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them, rail at them, hurl them from the
high rank which they covet. Dryden
passes them all in review:

In the first rank of these did Zimri* stand,
A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one,
but all mankind's epitome:
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was everything by starts and nothing long ;
But in the course of one revolving moon
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buf-

like two arenas, invited every talent | son against the father, unites the clas! 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 characters, shout their names the 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 prejudices of the people; the judges, blind or intimidated, sent innocent Roman Catholics to the scaffold, and the" mob received with insults and curses their protestations of innocence. The king's brother had been dismissed from his offices, and it was proposed to exclude him from the throne. The pulpit, the theatre, the press, the hustings, resounded with discussions and recriminations. The names of Whigs and Tories arose, and the loftiest debates of political philosophy were carried on, enlivened by the feeling of present and practical interests, embittered by the rancor of old and wounded passions. Dryden plunged in; and his poem of Absalom and Achitophel was a political pamphlet. They who can criticise so weakly," he says in the preface," as to imagine that I have done my worst, may be convinced at their own cost that I can write severely with more ease than I can gently." A biblical allegory, suited to the taste of the time, hardly concealed the_names, and did not hide the men. He describes the tranquil old age and incontestable right of King David; the charm, pliant humor, popularity of his natural son Absalom; † the genius and treachery of Achitophel, who stirs up the


* Charles II. ↑ The Duke of Monmouth.
The Earl of Shaftesbury:

Of these the false Achitophel was first,
A name to all succeeding ages curst:
For close designs and crooked counsels fit,
Sagacious, bold and turbulent of wit-
Restless, unfixed in principles and place,
In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace;
A fiery soul, which working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay

And o'er-informed the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremity,

Pleased with the danger, when the waves
went high,

Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,

Besides ten thousand freaks that died in

Blest madman, who could every hour employ
With something new to wish or to enjoy!
Railing and praising were his usual themes;
And both, to show his judgment, in ex-

tremes :

So over-violent, or over-civil,

That every man with him was God or devil.
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
Nothing went unrewarded but desert.
Beggared by fools whom still he found toc

He had his jest, and they had his estate.
He laugh'd himself from Court; then sought

By forming parties, but could ne'er be chief:
For spite of him, the weight of business fell
On Absalom and wise Achitophel;
Thus wicked but in will, of means bereft,
He left not faction, but of that was left.

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Shimei,t whose youth did early promise

He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his


Great wits are sure to madness near allied
And thin partitions do their bounds divide;
Else, why should he, with wealth and hor
our blest,

Refuse his age the needful hours of rest?
Punish a body which he could not please,
Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease?
And all to leave what with his toil he won,
To that unfeathered two-legged thing, a son
Got, while his soul did huddled notions try
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy,
In friendship false, implacable in hate,
Resolved to ruin or to rule the ste
The Duke of Buckingham,

↑ Slingsby Bethel,

Of zeal to God and hatred to his King;
Did wisely from expensive sins refrain
And never broke the Sabbath but for gain :
Nor ever was he known an oath to vent,
Or curse, unless against the government."

Against these attacks their chief Shaftesbury made a stand: when ac cused of high treason he was declared nct guilty by the grand jury, in spite of all the efforts of the court, amidst the applause of a great crowd; and his partisans caused a medal to be struck, bearing his face, and boldly showing on the reverse London Bridge and the Tower, with the sun rising and shining through a cloud. Dryden replied by his poem of the Medal, and the violent diatribe overwhelmed the open provo


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A martial hero first, with early care,

Blown like a pigmy by the winds, to war;
A beardless chief, a rebel ere a man,
So young his hatred to his Prince began.
Next this (how wildly will ambition steer!)
A vermin wriggling in the usurper's ear;
Bartering his venal wit for sums of gold,
He cast himself into the saint-like mould,
Groaned, sighed, and prayed, while godli-
ness was gain,

The loudest bag-pipe of the squeaking train."

