תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

be made. He knew to whom he should be opposed. He had more musick than Waller, more vigour than Denham, and more nature than Cowley ; and from his contemporaries he was in no danger. Standing therefore in the highest place, he had no care to rise by contending with himself; but while there was no name above his own, was willing to enjoy fame on the easiest

terms.

}

He was no lover of labour. What he thought sufficient, he did not stop to make better; and allowed himself to leave many parts unfinished, in confidence that the good lines would overbalance the bad. What he had once written, he dismissed from his thoughts: and, I believe, there is no example to be found of any correction or improvement made by him after publication. The hastiness of his productions might be the effect of necessity; but his subsequent neglect could hardly have any other cause than impatience of study.

What can be said of his versification will be little more than a dilatation of the praise given it by Pope:

Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verse, che full resounding line,

The long majestic march, and energy divine. Some improvements had been already made in English numbers; but the full force of our language was not yet felt; the verse that was smooth was como monly feeble. If Cowley had sometimes a finished line, he had it by chance. Dryden knew how to chuse the flowing and the sonorous words: to vary the pauses, and adjust the accents ; to diversify the cadence, and yet preserve the smoothness of his metre.

Of Triplets and Alexandrines, though he did not introduce the use, he established it. The triplet has long subsisted among us. Dryden seems not to have traced it higher than to Chapman's Homer; but it is to be found in Phaer's Virgil, written in the reign of Mary; and in Hall's Satires, published five years before the death of Elizabeth.

The Alexandrine was, I believe, first used by Spenser, for the sake of closing his stanza with a fuller sound. We had a longer measure of fourteen syllables, into which the Eneid was translated by Phaer, and other works of the ancients by other writers; of which Chapman's Iliad was, I believe, the last. The two first lines of Phaer's third Eneid will exemplify this measure :

When Asia's state was overthrown, and Priam's kingdom stout,

All guiltless, by the power of gods above was rooted out. Asthese lines had their break, or cæsura, always at the eighth syllable, it was thought, in time, commodious to divide them; and quatrains of lines, alternately, consisting of eight and six syllables, make the most soft and pleasing of our lyrick measures ; as,

Relentless

Relentless Time, destroying power,

Which stone and brass obey,
Who giv'st to every flying hour

To work some new decay. In the Alexandrine, when its power was once felt, some poems, as Drayton's Polyolbion, were wholly written ; and sometimes the measures of twelve and fourteen syllables were interchanged with one another, Cowley was the first that inserted the 'Alexandrine at pleasure among the heroick lines of ten syllables, and from him Dryden professes to have adopted it.

The Triplet and Alexandrine are not universally approved. Swift always censured them, and wrote some lines to ridicule them. In examining their propriety, it is to be considered that the essence of verse is regularity, and its ornament is variety. To write verse, is to dispose syllables and sounds harmonically by some known and settled rule ; a rule hou everlax enough to substitute similitude for identity, to admit change without breach of order, and to relieve the ear without disappointing it. Thus a Latin hexameter is formed from dactyls and spodees differently combined; the English heroick admits of acute or grave syllables variously disposed. The Latin never deviates into seven feet, or exceeds the number of seventeen syllables; but the English Alexandrine breaks the lawful bounds, and surprises the reader with two syllables more than he expected.

The effect of the Triplet is the same: the ear has been accustomed to expect a new rhyme in every couplet; but is on a sudden surprized with three rhymes together, to which the reader could not accommodate his voice, did he not obtain notice of the change from the braces of the Margins. Surely there is something unskilful in the necessity of such mechanical direction.

Considering the metrical art simply as a science, and consequently excluding all casuality, we must allow that Triplets and Alexandrines, inserted by caprice, are interruptions of that constancy to which science aspires. And though the variety which they produce may very justly be desired, yet, to make our poetry exact, there ought to be some stated mode of admitting them.

But'till some such regulation can be formed, I wish them still to be retained in their present state. They are sometimes convenient to the poet. Fenton was of opinion, that Dryden was too liberal, and Pope too sparing, in their use.

The rhymes of Dryden are commonly just, and he valued himself for his readiness in finding them ; but he is sometimes open to objection.

It is the common practice of our poets to end the second line with a weak or graye syllable :

Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly,
Fill'd with ideas of fair Italy,

Vol. I.

нь

· Dryden

sa

Dryden sometimes puts the weak rhymes in the first :

Laugh, all the powers that favour tyranny,

And all the standing army of the sky, Sometimes he concludes a period or paragraph with the first line of a couplet, which, though the French seem to do it without irregularity, always displeases in English poetry.

The Alexandrine, though much his favourite, is not always very diligently fabricated by him. It invariably acquires a break at the sixth syllable; a rule which the modern French poets never violate, but which Dryden sometimes neglected :

And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne. Of Dryden's works it was said by Pope, that “ he could select from them “ better specimens of every mode of poetry than any other English writer « could supply.” Perhaps no nation ever produced a writer that enriched his language with such variety of models. To him we owe the the improvement, perhaps the completion of our metre, the refinement of our language, and much of the correctness of our sentiments. By him we were taught pere & fari,” to think naturally and express forcibly. Though Davis has reasoned in rhyme before him, it may be perhaps maintained that he was the first who joined argument with poetry. He shewed us the true bounds of a translator's liberty. What was said of Rome, adorned by Augustus, may be applied by an easy metaphor to English poetry embellished by Dryden, “ late“ritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit." He found it brick, and he left it marble.

