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words, "A severe Admonition to all green Heads to avoid the Temptations of grey Achitophels," and "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our Instruction." The broadside (a copy of which is in the Library of Harvard University) would seem to have suggested to Dryden the framework of his poem. 1. The Jews: the English. ¶ 7. Adam-wits: not knowing when they were well off, like Adam before his fall. 13. Saul: Oliver Cromwell. ¶ 14. Ishbosheth: Richard Cromwell. ¶15. David: Charles II. Hebron: in the key published in 1716 by Tonson, Dryden's publisher, Hebron is Scotland, although Flanders would be more natural here; perhaps there is a reference to the fact that Scotland had already proclaimed Charles king, and that General Monk's army, which was largely instrumental in restoring the monarchy, marched down from Scotland. ¶ 18. humour-caprice. ¶ 22. golden calf: see Exod. 32:1-6.
(21) 41. Jerusalem: London. 42. Jebusites: Roman Catholics. ¶60. The Jewish rabbins: doctors of the English Church. ¶64. that Plot: the so-called Popish Plot, an alleged plot of English Papists, in 1678, to kill Charles II and get control of the government. (22) 74-77. A sneer at the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, or belief that the bread and wine of the sacrament are changed into the flesh and blood of Christ. Egyptian: French, France being taken as a typical Roman Catholic country. ¶84. Hebrew priests: clergymen of the English Church. ¶ 106. Achitophel: Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. He had been Lord Chancellor, and President of the Privy Council, under Charles II; but for supporting the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of the king, as a claimant to the throne, in opposition to the succession of James, the king's Papist brother, he was thrown into the Tower on a charge of high treason, a few months before the publication of "Absalom and Achitophel"; shortly after the poem appeared, the grand jury threw out the bill against him, and he was released. ¶111. disgrace: Shaftesbury had been dismissed from the chancellorship and the Privy Council.
(23) 114. o'er-informed: "inform" is used here in its sense of "animate," "fill with life." 119, 120. Cf. Seneca (who is citing Aristotle), De tranquilitate animi, xv. 16: "Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fit," "There is no great genius without admixture of madness." But Dryden may have borrowed directly from Thomas Shadwell's Sullen Lovers (1669), III. i: "Great wits, you know, have always a mixture of madness." wits-minds. ¶126. unfeathered two-legged thing: cf. the definition of man, attributed by Diogenes Laertius (Vitae philosophorum, vi. 40) to Plato: (wov díπovv äπтeрov, “an animal two-footed, without wings." ¶ 131. the triple bond: the alliance, formed in 1667, of England, Holland, and Sweden against France. It was virtually broken in 1670, when Charles made a secret treaty with France against Holland (see l. 133). ¶136-47. Added in the second edition, December, 1681, after Shaftesbury had been released from prison. 144. Abbethdin-chief justice. 149. gown: judges in England wear black gowns when on the bench. 153. wanted lacked. one immortal song: "Absalom and Achitophel"; the poem was published anonymously, a fact which should be remembered in estimating Dryden's modesty.
(24) 154, 155. Cf. a couplet in Knolles's Generall Historie of the Turkes (1603):
Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not stand,
¶ 169. the King himself a Jebusite: as a matter of fact Charles had agreed, in the secret treaty with France, to declare himself a Roman Catholic. ¶ 177. warlike Absalon: James, Duke of Monmouth (1649–85), recognized by Charles II as his illegitimate son, had commanded the English army in the second war with Holland in 1672-74, against the Scotch Covenanters in 1675, and in the war with France in 1678; he was a bold soldier, though no general. ¶ 180. his title: his title to the throne; the king steadily refused to admit that there had been a contract of marriage between himself and the duke's mother, the notorious Lucy Walters.
(25) 203. feeds: a grammatical error for "feed." cf. French "prévaloir," to avail, take advantage of).
210. prevail avail (a Gallicism; ¶ 219. plighted vows: Charles had
formally acknowledged James as his legitimate successor. ¶226-35. This very indulgent portrait of the dissolute and sometimes violent duke was due to Dryden's knowledge that the king still loved the young man, and to his hope that a reconciliation might yet take place. It was not to be. In 1682 Monmouth made another tour through the western counties, stirring up popular sentiment in his favor by his singular personal charm. He was arrested, but was released on bail; in 1683 he fled to Holland, and probably never saw the king again. After the accession of James, Monmouth made an unsuccessful attempt to raise the west of England in revolution; he was taken prisoner, and died on the scaffold in 1685. Shaftesbury had died in Holland, two years before.
(26) 262. The Solymaean rout: the London rabble (Latin "Solyma," Jerusalem). ¶266. an Ethnic plot: the Popish Plot. ¶ 268. Levites: Presbyterian ministers, who had now lost the power which they had under the Commonwealth ("the Judges' days"), being ousted from their churches by the Act of Uniformity, which required every clergyman to use the prayer-book and assent to everything in it. 272. Sanhedrin: Parliament.
