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26. 188. stops = "these ventages" in Hamlet, III. ii. 372. quills. Comp. Dryden :
"His flying fingers and harmonious quill
Strike seven distinguish'd notes, and seven at once they fill."
Another of Milton's favourite words.
poem in the pastoral style. Theocritus, Bion, Moschus, wrote in the
190. the hills, that is, their shadows. Comp. Virg. Ecl. i. 83.
191. was dropt. See above, 1. 97.
192. twitch'd. Comp. Juvenal's "Tyrias humero revocante lacernas” (Sat. i. 27). mantle blew. Blue was the colour of a shepherd's dress, and the poet here personates a poetic shepherd. It was also a common colour for servant-men. Ben Jonson speaks of servants as "the blue order;" also of "a blue waiter." In Beaumont and Fletcher
a footman is called "a blue-bottle," a familiar phrase still.
193. Comp. Theocr. Id. i. 145:
1. JOHN DRYDEN was born on the 9th of August, 1631 (the year before Locke was born), probably in the house of his maternal grandfather, at Aldwincle All Saints, near Oundle, in Northamptonshire. His father, of a family belonging originally to Cumberland, was the proprietor of a small estate at Blakesley, a village near Aldwincle All Saints. In course of time he was sent to Westminster School, then under the superintendence of Dr. Busby, and subsequently to Trinity College, Cambridge. Leaving the University in 1657, without, it would seem, having specially distinguished himself there, he went up to London, and devoted himself to politics and to literature. Amongst his family connexions were certain important members of the Puritan party. The death of Cromwell soon provided him with a poetical subject. His writing an elegy on that occasion did not prevent him, any more than Waller, and other poets of the day, from welcoming back with a poem Charles the Second. With the Restoration a new field was thrown open to the wits of the time in the shape of the stage, which for some eighteen years had been altogether, or partially, shut up. Dryden turned play-writer. He wrote comedies, tragedies, tragi-comedies: the comedies, in prose; the tragedies, the earliest in blank verse, then some in rhyme, on the model of the French tragic drama, the latest in blank verse. His subjects he drew mostly from the old romances, and from history. He reproduced three of Shakspere's plays, Troilus and Cressida, Antony and Cleopatra (which he called All for Love), and The Tempest. In 1671 his plays were heartily, and not undeservedly, ridiculed in the Rehearsal, written by the Duke of Buckingham, assisted, it is said, by "Hudibras" Butler, and others. All this time he was winning more lasting fame by the various critical essays with which his plays, when published, were frequently prefaced. In 1663 he married the Lady Elizabeth Howard, a daughter of the Earl of Berkshire, who by no mean's proved a congenial consort.
2. It was not till Dryden was some fifty years old that he fully discovered where his strength lay. Before 1681 he had written other poetical pieces, as his Annus Mirabilis (published in 1667, the same year with Paradise Lost), besides his plays, and everything he had written had been marked by a certain power and might; but in that year his Absalom and Achitophel displayed his characteristic talents in their fullest and completest vigour. The nation was at that time in a state of profound excitement; the struggle between Absolutism and Constitutionalism was rapidly nearing its final crisis; the contest between the Court party and the Exclusionists, an important passage in that other all-comprehensive struggle, had just reached its utmost fury. Dryden stood forth as the champion of the Court party; in his Absalom and Achitophel he dealt the Exclusionists the severest blows his genius could inflict, and they were terribly effective. That poem was speedily followed by another, The Medal, aimed at that same Achitophel; and this by another, Mac Flecknoe, aimed at Shadwell, the chief poet of the Whig side. At this same memorable period of his life he wrote also Religio Laici, to vindicate Revelation against Atheism, and Protestantism against Tradition. How well the Stuarts rewarded his great services appears from the fact that it was only with much appealing and difficulty he could procure the payment of the salary due to him as Poet Laureate. Not
long after the succession of James II. he became a Roman Catholic; with his usual fervour and brilliancy he in 1686 wrote his Hind and Panther (published the following year), in which he defended that tradition of which in the Religio Laici he had made so light. When the boy was born who was afterwards known as "the Pretender," Dryden celebrated the event in his Britannia Rediviva; but that birth was in fact the signal for the combined action of a justly indignant nation, and the irreparable fall of the Stuart dynasty.