The same bitterness envenomed religious controversy. Disputes on dogma, for a moment cast into the shade by debauched and skeptical manners, had broken out again, inflamed by the bigoted Roman Catholicism of the prince, and by the just fears of the nation. The poet who in Religio Laici was still an Anglican, though lukewarm and hesitating, drawn on gradually by his absolutist inclinations, had become a convert to Romanism, and in his poem of The Hind and the Panther fought for his new creed. "The nation," he says in the preface, "is in too high a ferment for me to expect either fair war or even so much as fair quarter from a reader of the opposite party." And then, making use of medieval allegories, he represents all the heretical sects as beasts of prey, worrying a white hind of heavenly origin; he spares neither coarse comparisons, gross sarcasms, nor open objurgations. The argument is close and theological


His hearers were not wits, who cared to see how a dry subject could be adorned; they were not theologians, only by accident and for a moment, animated by mistrustful and Amour de Dieu. They were oppressea cautious feelings, like Boileau in his men, barely recovered from a secular persecution, attached to their faith by their sufferings, ill at ease under the their restrained foes. Their poet must be a dialectician and a schoolman; he needs all the sternness of logic; he is immeshed in it, like a recent convert, saturated with the proofs which have and which support him against pubseparated him from the national faith, lic reprobation, fertile in distinctions, pointing with his finger at the weaknesses of an argument, subdividing replies, bringing back his adversary to the question, thorny and unpleasing to a modern reader, but the more praised and loved in his own time. In all English minds there is a basis of gravity and vehemence; hate rises tragic, with a gloomy outbreak, like the breakers of the North Sea. In the midst of his public strife Dryden attacks a private enemy, Shadwell, and overwhelms him with immortal scorn. A great epic style and solemn rhyme gave weight to his sarcasm, and the unlucky rhymester was drawn in a ridiculous triumph on the poetic car, whereon the muse sets the heroes and the gods. Dryden represented the Irishman Mac Flecknoe, an old king of folly, deliber. ating on the choice of a worthy succes sor, and choosing Shadwell as an heir to his gabble, a propagator of nonsense, a boastful conqueror of common sense. From all sides, through the streets littered with paper, the nations assembled to look upon the young hero, standing near the throne of his father, his brow surrounded with thick fogs, the vacant smile of satisfied im becility floating over his countenance : The hoary prince in majesty appear'd,

visible menaces and ominous hatred of

High on a throne of his own labours rear'd.
At his right hand our young Ascanius sate,
Rome's other hope, and pillar of the state;
His brows thick fogs instead of glorie

And lambent dulness play'd around his face

Mac Flecknoę.

As Hannibal did to the altars come,
Sworn by his sire, a mortal foe to Rome;
So Shadwell swore, nor should his vow be

That he, till death, true dulness would
maintain ;

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

Ne'er to have peace with wit nor truce with


The king himself the sacred unction made,
As king by office and as priest by trade.
In his sinister hand, instead of ball,

He placed a mighty mug of potent ale."

{lis father blesses him :

flatus, as you may see great ship enter the muddy Thames with spread canvas, cleaving the waters.


In these three poems, the art of writing, the mark and the source of classical literature, appeared for the first time. A new spirit was born and renewed this art, like every thing else; thenceforth, and for a century to come, ideas sprang up and fell into their

"Heavens bless my son from Ireland let place after another law than that which

him reign

To far Barbadoes on the western main;
Of his dominion may no end be known,
And greater than his father's be his throne;
Beyond Love's Kingdom let him stretch his


He paused, and all the people cried Amen.
Then thus continued he: 'My son, advance
Still in new impudence, new ignorance.
Success let others teach, learn thou from me,
Pangs without birth and fruitless industry.
Let Virtuosos in five years be writ;

had hitherto shaped them. Under Spenser and Shakspeare, living words, like cries or music, betrayed the internal imagination which gave them forth. A kind of vision possessed the artist; landscapes and events were unfolded in his mind as in nature; he concentrated in a glance all the details and all the forces which make up a being, and this image acted and was devel

Yet not one thought accuse thy toil of wit....oped within him like the external ob

Let them be all by thy own model made
Of dulness and desire no foreign aid,
That they to future ages may be known,
Not copies drawn, but issue of thy own:
Nay, let thy men of wit too be the same,
All full of thee and differing but in name....
Like mine thy gentle numbers feebly creep;
Thy tragic Muse gives smiles, thy comic

With whate'er gall thou setst thyself to

Thy inoffensive satires never bite;

In thy felonious heart though venom lies,
It does but touch thy Irish pen, and dies.
Thy genius calls thee not to purchase fame
In keen Iambics, but mild Anagram.