THE invocation before the Georgicks is here inserted from Mr. Milbourne's version, that, according to his own proposal, his verses may be compared with those which he censures.

What makes the richest tilth, beneath what signs
To plough, and when to match your elms and vines ;
What care with fucks and what with herds agrees,
And all the management of frugal bees;
I sing, Mecenas ! Ye immensely clear,
Vast orbs of light, which guide the rolling year ;
Bacchus, and mother Ceres, if by you
We fai’ning corr. for hungry mast pursue,
If, taught by you, we first the cluster prest,
And thin cold streams with sprightly juice refresht;
Ye fawns, the present numens of the field,
Wood-nymphs and fawns, your kind assistance yield;
Your gifts I sing and thou, at whose fear'd stroke
From rending earth the fiery courser broke,
Great Neptune, O assist my artful song;
And thou to whom the woods and groves belong, :

Whose

[ocr errors]

Whose snowy heifers on her flow'ry plains
In mighty herds the Caan Isle maintains !
Pan, happy shepherd, if thy cares divine,
E'er to improve thy Manalus incline;
Leave thy Lycaan wood and native grove,
And with thy lucky smiles our work approve;
Be Pallas too, sweec-oil's inventor, kind;
And he, who first the crooked plough design'd,
Sylvanus, god of all the woods, appear,
Whose hands a new-drawn tender cypress bear!
Ye gods and godelesses, who e'er with love
Would guard our pastures, and our fields improve ;
You, who new plants from unknown lands supply,
And with condensing clouds obscure the sky,
And drop them softly thence in fruitful showers,
Assist my enterprize, ye gentle powers !

}

And thou, great Cæsar ! though we know not yet
Among what gods thou'lt fix thy lofty seat;
Whether thoui't be the kind tutelar God
Of thy own Rome, or with thy awful pod
Guide the vast world, while thy great hand shall bear
The fruits and seasons of the turning year,
And thy bright brows thy mother's myrtles wear ;
Whether thou'lt all the boundless ocean sway,
Aud sea-

men only to thyself shall pray,
Thul, the farthest island, kneel to thee,
And, that thou may'st her son by marriage be,
Tethys will for the happy purchase yield
To make a dowry of her wat’ry field ;
Whether thou'lt add to heaven a brighter siges,
And o'er the summer months serenely shine ?
Where between Cancer and Erigone,
There yet remains a spacious room for thee;
Where the hot Scorpion too his arts declines,
And more to thee than half his arch resigns ;
Whate'er thou'lt be; for sure the realms below
No just pretence to thy command can show:
No such ambition sways thy vast desires,
Though Greece her own Elysian fuld's admires.
And now, at last, contented Pserping
Can all her mother's earnest prayers decline.
Whate'er thou'lt be, O guide our gentle course,
And with thy smiles our bold attempts enforce;
With me th’unknowing rustics' wants relieve;
And, though on earth, our sacred vows receive!

Mr.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Mr. DRYDEN, having received from Rymer his Remarks on the Tragedies of the last Age, wrote observations on the blank leaves; which, having been in the possession of Mr. Garrick, are by his favour communicated to the publick, that no particle of Dryden may be lost. That we

may the less wonder why pity and terror are not now the only springs on which our tragedies move, and that Shakspeare may be more ex

cused, Rapin confes, es that the French tragedies now all run on the tendres " and gives the reason, because love is the passion which most predominates in Four souls, and that therefore the passions represented become insipid, unless “ they are conformable to the thoughts of the audience. But it is to be “ concluded, that this passion works not now amongst the French so strongly

as the other two did amongst the ancients. Amongst us, who have a

stronger genius for writing, the operations from the writing aré much “ stronger; for the raising of Shakspeare's passions is more from theexcellency

of the words and thoughts, than the justness of the occasion; and, if he " has been able to pick single occasions, he has never founded the whole reasonably: yet, by the genius of poetry in writing, he has succeeded.

“ Rapin attributes more to the dictio, that is to the words and discourse of " a tragedy, than Aristotle has done, who places them in the last rank of beau"" ties; perhaps, only last in order, because they are the last product of the s design, of the disposition or connection of its parts; of the characters, of “the manners of those characters, and of the thoughts proceeding from the " manners. Rapin's words are remarkable: 'Tis not the admirable intrigue, “the surprising events, and extraordinary incidents, that make the beauty of "a tragedy; 'tis the discourses, when they are natural and passionate ; so " are Shakspeare's.

The parts of a poem, tragick or heroick, are, “ 1. The fable itself,

2. The order or example of its contrivance, in relation of the parts to the 56 whole.

“ 3. The manners, or decency, of the characters, in speaking or acting what is proper for them, and proper to be shewn by the poet. « 4. The thoughts which express

the

manners. " 5. The words which express those thoughts.

“ In the last of these, Homer excels Virgil; Virgil all other ancient poets; " and Shakspeare all modern poets.

“ For the second of these, the order : the meaning is, that a fable ought “ to have a beginning, middle, and an end, all just and natural; so that that " part, e.g. which is the middle, could not naturally be the beginning or end, “ and so of the rest: all depend on one another, like the links of a curious, "chain. If terror and pity are only to be raised, certainly this author fol"lows Aristotle's rules, and Sophocles' and Euripides's example: but joy

o may

« הקודםהמשך »