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applause which is too often reserved for the “dull cold ear of death.” He combated, it is true, but he conquered : and, in despite of faction, civil and religious; of penury, and the contempt which follows it; of degrading patronage and rejected solicitation, the name of Dryden was first in English literature.
2. The distinguishing characteristic of Dryden's genius seems to have been the power of reasoning and of expressing the re-' sult in appropriate language. This may seem slender praise ; yet these were the talents which led Bacon into the recesses of philosophy, and conducted Newton to the cabinet of nature. The prose works of Dryden bear repeated evidence to his philosophical powers. Indeed, his early and poetical studies gave his researches somewhat too much of a metaphysical character; and it was a consequence of his mental acuteness that his dramatic personages often philosophized or reasoned when they ought only to have felt. The more lofty, the fiercer, the more ambitious feelings seem also to have been his favorite studies.
3. With this power Dryden's poetry was gifted in a degree surpassing in modulated harmony that of all who had preceded him, and inferior to none that has since written English verse. He first showed that the English language was capable of uniting smoothness and strength. The hobbling verses of his predecessors were abandoned even by the lowest versifiers; and by the force of his precept and example the meanest lampooners of the year seventeen hundred wrote smoother lines than Donne and Cowley, the chief poets of the earlier half of the seventeenth century. What was said of Rome adorned by Augustus has been, by Johnson, applied to English poetry improved by Dryden: that he found it of brick, and left it of marble.
4. The satirical powers of Dryden were of the highest order. He draws his arrow to the head, and dismisses it straight upon his object of aim. In this walk he wrought almost as great a reformation as upon versification in general—a fact which will plainly appear if we consider that, before Dryden's time, satire bore the same reference to Absalom and Achitophel which an ode of Cowley bears to Alexander's Feast. But he and his imitators had adopted a metaphysical satire, as the poets in the earlier part of the century had created a metaphysical vein of serious poetry. Both required store of learning to supply the
perpetual expenditure of extraordinary and far-fetched illustration. The object of both was to combine and hunt down the strangest and most fanciful analogies; and both held the attention of the reader perpetually on the stretch, to keep up with the meaning of the author. There can be no doubt that this metaphysical vein was much better fitted for the burlesque than the sublime. Yet the perpetual scintillation of Butler's wit is too dazzling to be delightful ; and we can seldom read far in Hudibras without feeling more fatigue than pleasure. His fancy is employed with the profusion of a spendthrift, by whose eternal round of banqueting his guests are at length rather wearied out than regaled. Dryden was destined to correct this among other errors of his age; to show the difference between burlesque and satire ; and to teach his successors in that species of assault rather to thrust than to flourish with their weapon.
5. In lyrical poetry, Dryden must be allowed to have no equal. Alexander's Feast is sufficient to show his supremacy in that brilliant department. In this exquisite production, he Aung from him all the trappings with which his contemporaries had embarrassed the ode. The language, lofty and striking as the ideas are, is equally simple and harmonious. Without far-fetched allusions or epithets or metaphors, the story is told as intelligibly as if it had been in the most humble prose. The change of tone in the harp of Timotheus regulates the measure and the melody and the language of every stanza. The hearer, while he is led on by the successive changes, experiences almost the feelings of the Macedonian and his peers ; nor is the splendid poem disgraced by one word or line unworthy of it. ... We listen for the completion of Dryden's stanza as for the explication of a difficult passage in music ; and wild and lost as the sound appears, the ear is proportionably gratified by the unexpected ease with which harmony is extracted from discord and confusion. ...
6. Educated in a pedantic taste and a fanatical religion, Dryden was destined, if not to give laws to the stage of England, at least to defend its liberties; to improve burlesque into satire ; to teach posterity the powerful and varied poetical harmony of which their language was capable ; to give an example of the lyric ode of unapproached excellence; and to leave to English literature a name second only to that of Milton and of Shakespeare.
I.-ALEXANDER'S FEAST; OR, THE POWER OF MUSIC.