ject; he imitated his characters; he heard their words; he found it easier to represent them with every pulsation than to relate or explain their feelings; he did not judge, he saw; he was an involuntary actor and mimic; drama was his natural work, because in it the characters speak, and not the author. Then this complex and imitative conception changes color and is decomposed: man sees things no more at a glance, but in detail; he walks leisure

Leave writing plays, and choose for thy com-ly round them, turning his light upon


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all their parts in succession. The fire which revealed them by a single illu mination is extinguished; he observes qualities, marks aspects, classifies groups of actions, judges and reasons. Words, before animated, and as it were swelling with sap, are withered and dried up; they become abstractions; they cease to produce in him figures and landscapes; they only set in motion the relics of enfeebled passions they barely shed a few flickering beams on the uniform texture of his dulled conception; they become exact, numbers they are arranged in a series, almost scientific, like numbers, and like allied by their analogies, the first composite, all in the same order, sc more simple, leading up the next, more that the mind which enters upon a

track, finds it level, and is never obliged to quft it. Thenceforth a new career is opened; man has the whole world resubjected to his thought; the change in his thoughts has changed all aspects, and every thing assumes a new form in his metamorphosed mind. His task is to explain and to prove; this, in short, is the classical style, and this is the style of Dryden.

solid web stand out cleve..y connected or sparkling threads. Here Dryden has gathered in one line a long argument; there a happy metaphor has opened up a new perspective under the principal idea; * further on, two simi lar words, united together, have struck the mind with an unforeseen and cogent proof; † elsewhere a hidden com. parison has thrown a tinge of glory or shame on the person who least expected it. These are all artifices o successes of a calculated style, which chains the attention, and leaves the mind persuaded or convinced.


He develops, defines, concludes; he eclares his thought, then takes it up again, that his reader may receive it prepared, and having received, may retain it. He bounds it with exact terms justified by the dictionary, with simple constructions justified by grammar, 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 skilled 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. 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 confined 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 them in the human race. Such is the merit of these poems; they please by their good expressions.* It a full and "Strong were our sires, and as they fought they writ, Conquering with force of arms and dint of



Theirs was the giant race before the flood, And thus, when Charles return'd, our empire stood.

Like Janus, he the stubborn soil manured, With rules of husbandry the rankness cared;

Tamed us to manners, when the stage was rude,

And boisterous English wit with art endured.

But what we gain'd in skill we lost in strength,

Our builders were with want of genius

The second temple was not like the first."
Epistle 1a to Congreve, xi. 59.

opened up a poetical vista beyond the tumult of the strife; texts, traditions. a sad train of rigid reasoning, such. were their arms; the same prejudices and passions exist in both parties. This is why the subject-matter fell below the art of writing. Dryden had no personal philosophy to develop; he does but versify themes given to him by others. In this sterility art soon is reduced to the clothing of foreign ideas,

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and the writer becomes an antiquarian | cept in their first style in the dawn of or a translator. In reality, the great- credulous thought, 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 translations 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 Eneid in hai, 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 terested 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 copynotes; 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 the English Virgil was to give England the Virgil of Rome. This work was long considered his highest glory. Even so at Rome, under Cicero, in the early dearth of national poetry, the translators of Greek works were as highly praised as the original authors.

powerless to comprehend and recast it, more a rhymester than a poet. When La Fontaine put Æsop or Boccaccio into verse, he breathed a new spiri into them; he took their matter only: the new soul, which constitutes the value of his work, is his, and only his; 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 maxíms, 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 jects 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 adventures of Palamon and Arcite, the a rule, they are but flatteries, almost transformations, tournaments, appari- always awkward, often mythological, tions, need the astonished carelessness interspersed with somewhat commonand the graceful gossip of old Chaucer. | place sentences. "I have studied Vigorous periods, reflective antitheses, Horace," he says, "and hope the style here oppress these amiable ghosts; of his Epistles is not ill imitated here." classical phrases embarrass them in their too stringent embrace they are lost to our sight; to find them again we must go to their first parent, quit the too harsh light of a learned and manly age; we cannot pursue them fairly ex

Though Huguenots contemn our ordion.


Succession, ministerial vocation," etc.

(The Hind and the Panther, Part ii. x. 166) books.

such are the harsh words we often find in his

Preface to the Religio Laici, x. 32.

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