Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

like two arenas, invited every talent son against the father, unites the clasi and every passion to boldness and to ing ambitions, and reanimates the cor. battle. The king, at first popular, had quered factions. There is hardly any roused opposition by his vices and er- wit here ; there is no time to be w.ty rors, and bent before public discontent in such contests; think of the roused as before the intrigue of parties. It people who listened, men in prison or was known that he had sold the inter- exile who are waiting; fortune, liberty, ests of England to France; it was be life was at stake. The thing is to lieved that he would deliver up the strike the nail on the head, hard, not consciences of Protestants to the Pa- gracefully; The public must recog: pists. The lies of Oates, the murder of nize the charac rs, shout their names ihe magistrate Godfrey, his corpse sol. as they recognize the portraits, ap. emnly paraded in the streets of Lon- plaud the attacks which are made upon don, had inflamed the imagination and them, rail at them, hurl them from the prejudices of the people, the judges, high rank which they covet. Dryden blind or intimidated, sent innocent Ro passes them all in review : man Catholics to the scaffold, and the “ In the first rank of these did Zimri * stand, mob received with insults and curses A man so various that he seemed to be their protestations of innocence. The

Not one, but all mankind's epitome : king's brother had been dismissed

Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,

Was everything by starts and nothing long ; from his offices, and it was proposed But in the course of one revolving moon to exclude him from the throne. The Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and bufa

foon; pulpit, the theatre, the press, the hustings, resounded with discussions and

Then all for women, painting, rhyming,

drinking, recriminations. The names of Whigs Besides ten thousand freaks that died in and Tories arose, and the loftiest de- thinkirg. bates of political philosophy were car

Blest madman, who could every hour employ ried on, enlivened by the feeling of

With something new to wish or to enjoy!

Railing and praising were his usual themes ; present and practical interests, embit. And both, to show his judgment, in ex tered by the rancor of old and wounded passions. Dryden plunged in; and

So over-violent, or over-civil,

That every man with him was God or devil. his poem of Absalom and Achitophel was In squandering wealth was his peculiar art; a political pamphlet. “They who can Nothing went unrewarded but desert. criticise so weakly,” he says in the pre

Beggared by fools whom still he found toc

late, face, “ as to imagine that I have done my

He had his jest, and they had his estate. worst, may be convinced at their own

He laugh'd himself from Court; then sought cost that I can write severely with relief more ease than I can gently.” A bib

By forming parties, but could ne'er be chief : lical allegory, suited to the taste of the

For spite of him, the weight of business fell

On Absalom and wise Achitophel ; time, hardly concealed the names, and Thus wicked but in will, of means bereft, did not hide the men. He describes He left not faction, but of that was left. the tranquil old age and incontestable

Shimeist whose youth did early promise right of King David ;* the charm,

bring pliant humor, popularity of his natural

He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit, son Absalom; † the genius and treach

Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his ery of Achitophel, 1 who stirs up the wit.

Great wits are sure to madness near allied # Charles II. | The Duke of Monmouth. And thin partitions do their bounds divide ; The Earl of Shaftesbury :

Else, why should he, with wealth and hor: • Of these the false Achitophel was first,

our blest, A name to all succeeding ages curst :

Refuse his age the needful hours of rest For close designs and crooked counsels fit, Punish a body which he could not please, Sagacious, bold and turbulent of wit- Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease ? Restless, unfixed in principles and place,

And all to leave what with his toil he won, In power uppleased, impatient of disgrace ;

To that unfeathered two-legged thing, a sou A fery, soul, which working out its way, Got, while his soul did huddled notions try Fretted the pigmy body to decay

And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy; And o'er-informed the tenement of clay, In friendship false, implacable in hate, A daring pilot in extremity,

Resolved to ruin or to rule the si le Pleased with the danger, when tae waves * The Duke of Buckingham. went high,

† Slingsby Bethel.

tremes:

Of zeal to God and hatred to his King ; throughout. His hearers were not
Did wisely from expensive sins refrain
And never broke the Sabbath but for gain :

wits, who cared to see how a dry subNor ever was he known an oath to vent,

ject could be adorned; they were not Or curse, unless against the government." thcologians, only by accident and for a Against these attacks their chief moment, animated by mistrustful and Shaftesbury made a stand : when ac

cautious feelirgs, like Boileau in his cused of high treason he was declared Amour de Dieu. They were oppressea nct guilty by the grand jury, in spite men, barely recovered from a secular of all the efforts of the court, amidst persecution, attached to their faith by the applause of a great crowd; and his their sufferings, ill at ease under the

visible menaces and ominous hatred of partisans caused a medal to be struck, their restrained foes. Their poet must bearing his face, and boldly showing be a dialectician and a schoolman; he on th=reverse London Bridge and the needs all the sternness of logic; he is Tower, with the sun rising and shining immeshed in it, like a recent convert