3. Dryden fell with his patrons. Whatever may be thought of the consistency of his previous life, he certainly refused overtures now made to him by the triumphant Protestant party. His political life ended; his literary activity was as intense as ever. He now set himself to the translation of certain classical poets. His version of Persius and Juvenal was published in 1693; that of the Eneid in 1697, in which same year he wrote also his now best-known poem, his Alexander's Feast. His modernizations of Chaucer and other pieces-his Fables -appeared in 1700. Thus his vigour remained to the end, for in 1700 he died.
Of his twenty-eight plays scarcely any one is now at all known; and perhaps not much more deserves to be known. The comedies abound in wit, those written in the heroic metre in fine versification; but Dryden was wanting in dramatic power, he was wanting in humour, in tenderness, in delicacy. He could describe in a masterly manner, but this is not the dramatist's great function; he had not the art of making his characters develop themselves -describe themselves by their actions, so to speak. He could lay bare all the motives that actuated them, but he could not show them in a state of action obedient to those motives: in short, his power was rather of the analytical kind.
His descriptive power was of the highest. Our literature has in it no more vigorous portrait-gallery than that he has bequeathed it. He succeeds better in his portraits of enemies than of friends; perhaps because, as it happened, the Whig leaders excited in him more disgust than the Tories admiration. The general type of character which that age presented was in an eminent degree calculated not to stir enthusiasm. Dryden fell upon evil times. What he for the most part saw was flagrant corruption in Church and in State, and in society he lived the best years of his life in the most infamous period of English history; he was getting old when a better time began. The poet reflects his age: there was but little noble for Dryden to reflect. Naturally, he turned satirist.
There is always a singular fitness in his
His power of expression is beyond praise. language: he uses always the right word.
He is one of our greatest masters of metre: metre was, in fact, no restraint to him, but rather it seems to have given him freedom. It has been observed that he argues better in verse than in prose: verse was the natural costume of his thoughts. As a prose-writer he is excellent; but verse-writing was his proper province.
THIS piece was directed against Shadwell, the leading Whig poet of the day, as Dryden was the Tory. It was published in October 1682. Johnson therefore mistakes when he says that it was occasioned by Shadwell's being appointed to succeed Dryden as Poet Laureate (see his Life of Dryden); for that superseding did not take place till after the Revolution.
In spite of what is said in the following Satire, Shadwell was a comic poet of no mean power, and but for his lavish indecency would well deserve to be read. He was certainly a better play-writer than his satirist. Dryden and he had once been friends, and indeed
fellow-workers, and in those days Dryden had not been blind to his merits. In the Epilogue to the Volunteers, one of Shadwell's plays, he speaks of him as
"The great support of the Comic stage,
This praise must have been particularly welcome to Shadwell, not only as coming from whom it did come, but for its form; for Shadwell modelled himself upon Ben Jonson. He, too, aimed at representing "humours." He is said to have resembled him somewhat in person. He found no difficulty in resembling him in his affection for the tavern. Had he lived some half-century sooner he would no doubt have gladly been enrolled in what Jonson himself called "the tribe of Ben." If Jonson wrote Masques, Shadwell wrote an opera, Psyche. In course of time Dryden and he became enemies. Dryden had spoken disparagingly of Ben Jonson (see his Essay on Dramatic Poetry); Shadwell sneered at Aureng-zebe. When the fearful factious excitements connected with the Exclusion Bill and the Popish Plot came to a head in 1678, and the two following years, Dryden and Shadwell were ranged on opposite sides. Shadwell answered the Medal with his Medal of John Bayes; he took part also in a lampoon called The Tory Poets, aimed at Dryden and Otway. In October 1682 appeared Mac Flecknoe: A Satire on the True Blue Protestant Poet, T. S.; and in the following month the portrait of Shadwell under the name of Og in the Second Part of Absalom and Achitophel.
For the name, Shadwell would have been proud to be called the "Son of Ben;" Dryden calls him the "Son of Flecknoe," the heir of one of the meanest versifiers of the century. Of this poor poetaster, Flecknoe, the very name would now barely be known but for the immortality Dryden thus gave him. Dryden plucked him from oblivion to become a proverb of badness. Thus Swift writes in his On Poetry, a Rhapsody, 1744:
"Remains a difficulty still
To purchase fame by writing ill.
