Imatges de pàgina
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“ Taence, Hero-like, with torches by my side,
“ (Far be the omen tho') my Love I'll guide.
“ No, like his better fortune I'll appear, ,
With open arms, loose veil, and flowing hair,

Just flying forward from my rowling sphere. " I wonder, if he be so strict, how he dares make so bold with sphere himself, “ and be so critical in other men's writings. Fortune is fancied standing on a “ globe not on a sphere, as he told us in the first act.

" Because Elkanah's Similies are the most unlike things to what they are com

pared in the world, I'll venture to start a simile in his Annus Mirabilis : he es gives this poetical description of the ship called the London:

“ The goodly London in her gallant trim,
“ The Phenix-daughter of the vanquisht old,
“ Like a rich bride does to the ocean swim,
“ And on her shadow rides in floating gold.
“ Her flag aloft spread ruffling in the wind,
“ And sanguine streamers seem'd the flood to fire:
“ The weaver, charm'd with what his loom design'd,
« Goes on to sea, and knows not to retire.
“ With roomy decks her guns of mighty strength,
“ Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billon laves,

Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,

"! She seems à sea-wasp flying on the waves. “ What a wonderful pother is here, to make all these poetical beautifications “of a ship! that is, a phenix in the first stanza, and but a wasp in the last : “ nay, to make his humble comparison of a wasp more ridiculous, hedoes not say “ it flies upon the waves as nimbly as a wasp, or the like, but it seemed a wasp.

But our author at the writing of this was not in his altitudes, to compare

ships to floating palaces; a comparison to the purpose, was a perfection he " he did not arrive to till his Indian Emperor's days. But perhaps his simi" litude has more in it than we imagine ; this ship had a great many guns in “ her, and they, put all together, made the sting in the wasp's tail : for this " is all the reason I can guess, why it seemed a wasp. But, because we will " allow him all we can to help out, let it be a phenix sea-wasp, and the rarity w of such an animal may do much towards heightening the fancy.

“ It had been much more to his purpose, if he had designed to render the “senseless play little, to have searched for some such pedantry as this:

“ Two ifs scarce make one possibility.
“ If justice will take all and nothing give,

Justice, methinks, is not distributive.
To die or kill you is the alternative,

“ Rather than take your life, I will not live. « Observe, how prettily our author chops logick in heroick verse. Three “ such fustian canting words as distributive, alternative, and two ifs, no man

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6 but himself would have come within the noise of. But he's a man of general " learning, and all comės into his play.

- "Twould have done well too, if he could have met with a rant or two, « worth the observation : such as,

“ Move, swiftly, sun, and fly a lover's pace,

« Leave months and weeks behind thee in thy race. “ But surely the Sun, whether he flies a lover's or not a lover's pace, leaves “ weeks and months, nay years too, behind him in his ráce.

“ Poor Robin, or any other of the Philomathematicks, would have given * him satisfaction in the point.

« If I could kill thee now, thy fate's so low,

That I must stoop, ere I can give the blow,
“ But mine is fixt so far above thy crown,
« That all thy men,

“ Piled on thy back, can never pull it down. « Now where that is, Almanzor's fate is fixt, I cannot guess : but wherever * it is, I believe Almanzor, and think that all Abdalla's subjects, piled upon

one another, might not pull down his fate so well as without piling: besides, " I think Abdalla so wise a man, that if Almanzor had told him piling his men

upon his back might do the feat, he would scarce bear such a weight, for the pleasure of the exploit; but it is a huff, and let Abdalla do it if he dare,

“ The people like a headlong torrent go,
“ And every dam they break or overflow.
“ But unoppos’d, they either lose their force,

n's Or wind in volumes to their former course. * Avery pretty allusion, contrary to all schse or reason. Torrents, I take it, let to them wind never so much, can never return to their former course, unless " he can suppose that fountains can go upwards, which is impossible: nay

more, in the foregoing page he tells us so too. A trick of á very unfaithful memory,

“ But can no more than fountains upward flow. “ which of a torrent, which signifies a rapid stream, is much more impossible. " Besides, if he goes to quibble, and say that it is possible by art water may “ be mađe return, and the same water sün twice in one and the same channel; " then he quite confutes what he says ; for, it is by being opposed, that it

runs into its former course ; for all engines that make water so return, do " it by compulsion and opposition. Or, if he means a headlong torrent for

a tide, which would be ridiculous, yet they do not windin volumes, but come

foreright back (if their upright lies straight to their former course), and " that by opposition of the sea-water, that drives them back again.