, through a cloud. Dryden replied by his poem of the Medal, and the violent saturated with the proofs which have diatribe overwhelmed the open provo- and which support him against pub

separated him from the national faith, cation :

lic reprobation, fertile in distinctions, “Oh, could the style that copied every grace And plow'd such furrows for an eunuch face, nesses of an argument, subdividing re

pointing with his finger at the weak. Could it have formed his ever-changing will, The various piece had tired the graver's plies, bringing back his adversary to skill!

the question, thorny and unpleasing to A martial hero first, with early care, a modern reader, but the more praised Blown like a pigmy by the winds, to war ; and loved in his own time. In all A beardless chief, a rebel ere a man, So young his hatred to his Prince began. English minds there is a basis of grav. Next this (how wildly will ambition steer !) ity and vehemence; hate rises tragic, A vermin wriggling in the usurper's ear; with a gloomy outbreak, like the breakBartering his venal wit for sums of gold, He cast himself into the saint-like mould,

ers of the North Sea. In the midst of Groaned, sighed, and prayed, while godli- his public strife Dryden attacks a priness was gain,

vate enemy, Shadwell, and overwhelms The loudest bag-pipe of the squeaking him with immortal scorn.* A great

epic style and solemn rhyme gave The same bitterness envenomed relig. weight to his sarcasm, and the unlucky ious controversy. Disputes on dogma, rhymester was drawn in a ridiculous for a moment cast into the shade by triumph on the poetic car, whereon the debauched and skeptical manners, lad muse sets the heroes and the gods. broken out again, inflamed by the big. Dryden represented the Irishman Mac oted Roman Catholicism of the prince, Flecknoe, an old king of folly, deliberand by the just fears of the nation. ating on the choice of a worthy succes The poet who in Religio Laici was still sor, and choosing Shadwell as an heir an Anglican, though lukewarm and to his gabble, a propagator of nonhesitating, drawn on gradually by his sense, a boastful conqueror of common absolutist inclinations, had become a From all sides, through the convert to Romanism, and in his poem streets littered with paper, the nations of The Hind and the Panther fought assembled to look upon the young for his new creed." The nation," he hero, standing near the throne of his says in the preface, “is in too high a father, his brow surrounded with thick ferment for me to expect either fair fogs, the vacant smile of satisfied im. war or even so much as fair quarter becility floating over his countenance : from a reader of the opposite party.” The hoary prince in majesty appear’d, And then, making use of mediæval al

High on a throne of his own labours rear'd. legories, he represents all the heretical

At his right hand our young Ascanius sate, sects as beasts of prey, worrying a Rome's other hope, and pillar of the state; white hind of heavenly origin; he

His brows thick fogs instead of glorier spares neither coarse comparisons,

And

lambent dulness play'd around his face gross sai casms, nor open objurgations. The argument is close and theological

• Mac Fleckpoe.

train."

sense.

grace,

penl'

As Hannibal did to the altars come, flatus, as you may see i great shig Sworn by his sire, a mortal foe to Rome ;

enter the muddy Thames with spread So Shadwell swore, nor should his vow be vain,

canvas, cleaving the waters. That hé, till death, true dulness would maintain ;

VIII. And,

in his father's right and realm's defence,

In these three poems, the art of Ne'er to have peace with wit nor truce with sense.

writing, the mark and the source of The king himself the sacred unction made, classical literature, appeared for the As king. Sy office and as priest by trade. first time. A new spirit was born and lu his sinister hand, instead of ball,

renewed this art, like every thing else ; He placed a mighty mug of potent ale."

thenceforth, and for a century to come, (lis father blesses him :

ideas sprang up and fell into their * Heavens bless my son l from Ireland let place after another law than that which him reign

had hitherto shaped them. Under To far Barbadoes on the western main;

Spenser and Shakspeare, living words, Of his dominion may no end be known, And greater than his father's be his throne;

like cries or music, betrayed the interBeyond Love's Kingdom let him stretch his nal imagination which gave them forth.

