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surpassed, for example, the majesty of his rendering of the grand epitaph on Hannibal. The pity is that something awry in his nature, as in Swift's, wrenched his pen towards physical uncleanness. Coarse as is the Roman, he coarsens him. He revels in grossness. The propensity spots his noble Lucretian anthology, to his blame, not that of his author who wrote as a physiologist, no longer a poet. It must have been a gigantic capacity for transmuting philosophy into poetry, which yet in the Lucretius extorts indulgence even for that blur. Finally the gift, in another of its phases, triumphed over the intellectual crabbedness of Persius. At all times there it fairly smooths out the creases. Often it adds a grace, to which the Latin fancy would never have risen, or, perhaps stooped, as, of a mistress's power, that it

Can draw you to her with a single hair. 13 Sometimes it points a sermon from a heathen text to Christian formalists :

O souls, in whom no heavenly fire is found,
Fat minds, and ever grovelling on the ground !
We bring our manners to the blest abodes,

And think what pleases us must please the Gods.14 The success with Lucretius, and, as a feat of art more completely still with Persius, is remarkable. For pure delightfulness the Tales from Boccaccio and Chaucer may be rated higher. A time was when it would have been disgraceful not to be versed in the redemption by invincible love from loutishness of Cymon, who

Whistled as he went, for want of thought; in the unforgiving, haughty father's vengeance upon his daughter Sigismonda, and her lowly bridegroom; and in Guido Cavalcanti's fiendish.hunt. The present neglect is


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waste of a heritage of national literature. If the translations or paraphrases of several of Chaucer's Tales are equally overlooked, an excuse may be that they are known now in the original. Far be it from me to suggest that Chaucer's adorable naïveté, the infinite surprises of his flexible rhythm, could ever have been fully replaced by later substitutes. It remains no less true that Dryden's more measured, but never monotonous, harmony is a creation which it is a sin to lose. Nor is it words alone that he interpreted, but spirit, and with a view to modern intelligence. Thus, for one who might and ought to have enjoyed the Knight's Tale, ninety-nine, at all events in the seventeenth century, to appreciate it, needed to have it passed through a more recent understanding, and stamped with its accent. If the proportion happily is changed in our times, there is still a majority of readers to whom Dryden's version is more congenial.

Let me quote a few lines for comparison. Chaucer is describing Emelye in the garden, as she appeared to the two prisoners :

In the gardin, at the sonne up-riste,
She walketh up and doun, and as hir liste
She gadereth floures, party whyte and rede,
To make a sotil gerland for hir hede,

And as an aungel hevenly she song.16 The passage happens to be unusually free from archaisms; yet see how Dryden transforms it, while he doubles the length:

At every turn she made a little stand,
And thrust among the thorns her lily hand
To draw the rose, and every rose she drew
She shook the stalk, and brush'd away the dew .
Then party-colour'd flowers of white and red
She wove, to make a garland for her head :




This done, she sung and caroll’d out so clear,
That merr and angels might rejoice to hear:
E’en wond'ring Philomel forgot to sing :

And learn’d from her to welcome in the spring 17
For myself I prefer Chaucer always ; but I could not resign

Dryden is like the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, with 'the feet part of iron, and part of clay’. Much of his work is worse than clay, mere mud. Adulations, hardly to be excused by official duty, occupy a large space; a dismal Threnodia Augustalis, in which one eye weeps for a dead monarch, while the other beams on the successor ; Astraea Redux; a Britannia Rediviva. There are hireling condolences, dear at any price, with an Earl the poet did not know, on the decease of a Countess he had never seen. There are weary Prologues and Epilogues, which, if paid for by weight, would have been lucrative. For background and foreground, Tragedies, tearing passion to rags, alternate with Comedies, as much cause as effect of the social degeneracy. A poet proud of the name- as he boasts to a cousin :

Nor think the kindred muses thy disgrace ;

A poet is not born in every raceallowed himself to be crowned King of Grub Street; to sell what did duty for inspiration that he might revel at a tavern.