[INTRODUCTION.-The ode entitled Alexander's Feast was written by Dryden in 1697 for an English musical society that annually celebrated the festival of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. It was composed in a single night. Lord Bolingbroke states that Dryden said to him, when he called upon him one morning, “I have been up all night. My musical friends made me promise to write them an ode for their feast of St. Cecilia, and I was so struck with the subject which occurred to me that I could not leave it till I had completed it. Here it is, finished at one sitting.” Macaulay pronounces this ode Dryden's greatest work. “It is," he says, “the masterpiece of the second class of poetry, and ranks just below the great models of the first.” Dryden himself, as it appears, shared this opinion. When Chief-justice Manlay, then a young lawyer, congratulated him on having produced “the finest and noblest ode that ever had been written in any language,” “You are right, young gentleman," replied Dryden, "a nobler ode never was produced, nor ever will !'']
'Twas at the royal feast, for Persia won
By Philip's warlike son —
On his imperial throne;
His valiant peers were placed around,
(So should desert in arms be crowned).
NOTES. – Line 1. 'Twas at, etc. By Great (356–323 B.C.), son of
poetic license Dryden opens Philip, King of Macedon. He
with roses and myrtle leaves. 2. Philip's warlike son. Alexander the (See Becker's Charicles.)
LITERARY ANALYSIS.—3, 4. Aloft ... sate. Transpose these two lines into the prose order.
4. sate. Modernize.
'It should be remembered that the ode was designed to be set to music. This was done at the time, and also by Handei in 1736.
The lovely Thaïs by his side
Happy, happy, happy pair !
None but the brave,
None but the brave,
Timotheus, placed on high
Amid the tuneful quire,
With flying fingers touched the lyre :
And heavenly joys inspire.
9. Thaïs, a celebrated Athenian beau- | 13. None. Literally no one.
ty and wit, the companion of 16. Timo'theus: a celebrated Greek Alexander, whom she accom
musician and a great favorite panied in his invasion of Persia. of Alexander. “Her name is best known by 21. from Jove: that is, with Jove (Jupiher having stimulated Alexan
ter). der, during a festival at Persep- 22. seats. The plural form is a Latinolis, to set fire to the palace ism; we should now use the of the Persian kings; but this singular number. anecdote, immortalized as it has 24. A dragon's flery form, etc. 'The been by Dryden's famous ode prose word-arrangement would (see lines 118-121], is, in all be, “The god (Jupiter) belied probability, a
fable," (counterfeited) a dragon's fiery (Smith's Classical Dictionary.)
LITERARY ANALYSIS.-10. Sate, like, etc. What is the figure of speech? See Def. 19.)
13–15. None but the brave ... brave. What is the figure of speech? (See Def. 36.)-deserves. With what subject does this word agree?
16–20. Timotheus ... inspire. Analyze this sentence.—Point out two examples of the "historical present” tense.- What is the subject of “inspire ?"
23. Such. What part of speech?
Sublime on radiant spires he rode.
The listening crowd admire the lofty sound;
A present deity, they shout around;
With ravished ears
Affects to nod,*
Of Bacchus ever fair and ever young.
The jolly god in triumph comes;
He shows his honest * face:
Bacchus, ever fair and young,
Drinking joys did first ordain ;
25. spires (often incorrectly printed 40. hautboys, oboes. The hautboy, or spheres), spiral lines.
oboe, is a wind instrument of 32. to nod: that is, to signify the will music like the clarinet.
of the god (Jupiter) by nodding. 41, 42. Bacchus . . . ordain : that is, 35. Bacchus. See p. 50, note 16.
Bacchus did first ordain drink39. honest face = handsome face.
LITERARY ANALYSIS.—25. on radiant spires. To what word is this expres. sion an adjunct ?
26. the lofty sound. What is meant by this expression ? 27. A present deity. Supply the ellipsis.
29-33. With ravished ears . . . spheres. Supply the ellipsis and analyze this sentence.
34. sung. What form should we now use ?