“ And for fancy, when he lights of any thing like it, 'tis a wonder, if it " be not borrowed. As here, for example of, I find this fancifal thought " in his Ann. Mirab.

" Old

1

“ Old father Thames raised up his reverend head ;
“ But fear's the fate of Simois would return;
“ Deep in his ooze he sought his sedgy bed;

4 And shrunk his waters back into his urn. This is stolen from Cowley's Davideis, p. 9.

“ Swift Jordan started, and strait backward fled ,
Hiding among thick reeds his aged head.
“ And when the Spaniards their assault begin,

“ At once beat those without and those within. “ This Almanzor speaks of himself; and sure for one man to conquer an

army within the city, and another without the city, at once, is something “ difficult ; but this flight is pardonable, to some we meet with in Granada. “ Osmin, speaking of Almanzor :

Who, like a tempest that outrides the wind,

“ Made a just battle, ere the bodies join'd. « Pray what does this honourable person mean by a tempest that outrides the wind! A tempest that outrides itself. To suppose a tempest without “ wind, is as bad as supposing a man to walk without feet ; for if he supposes " the tempest to be something distinct from the wind, yet as being the effect o of wind only, to come before the cause is a little preposterous : so that if “ he takes it one way, or if he takes it the other, those two ifs will scarce “ make one possibility.Enough of Settle. .

Marriage Alamode (1673) is a comedy dedicated to the Earl of Rochester; whom he acknowledges not only as the defender of his poetry, but the promoter of his fortune. Langbaine places this play in 1673. The earl of Rochester therefore was the famous Wilmot, whom yet tradition always represents as an enemy to Dryden, and who is mentioned by him with some disrespect in the preface to Juvenal.

The Assignation, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy (1673), was driven off the stage, against the cpinion, as the author says, of the best judges. It is dedicated, in a very elegant address, to Sir Charles Sedley ; in which he finds an opportunity for his usual complaint of hard treatment and unreasonable censure.

Amboyna (1673) is a tissue of mingled dialogue in verse and prose, and was perhaps written in less time than The Virgin Martyr; though the author thought not fit either ostentatiously or mournfully to tell how little labour it cost him, or at how short a warning he produced it. It was a temporary performance, written in the time of the Dutch war, to inflame the nation against their enemies; to whom he hopes, as he declares in his Epilogue, to make his poetry not less destructive than that by which Tyrtæus of old animated the Spartans. This play was written in the second Dutch war in 1673.

Troilus and Cressida (1679) is a play altered from Shakspeare; but so altered, tbat even in Langbaine's opinion, “the last scene in the third act is a master

piece."

piece." It is introduced by a discourse on the grounds of criticism in tragedy, to which I suspect that Rymer's book had given occasion. The Spanish Fryar (1681) is a tragi-comedy eminent for the happy coincidence and coalition of the two plots. As it was written against the Papists, it i would naturally at that time have friends and enemies; and partly by the popu-. : larity which it obtained at first, and partly by the real power both of the serious and risible part, it continued long a favourite of the publick.

It was Dryden's opinion, at least for some time, and he maintains it in the dedication of this play, that the drama required an alteration of comick and tragick scenes, and that it is necessary to mitigate by alleviations of merriment the pressure of ponderous events, and the fatigue of toilsome passions. “ Whoever," says he, “ cannot perform both parts, is but half a writer for the stage."