(27) 293. Zimri: George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, a brilliant but profligate man; he was for a time chief minister under Charles, but, being dismissed from office in 1674, he threw himself into the opposition party; he was one of the writers of The Rehearsal (1671), in which Dryden was severely ridiculed for his plays. This portrait of Buckingham was a favorite with the author, who wrote thus of it in his Discourse on Satire (1692): "The character of Zimri, in my 'Absalom,' is, in my opinion, worth the whole poem; it is not bloody, but it is ridiculous enough; and he for whom it was intended was too witty to resent it as an injury. If I had railed, I might have suffered for it justly; but I managed my own work more happily, perhaps more dexterously. I avoided the mention of great crimes, and applied myself to the representing of blind sides and little extravagances; to which the wittier a man is, he is generally the more obnoxious. It succeeded as I wished; the jest went round, and he was laughed at in his turn who began the frolic."
(28) Part II. 1. Doeg: Elkanah Settle, a poor poet and playwright of the day, with whom Dryden had long been at odds; he had recently replied to "Absalom and Achitophel' by a poem entitled "Absalom Senior," in which James, the king's brother, was represented as Absalom. 28. Og: Thomas Shadwell; see the notes on "Mac Flecknoe" below. 30. link-torch
(30) MAC FLECKNOE. "Mac Flecknoe" is a name invented by Dryden for Thomas Shadwell, a contemporary poet and dramatist; it means "son of Flecknoe." Richard Flecknoe was a dull Irish poet, who had died in 1678. Shadwell and Dryden had formerly been friends; but Shadwell was a Whig, while Dryden was a Tory, and political antagonism made them enemies. "Mac Flecknoe" was directly occasioned by Shadwell's attack upon Dryden, in a poem entitled "The Medal of John Bayes'-a reply to Dryden's poem, "The Medal," in which Shaftesbury and the Whigs were scourged. "Mac Flecknoe" was published anonymously, being announced as "by the author of 'Absalom and Achitophel.'" ¶ 12. wit= mind. 25. goodly fabric: Shadwell was large and fat. 29. Heywood and Shirley: Thomas Heywood and James Shirley, dramatists in the reigns of James I and Charles I; they were playwrights of considerable ability, and Dryden's contemptuous reference to them shows the change of taste in the England of the Restoration and the growing ignorance of the literature of the preceding age. 33. Norwich drugget: drugget was a coarse woolen cloth:
Norwich was a center for the manufacture of cloths.
(31) 42. There seems to be a reference both to Shadwell's play, Epsom Wells, and to the custom of tossing obnoxious persons in a blanket. 43. Arion: an early Greek poet, of whom there was a legend that, when he was thrown into the sea, dolphins, entranced by his songs, carried him to shore. ¶53. St. André's feet: St. André was a celebrated dancingmaster of the time. 54. 'Psyche's': Psyche was an opera by Shadwell. 57. Singleton: a stage-singer. 59. Villerius: a general in The Siege of Rhodes, an opera by William Davenant; "lute and sword" (1. 58) ridicules the combination of singing and fighting. ¶64.
Augusta: London. The Romans so named the city, in honor of Augustus Cæsar; and the name was now revived, partly as flattery to Charles II, who was sometimes addressed as Cæsar and Augustus. 165. much to fears inclined: an allusion to the recent fears of a Popish plot. ¶67. hight=was called (the sole survival in English of a passive form without the use of the auxiliary "to be"; O. E. "hatte," is or was called). ¶ 78. Maximins: Maximin was the hero in Dryden's play, Tyrannic Love; he thus defies the gods with his last breath:
And, shoving back this earth on which I sit,
179. Fletcher: John Fletcher (1579-1625), who in collaboration with Francis Beaumont wrote many excellent plays; they were more popular than Shakspere's plays on the Restoration stage. buskins: buskins stand for tragedy, from the fact that Greek actors wore highheeled shoes, called buskins, when playing tragedy. ¶80. Jonson: Ben Jonson (1573 ?-1637); his comedies, by their realism and ingenuity of plot, pleased the taste of Dryden's age more than the romantic comedies of Shakspere. socks: socks stand for comedy, from the fact that Greek actors wore low-heeled shoes, called socks, when playing comedy. ¶81. gentle Simkin: Simkin was a cobbler in a contemporary interlude, or farce; shoemaking was called "the gentle craft." ¶83. clinches-repartees, puns, etc. 84. Panton: a noted punster.