A kind of vision possessed the artist; He paused, and all the people cried Amen. Then thus continued he: My son, advance

landscapes and events were unfolded Still in new impudence, new ignorance.

in his mind as in nature; he concen. Success let others teach, learn thou from me, trated in a glance all the details and Pangs without birth and fruitless industry. all the forces which make up a being, Let Virtuosos in five years be writ; Yet not one thought accuse they are mold wit... oped within

him like the external ob

and this image acted and was devel

model made Of dulness and desire no foreign aid, ject; he imitated his characters ; he That they to future ages may be known, heard their words; he found it easier Not copies drawn, but issue of thy own : Nay, let thy men of wit too be the same,

to represent them with every pulsation All full of thee and differing but in name. ...

than to relate or explain their feelings ; Like mine thy gentle numbers feebly creep,; he did not judge, he saw; he was an Thy tragic Muse gives smiles, thy comic involuntary actor and mimic; drama

sleep With whate'er gall thou setst thyself to

was his natural work, because in it the write,

characters speak, and not the author. Thy inoffensive satires never bite;

Then this complex and imitative conIn thy felonious heart though venom lies, It does but touch thy Irish pen, and dies.

ception changes color and is decomThy genius calls thee not to purchase fame

posed : man sees things no more at a In keen lambics, but mild Anagram. glance, but in detail; he walks leisure. Leave writing plays, and choose for thy com- ly round them, turning his light upon

mand Some peaceful province in Acrostic land.

all their parts in succession. . The fire There thou may'st wings display, and altars which revealed them by a single illuraise,

mination is extinguished; he observes And torture one poor word ten thousand qualities, marks aspects, classifies

ways; Or, if thou wouldst thy different talents suit, groups of actions, judges and reasons. Set thy own songs, and sing them to thy Words, before animated, and as it were

swelling with sap, are withered and He said, but his last words were scarcely dried up; they become abstractions ;

heard, For Bruce and Longville had a trap pre- and landscapes ; they only set in mo:

they cease to produce in him figures pared And down they set the yet declaiming bard. tion the relics of enfeebled passions Sinking he left his drugget robe behind,

they barely shed a few Aickering Borne upwards by a subterranean wind. The mantle

fell to the young prophet's part, beams on the uniform texture of his With double portion of his father's art." * dulled conception; they become exact, Shus the insulting masquerade goes numbers they are arranged in a series,

almost scientific, like numbers, and like not studied and polished like allied by their analogies,—the first Boileau's Lutrin, but rude and pomDous, inspired by a coarse poetical af

more simple, leading up the next, more

composite,-all in the same order, so * Mac Flecknoe

that the mind which en*ers upon ?

lute.'

on,

track, finds it level, and is never solid web stand out cleve..y connected obliged to quit it. Thenceforth a new or sparkling threads. Here Dryden career is opened; man has the whole has gathered in one line a long arguworld resubjected to his thought; the ment; there a happy metaphor has change in his thoughts has changed all opened up a new perspective under the aspects, and every thing assumes a new principal idea ;* further on, two simi form in his metamorphosed mind. His lar words, united together, have struck task is to explain and to prove; this, the mind with an unforeseen and coin short, is the classical style, and this gent proof; † elsewhere a hidden comis the style of Dryden.

parison has thrown a tinge of glory or He develops, defines, concludes; he shame on the person who least ex: declares his thought, then takes it up pected it. These are all artifices or again, that his reader may receive it successes of a calculated style, which prepared, and having received, may re- chains the attention, and leaves the tain it. He bounds it with exact mind persuaded or convinced. terms justified by the dictionary, with siniple constructions justified by gram

IX. mar, that the reader may have at In truth, there is scarcely any other every step a method of verification and literary merit. If Dryden is a ski!led a source of clearness. He contrasts politician, a trained controversalist, ideas with ideas, phrases with phrases, well armed with arguments, knowing so that the reader, guided by the con- all the ins and outs of discussion, versed trast, may not deviate from the route in the history of men and parties, this marked out for him. You may imagine pamphleteering aptitude, practical and the possible beauty of such a work. English, confines him to the low reThis poesy is but a stronger prose. gion of everyday and personal controCloser ideas, more marked contrasts, versies, far from the lofty philosophy bolder images, only add weight to the and speculative freedom which give argument. Metre and rhyme transform endurance and greatness to the classithe judgments into sentences. The cal style of his French contemporaries. mind, held on the stretch by the rhythm, In the main, in this age, in England, studies itself more, and by means of all discussion was fundamentally narreflection arrives at a noble conclusion. row. Except the terrible Hobbes, they The judgments are enshrined in abbre- all lack grand originality. Dryden. viative images, or symmetrical lines, like the rest, is connined to the arguwhich give them the solidity and pop-ments and insults of sect and fashion. ular form of a dogma. General truths Their ideas were as small as their haacquire the definite form which trans- tred was strong ; no general doctrine mits them to posterity, and propagates opened up a poetical vista beyond the them in the human race. Such is the tumult of the strife; texts, traditions merit of these poems; they please by a sad train of rigid reasoning, suck. their good expressions. It a full and were their arms; the same prejudices * “ Strong were our sires, and as they fought and passions exist in both parties

. Conquering with force of arms and dint of This is why the subject matter fell be

low the art of writing. Dryden had Theirs was the giant race before the flood, no personal philosophy to develop; he And thus, when Charles return'd, our em- does but versify themes given to him

pire stood. Like Janus, he the stubborn soil manured, by others. In this sterility art soon is With rules of husbandry the rankness reduced to the clothing of foreign ideas,

cared ; Tamed us to manners, when the stage was

. “ Held up the buckler of the people's cause rude,

Against the crown, and sku k'd against the And boisterous English wit with art endured.