From Flecknoe down to Howard's time,
Besides its great intrinsic merit, Mac Flecknoe has the additional interest of having mainly suggested the form of Pope's Dunciad. "I doubt not," says Pope himself in a note to "Flecknoe's Irish Throne" (Dunciad, ii. 2), "our author took occasion to mention him in respect to the poem of Mr. Dryden, to which this bears some resemblance, though of a character more different from it than that of the Eneid from the Iliad, or the Lutrin of Boileau from the Défait de Bonts Rimées [sic] of Sarazin."
27. 3. Flecknoe. See Introduction.
Augustus was just thirty-three years of age when he overthrew his formidable rival Antony, and became the undisputed master of the Roman world. He held that mastership for forty-four years. See Class. Dict. or Hist. Rom. [In what year did he accept the imperium proconsulare? In what year did he die?]
8. [Explain the exact meaning of a large increase. In what relation do the words stand to issue?]
See 1 Sam. ii. 33. So
increase is often used particularly for family or progeny. Shakspere's Coriolanus, III. iii. 114; Pope's Odyssey:
"Him young Thoosa bore, the bright increase
Comp. Latin incrementum. Often it is used generally for produce.
"For not to have been dipt in Lethe's lake Could save the son of Thetis from to-die."
"I leave to be," &c. Or debate to settle may debate Comp. "to subdue any that in anywise denied to do
(Two Gentlemen of Verona, III. i. 182.) how to settle; comp. Milton's Lyc. 10. it." (Bunyan's Holy War.)
The settling of the succession of the political state was an only too familiar question at this time. It had troubled Cromwell; it was now pressing upon Charles the Second, if anything could press upon him; it was certainly vexing the whole nation. Thus Flecknoe's position was easy to realize.
13. Observe the force of the metre here.
'Tis resolved. Comp. beginning of Alexander's Feast. 14. [What part of speech" is onely here? What does it qualify? strictly, to be placed? Quote or find similar instances of careless arrangement.]
Where ought it,
22. "The long dissensions of the two houses, which although they had had lucid intervals and happy pauses, yet they did ever hang over the kingdom ready to break forth." (Bacon.)
intervall here, as etymologically, of space. Shakspere uses the Latin form in 2 Henry IV. V. i. 85, "a' shall laugh without intervallums."
23. [What is meant by genuine night?]
24. In a moral sense we still say prevail upon,"
= persuade; so 'prevail with." In a material sense perhaps we should rather say "prevail over." See Shakspere's Richard III. III. iv. 64. Comp. "prevail against." Comp. also Daniel iii. 27: These men upon whose bodies the fire had no power."
[Has rising any present force here ?] 25. See Introd.
fabrick. The comparison of a body to a building is common enough: see St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, v. 1. It is the leading idea of Howe's Living Temple. (See 1 Cor. iii. 16, &c.)
26. [Is majesty used here in an abstract or a concrete sense?]
28. supinely. Keats used supine in its original sense in Eve of St. Agnes.
28. 29. Heywood was one of the "Elizabethan" dramatists. Of the details of his life little is known. He died some time in the reign of Charles I. He would seem to have been a writer of wonderful fertility, for he boasts of having had "an entire hand, or at the least a main finger," in 220 plays. He was a writer of far greater merit than might be supposed from this mention of him by Dryden. See some extracts from his plays in Lamb's Specimens of English Dramatic Poets. Lamb, a most discerning critic, says of him that he is "; a sort of prose Shakspeare. His scenes are to the full as natural and affecting. But we miss the Poet, that which in Shakspeare always appears out and above the surface of the nature," &c.
Shirley, born probably in 1594, died in 1666. Neither to him does Dryden here quite do justice; see specimens of his plays in the selection just mentioned. Lamb says of him, that he claims a place amongst the worthies of this period not so much for any transcendent genius in himself as that he was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly the same language, and had a set of moral feelings and notions in common. A new language and quite a new turn of tragic and comic interest came in with the Restoration." Dryden, as the great superseder of this school of which Shirley was the last notable member, not unnaturally failed to appreciate what merits he had.
31. dunce. Duns Scotus (he was born about the same time as Dante, died in 1308,) was a man of an acute intellect, and of great erudition; but, when that school of learning to which he belonged fell into contempt, his name became a by-word for ignorance: thus his very