(32) 87. Decker: Thomas Decker, or Dekker (15707-1637?), a dramatist. ¶91-93. The Miser and The Humourists are plays by Shadwell. Raymond is a character in the latter play; Bruce, a character in Shadwell's Virtuoso. There seems to be no particular reference in the use of the word "Hypocrites." ¶97. Bunhill Row is a little to the north of the Barbican; Watling Street is to the south, not much farther off; the satire in limiting Shadwell's fame to this restricted area, with the mock boast in "distant," is obvious. ¶ 102. Ogleby: John Ogleby (1600-76), an obscure poet and translator. ¶ 104. Bilked: defrauded of their pay by the small sale of poor poets' works. yeomen: a hundred yeomen used to form the bodyguard of the English king. 105. Herringman: a leading publisher. ¶ 106. the hoary prince: Flecknoe. ¶ 108. our young Ascanius: Shadwell. (In the Eneid Ascanius is the son and heir of Æneas.) 108, 109. Cf. the Eneid, xii. 168, “Et juxta Ascanius, magnae spes altera Romae," ""And Ascanius next, the other hope of great Rome 111. Cf. the Eneid, ii. 682-84:
Ecce levis summo de vertice visus Iuli
Fundere lumen apex, tactuque innoxia mollis
Dryden thus rendered the lines in his translation of Virgil (1697):
Strange to relate, from young Iülus' head
A lambent flame arose, which gently spread
118. unction the act of anointing, or consecrating. made performed. left. ball: English kings at their coronation held a ball, in the right hand, as a symbol of dominion over the earth. 121. ale: selected for its heavy, dulling quality. 122. "Love's Kingdom": a play by Flecknoe. ¶ 125. recorded-sung (Psyche was an opera).
(33) 136, 137. Cf. the Eneid, vi. 78, 79:
Bacchatur vates, magnum si pectore possit
"The prophetess rages, if perchance she may shake from her breast the great god.” ¶151. George: George Etheridge (or Etherege) author of several popular Restoration comedies, in which occur the characters mentioned in the next two lines. 163. Sedley: Sir Charles Sedley, a wit and light poet (see p. 7), who had revised one of Shadwell's plays and written a prologue for another; Dryden insinuates that the best parts of Shadwell's plays were written by Sedley.¶166, 167. Dryden unduly depreciates Shadwell, who was far from dull; his plays have many really comic characters and situations, and his Fury Fair, at least, has con
siderable vivacity as a whole. ¶ 168. Sir Formal's oratory: Sir Formal Trifle is a character in Shadwell's Virtuoso; the quality of his "oratory" may be inferred from his name.
(34) 170. northern dedications: dedications to the Duke of Newcastle; Newcastle is near the Scottish border. ¶ 172. arrogating: i. e., to flatter Shadwell, his friends would presumptuously claim that his plays were like Jonson's. hostile name: i. e., Jonson's mind was unlike Shadwell's and antagonistic to it; see ll. 175-86. 179. Prince Nicander's: Prince Nicander is a character in Psyche. ¶ 188. Cf. Shadwell's dedication to The Virtuoso: "Four of the humours are entirely new; and without vanity I may say I ne'er produced a com edy that had not some natural humour in it not represented before, and I hope I never shall." ¶ 189-92. An adaptation of lines from Shadwell's epilogue to his Humourists:
A humour is the bias of the mind
By which with violence 't is one way inclined;
It makes our actions lean on one side still.
And in all changes that way bend the will.
¶ 193. mountain belly: Jonson, in "My Picture," used this expression of himself, and Shadwell prided himself on resembling Jonson in body as in mind. ¶ 194. tympany of sense: a tympany is a distended condition of the abdomen, due to dropsy, etc. (Greek тúμяavov, a kettle-drum); the word is used figuratively for bombast, swelling speech full of emptiness; by "tympany of sense," Dryden means that Shadwell's "mountain belly" is abnormal and unhealthy, and a symbol of the bombast of his writings, not of mental greatness as Jonson's was. ¶196. kilderkin-a small barrel. ¶ 204. iambics: satiric verses (because iambic verse was used in Greek and Latin satires). ¶207. wings display and altars raise: i. e., write poems made to resemble wings and altars in shape by variation in the length of the lines; this fantastic custom had been practiced by lesser English poets for several generations and was often ridiculed.
(35) 212, 213. Bruce and Longville, characters in The Virtuoso, play a similar trick on Sir Formal Trifle. ¶214-17. Cf. the story of Elijah and Elisha (II Kings 2:9-13).
