images; the controversy is embellishe with pointed sentences, diversified by illustrations, and enlivened by sallies o invective. Some of třic facts to which allusions are made are now becom obscure, and perhaps there may be many satirical passages little understood
As it was by its nature a work of defiance, a composition which would natu rally be examined with the utmost acrimony of criticism, it was probably la boured with uncommon attention; and there are, indeed, few negligences it the subordinare parts. The original impropriety, and the subsequent unpopu larity of the subject, added to the ridiculousness of its first elements, has sunk it into neglect; but it may be usefully studied, as an example of poetical iatiocination, in which the argument suffers little from the metre.
In the poem on the Birth of the Prince of Wales, nothing is very remarkable but the exorbitant adulation, and that insensibility of the precipice on which the king was then standing, which the laureat apparently shared with the rest of the courtiers. A few moths cured him of controversy, dismissed him from court, and made him again a play-wright and translator.
Of Juvenal there had been a translation by Stapylton, and another by Holiday; neither of them is very poetical. Stapylton is more smooth, and Holiday's i pore esteemed for the learning of his notes. A new version was proposed 10 the poets of that time, and undertaken by them in conjunction. The main design was conducted by Dryden, whose reputation was such that no man was unwilling to serve the Muses under him.
The general character of this translation will be given, when it is said to preserve the wit, but to want the dignity of the original. The peculiarity of Juvenal is a mixture of gaiety and stateliness, of pointed sentences and declamatory grandeur. His points have not been neglected; but his grandeur none of the band seemed to consider as necessary to be imitated, except Greech, who undertook the thirteenth satire. It is therefore perhaps possible to give a better representation of that great satirist, even in those parts which Dıyden himself has translated, some paassges excepted, which will never be excelled.
With Juvena! was published Persius, translated wholly by Dryden. This work, though like all other productions of Dryden it may have shining parts, seems to have been written merely for wages, in an uniform mediocrity without any cager endeavour after excellence, or laborious effort of the mind.
There wanders an opinion among the readers of poetry, that one of these satires is an exercise of the school. Dryden says, that he once translated it at school; but not that he preserved or published the juvenile performance.
Not long afterwards he undertook perhaps the most arduous work of its kind, a translation of Virgil, for which he had shewn how well he was qualified by his version of the Pollio, and two episodes, one of Nisus and EuryaIns, the other of Mezentius and Lausus.
In the comparison of Homer and Virgil, the discriminative excellence of Homer is elevation and comprehension of thought, and that of Virgilis grace and splendor of diction. The beauties of Homer are therefore difficult to be lost, and those of Virgil difficult to be retained. The massy trunk of sentiment is safe by its solidity, but the blossoms of elocution easily drop away. The author, having the choice of his own images, selects those which he can best adorn ; the translator must, at all hazards, follow his original, and express thoughts which perhaps he would not have chosen. When to this primary difficulty is added the inconvenience of a language so much inferior in harmony to the Latin, it cannot be expected that they who read the Georgick and the Eneid should be much delighted with any version.
All these obstacles Dryden saw, and all these he determined to encounter, The expectation of his woik was undoubtedly great; the nation considered its honour as interested in the event. One gave him the different editions of Liis author, another helped him in the subordinate parts. The arguments of the several books were given him by Addison.