The Duke of Guise, a tragedy (1683), written in conjunction with Lee, as Oedipus had been before, seems to deserve notice only for the offence which it gave to the remnant of the Covenanters, and in general to the enemies of the court, who attacked him with great violence, and were answered by him ; though at last he seems to withdraw from the conflict by transferring the greater part of the blame or merit to his partner. It happened that a contract had been made between them, by which they were to join in writing a play ; and " he happened,” says Dryden, “ to claim the promise just upon the finishing " of a poem, when I would have been glad of a little respite.---Two thirds of it “ belonged to him; and to me only the first scene of the play, the whole “ fourth act, and the first half or soinewhat more of the fifth.”

This was a play written professedly for the party of the duke of York, whose succession was then opposed. A parallel is intended between the Leaguers of Frapce and the Covenanters of England; and this intention produced the controversy

Albion and Albianus (1685) is a musical drama or opera written, like the Duke of Guise, against the Republicans. With what success it was performed, I have not found *.

The State of Innocence and Fall of Man (1675) is termed by him an opera : it is rather a tragedy in heroick rhyme, but of which the personages are sạch 25 cannot decently be exhibited on the stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvel, who writes thus to Milton:

Or if a work so infinite be spann'd,
Jealous I was least some less skilful hand,
(Such as disquiet always what is well,
And by ill imitating would excel)
Might hence presume the whole creation's day,

To change in scenes, and show it in a play.
Vol. I.
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It Downes says, it was performed on a very unlucky day, viz. chat on which the duke of Monmouch landed in the west ; and he intimates that be consternaion into which the kingdom was thrown by this event, was a season why it was performed but six cimes zad was ia general ill received. H.

It is another of his hasty productions ; for the heat of his imagination raised it in a month.

This composition is addressed to the princess of Modena, then duchess of York, in a strain of flattery which disgraces genius, and which it was wonderful that any man that knew the meaning of his own words could use without self-detestation. It is an attempt to mingle earth and heaven, by praising human excellence in the language of religion.

The preface contains an apology for heroick verse and poetick licence ; by which is meant not any liberty taken in contracting or extending words, but the use of bold figures, and ambitious fictions.

The reason which he gives for printing what was never acted, cannot be « overpassed: I was induced to it in my own defence, many hundred copies " of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent ; and every “ one gathering new faults, it became at length a libel against me.” These copies as they gathered faults were apparently manuscript; and helived in an age very unlike ours, if many hundred copies of fourteen hundred lines were likely to be transcribed. An author has a right to print his own works, and needs not seek an apology in falsehood; but he that could bear to write the dedication felt no pain in writing the preface.

Aureng Zebe (1676) is a tragedy founded on the actions of a great prince then reigning, but over nations not likely to employ their criticks upon the transactions of the English stage. If he had known and disliked his own character, our trade was not in those times secure from his resentment. His country is at such a distance, that the manners might be safely falsified, and the incidents feigned; for the remoteness of place is remarked, by Racine, to afford the same conveniencies to a poet as length of time.

This play is written in rhyme ; and has the appearance of being the most elaborate of all the dramas: The personages are imperial; but the dialogue is often domestick, and therefore susceptible of sentiments accemodated to familiar incidents. The complaint of life is celebrated, and there are many other passages that may be read with pleasure.

This play is addressed to the earl of Mulgrave, afterwards duke of Buckingham, himself, if not a poet, yet a writer of verses, and a critick. In this address Dryden gave the first hints of his intention to write an epic poem. He mentions his design in terms so obscure, that he seems afraid lest his plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to him wben he told it more plainly in his preface to Juvenal.“ The design,” says le, “ you know is great, “ the story English, and neither too near the present times, nor too distant from them.”

All for Love, or the World well lost (1678), a tragedy founded upon the story of Antony and Cleopatra, he tells us, " is the only play which he wrote for “ himself;" the rest were given to the people. It is by universal consent accounted the work in which he has admitted the fewest improprieties of style or

character;

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