(35) RELIGIO LAICI. Lines 1-41. 276-94, 370-455. The subtitle, "A layman's faith," translates the title. "The verses were written for an ingenious young gentleman, my friend, upon his translation of The Critical History of the Old Testament, composed by the learned Father Simon; the verses therefore are addressed to the translator of that work, and the style of them is, what it ought to be, epistolary."-Preface. 1-12. Nearly the same figure is in Donne's Biathanatos (1644); if Dryden borrowed the hint from Donne, it throws interesting light upon the range of his reading. Donne says: "That light which issues from the moon doth best represent and express that which in ourselves we call the light of nature; for as that in the moon is permanent and ever there, and yet it is unequal, various, pale, and languishing, so is our light of nature changeable. .. And then those artificial lights which ourselves make for our use and service, as fires, tapers, and such, resemble the light of reason. . . . . .. But because of these two kinds of light the first is too weak and the other false,. .... we have therefore the sun, which is the fountain and treasure of all created light, for an emblem of that third-best light of our understanding, which is the Word of God."Biathanatos, Part III, Distinction i, sec. 1. ¶ 16, 17. An allusion to the philosophy of Anaxagoras (of the fifth century B. C.), who believed in a World-Soul as the regulating principle of the universe. 18, 19. An allusion to the philosophy of Democritus (of the fifth century B. C.), who taught that material atoms were the ultimate elements of the world, and that all things were made by their fortuitous combination; cf. Lucretius, De rerum natura, v. 422–31:
Sed quia multa modis multis primordia rerum
Omne genus coetus et motus ex periundo
"But since many first-beginnings of things have in many ways, during infinite time past, been impelled by impact and by their own weight to be carried along and to unite in every manner and make complete trial of every thing that they could create among themselves by coming together, it accordingly happens that, spread abroad through long ages, after trying every kind of union and motion, they at length come together in those masses which, suddenly borne together, often become the rudiments of great things, of earth, sea, and heaven, and the race of living things." 21. the Stagyrite: Aristotle (384-322 B. C.), who was born in Stagira, Macedonia. ¶ 22. Epicurus: Epicurus (342-270 B. C.), the founder of the Epicurean school of philosophy, accepted the atomistic theory of Democritus.
(36) 31. wiser madmen: the Stoics. ¶33. In Pleasure some: the Epicureans. ¶ 57. Esdras: see Ezra 7:10; Neh., chap. 8; I Esd. 8:7; according to tradition Ezra, or Esdras, not only revived the knowledge of the Pentateuch among the Jews after the Captivity, but also made alterations and additions.
(38) 147. Sternhold's: Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins were the authors of a prosaic metrical translation of the Psalms (about 1549). Shadwell's: cf. "Mac Flecknoe" (p. 30) and the notes on it (p. 433).
(39) TO THE MEMORY OF MRS. ANNE KILLIGREW. Anne Killigrew, daughter of an Anglican clergyman, and maid of honor to the Duchess of York (afterward queen), died of smallpox in her twenty-fifth year, in 1685; Dryden's ode was prefixed to a collected edition of her poems the following year. ¶23. traduction: transmission from parents; this view of the origin of the soul was denied by many, who held that the soul of each human being was created directly by God and put into the body. ¶ 26, 27. Her father and his two brothers had all written plays.
(40) 34-37. The lines are based upon the Pythagorean and Platonic doctrine of the transmigration of souls, according to which the soul is incarnated in lower animals for its sins, and inhabits fairer and fairer bodies as it grows more pure. ¶38. Return: i. e., to heaven, whence it first came. 43. in trine: a conjunction of stars in a triangle was a favorable omen in astrology. 49. the music of the spheres: in the Ptolemaic astronomy the earth was the center of the universe; around it revolved the planets and stars, set in crystal spheres, or hollow concentric globes, and their motions, at rates of speed that varied according to mathematical proportions, made the music of the spheres, which was too fine for mortal ears to hear. 50, 51. It is fabled that a swarm of bees lit on the mouth of the infant Sophocles and distilled their honey upon his lips; hence the wonderful sweetness of his verse. ¶ 68. Arethusian: Arethusa, pursued by the river-god Alpheus, was changed into a fountain by Diana and fled under earth and sea to the island of Ortygia.
(41) 82. Epictetus with his lamp: Epictetus (of the second half of the first century B. C.), the Stoic philosopher, was a man of lofty ethical ideals and noble character; Lucian refers to his earthenware lamp, which was bought after his death for three thousand drachmas. ¶93 Painture painting (from French "peinture"). ¶95. A Chamber of Dependences: i.e., a legislative body representing the realms dependent upon poetry (cf. 1. 98). ¶103. demains= domains (Old French "demaine"; cf. English "demesne").
(42) 128. King: James II. 134. Our phoenix queen: there was supposed to be only one phoenix in the world at a time, each bird consuming itself in the fire after a long life, and its successor arising from the ashes; hence the term came to be used for anything unique, especially for anything uniquely excellent.
(43) 162. thus Orinda died: “Orinda" was the nom de plume of Katharine Philips, a poetess, who died of smallpox in 1664. ¶ 180, 181. See Joel 3:12.
(44) THE HIND AND THE PANTHER. Part I. 1-105, 154-69, 327-50; Part II. 305-98.