So much is a lamentable, not an unprecedented, stain upon a lofty career and fame. Other writers of eminence have discredited their greatness by misusing it for base purposes. The phenomenon with Dryden is that after any fall he could redeem, not so much his dignity, as his powers themselves,

, to whatever work he had anew pledged them. The toughness, the fierceness of his robust and masculine spirit, would doubtless have made the ungentle topics of politics and casuistry equally his theme had he rivalled Andrew Marvell

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in incorruptness and simplicity. Nature moulded him for a flail to thresh away chaff, a tornado to tear through a forest. He is the Rubens of poetry, admirable for the certainty of his touch, the overpowering tenacity of his grasp of an idea.

. A misfortune of his genius was to belong so wholly to his period, which he dominated, with its passions, and fashions, to be so wrapped up in it and them, as often to be liable to burial with it and them in its grave. Its happy peculiarity was to be able to emerge again and again.

He employed poetry as a weapon of affairs. None are poets who cannot absorb themselves into their theme for the time being. He was a born fighter, as he was a born poet. His imagination set the atmosphere of controversy on fire. It is impossible wholly to regret that he descended from Parnassus into the arena of political and theological controversy. If that has rusted with age much of his work, a whole period of history, the prey else of dullness and darkness, has been illuminated by the radiance of his imagination. In another direction literature has gained by this habit in him of regarding poetry as a craftsman his tools. He had to earn his living. The public would pay for Tales ; and he wrote Tales for it. It was a happy necessity which drove him to such an exercise of his journeyman's industry. They reveal stores in him of sweetness, sublimity, the true poet's infinity of sympathy. Unfortunately the public was ready to pay, and yet more eagerly, for Plays after its taste; and he has written Plays to suit it.

Thus far he acted equally after his manner with the specific instrument nature had bestowed upon him. But it is impossible to measure by strict rule either the potentialities, or the humours, of supreme imaginativeness. None can predict when and how Heaven in the Prophet will begin to speak. At the age of sixty-six, exiled from Court, stripped of his appointments—and in Shadwell's favour !-out of touch with popular feeling, impoverished, and sick, he blazed, as we have seen, upon a forgetful world with his Alexander's Feast. No English Ode can match it but Milton's Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity. The smell of the lamp hangs about Gray's Progress of Poesy and the Bard, even about Collins's Ode to the Passions. They have not the same fire, the spontaneity. Well that the captive and blind Samson, after grinding and making sport for a dissolute Court and public all the best years of his life, should have been moved before he died to sing a Song like this!

And yet—as we read it, how more and more we feel with his brother poet—as it were, his successor—'Unhappy Dryden!'

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The Poetical Works of John Dryden (Aldine Edition of the British
Poets). William Pickering, 1832. Five vols.

1 Translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses.
2 Religio Laici; or, A Layman's Faith, vv. 62–79.
3 The Hind and the Panther, vv. 239-44.
4 Absalom and Achitophel, Part I, vv. 27-30.
5 Ibid., vv. 188-97.
6 MacFlecknoe, vv. 17–20.
? Song of the Sea-fight, in Amboyna.
8 To Sir Godfrey Kneller, Epistle 14.

• To my Dear Friend, Mr. Congreve, on bis Comedy, The Double Dealer, Epistle 10, vv. 66-75.

10 Absalom and Achitophel, Part I, vv. 150–97. 11 Pope, Essay on Criticism, Part I.

12 Alexander's Feast; or, The Power of Music : Ode in Honour of St. Cecilia's Day.

13 Persius, Sat. V, v. 247.
14 Ibid., Sat. ii, vv. 110–13.
15 Cymon and Iphigenia, v. 95.
16 The Knightes Tale (Canterbury Tales), ed. Skeat, vv. 1051-5.
17 Palamon and Arcite (Tales from Chaucer), vv. 191-200.

18 To my Honoured Kinsman, John Dryden, of Chesterton, Epistle 13, vv. 201-2.

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