Desire of power, on earth a vicious weed But what we gain'd in skill we lost Yet, sprung from high, is of celestia

strength, Our builders were with want of genius

Absalom and achitophel, Parti

Why then should I, encouraging the bad, The second temple was not like the first." Turn rebel, and run popularly mad?". Ispistle 19 to Congrove, xi. 39.

wit:

laws. ...

seed

Absalom and Achitophel Parti

curst;

»

and the writer becomes an antiquarian | cept in their first style in the dawn of or a translator. In reality, the great credulous thɔught, under the mist est part of Dryden's poems are imita- which plays about their vague forms, tions, adaptations, or copies. He trans- with all the blushes and smiles of mornlated Persius and Virgil, with parts of ing. Moreover, when Dryden comes Horace, Theocritus, Juvenal, Lucretius, on the scene, he crushes the delicacies and Homer, and put into modern Eng- of his master, hauling in tirades or rea. lish several tales of Boccaccio and sonings, blotting out sincere and self Chaucer. These trarslarions then ap- abandoning tenderness. What a dif. peared to be as great works as origi- ference between his account of Arcite's nal compositions. When he took the death and Chaucer's! How wretched Ænzid in ha 1, the nation, as Johnson are all his fine literary words, his gal. tells us, appeared to think its honor in- lantry, his symmetrical phrases, his terests i in the issue. Addison furnish cold regrets, compared to the cries of ed him with the arguments of every sorrow, the true outpouring, the deep book, and an essay on the Georgics; love in Chaucer ! But the worst fault others supplied him with editions and is that almost everywhere he is a copy, notes ; great lords vied with one an- ist, and retains the faults like a literal other in offering him hospitality; sub- translator, with eyes glued on the work, scriptions flowed in. They said that powerless to comprehend and recast it, the English Virgil was to give England more a rhymester than a poet. When the Virgil of Rome. This work was La Fontaine put Æsop, or Boccaccio long considered his highest glory. into verse, he breathed a new spiri Even so at Rome, under Cicero, in the into them; he took their matter only: early dearth of national poetry, the the new soul, which constitutes the translators of Greek works were as value of his work, is his, and only his ; highly praised as the original authors. and this soul befits the work. In place

This sterility of invention alters or of the Ciceronian periods of Boccaccio, depresses the taste. For taste is an we find slim, little lines, full of delicate instinctive system, and leads us by raillery, dainty. voluptuousness, feigned internal maxims, which we ignore. The artlessness, which relish the forbidden mind, guided by it, perceives connec- fruit because it is fruit, and because it is tions, shuns discordances, enjoys or forbidden. The tragic departs, the rel. suffers, chooses or rejects, according ics of the middle ages are a thousand to general conceptions which master it, leagues away; there remains nothing but are not visible. These removed, but the invidious gayety, Gallic and we see the tact, which they engendered, racy, as of a critic and an epicurean. disappear; the writer is clumsy, be In Dryden, incongruities abound; and cause philosophy fails him. Such is our author is so little shocked by them, the imperfection of the stories handled that he imports them elsewhere, in his by Dryden, from Boccaccio and Chau- theological poems, representing the cer. Dryden does not see that fairy Roman Catholic Church, for instance, tales or tales of chivalry only suit a poe as a hind, and the heresies by various try in its infancy; that ingenuous sub- animals, who dispute at as great length jacts require an artless style ; that the and as learnedly as Oxford graduates.* Talk of Reynard and Chanticleer, the I like him no better in his Epistles ; as & Iventures of Palamon and Arcite, the a rule, they are but flatteries, almost transformations, tournaments, appari- always awkward, often mythological, tiɔns, need the astonished carelessness interspersed with somewhat common. and the graceful gossip of old Chaucer. place sentences. “ I have studied Vigorous periods, reflective antitheses, Horace,” he says, " and hope the style mere oppress these amiable ghosts of his Epistles is not ill imitated here." classical phrases embarrass them in

* “ Though Huguenots contemn our ordioa their too stringent embrace they are tion, lost to our sight; to find them again Succession, ministerial vocation," etc. we must go to their first parent, quit

the (The Hind and the Panther, Part ii. : 162 too harsh light of a learned and manly such are the barsh words we often find in his uge; we cannot pursue them fairly ex- † Preface to the Religio Laici, s. 32

books.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »