« הקודםהמשך »
shire. . . . . . .
Once I was uncon-
Reading ends in me-
lancholy . . . .
Whither would my
passion run . . .
d'ye fly me .
Come, weep no more,
for 'tis in vain
Phillis, since we have
both been kind
Phillis, this pious talk
give o'er . . . .
Still, Dorinda, Iadore
Is it, 0 love, thy want
of eyes . . . .
you . . . . .
Since my words,
though ne'er so
without art . -
Love, inform thy
faithful creature .
Touch the lyre, on
every string . .
PRIOR'S POETICAL WORKS.
RIGHT HONOURABLE LIONEL, EARL OF DORSET
It looks like no great compliment to your Lordship, that I prefix your name to this epistle; when, in the preface, I declare the book is published almost against my inclination. But, in all cases, my Lord, you have an hereditary right to whatever may be called mine. Many of the following pieces were written by the command of your excellent father; and most of the rest, under his protection and patronage. The particular felicity of your birth, my Lord; the natural endowments of your mind, which, without suspicion of flattery, I may tell you, are very great; the good education with which these parts have been improved; and your coming into the world, and seeing men very early; make us expect from your Lordship all the good, which our hopes can form in favour of a young nobleman. T'u Marcellus eris; our eyes and our hearts are turned on you. You must be a judge and master of polite learning; a friend and patron to men of letters and merit; a faithful and able counsellor to your prince; a true patriot to your country; an ornament and honour to the titles you possess; and in one word, a worthy son to the great Earl of Dorset.” It is as impossible to mention that name, without desiring to commend the person, as it is to give him the commendations which his virtues deserved. But I assure myself, the most agreeable compliment I can bring your Lordship, is to pay a grateful respect to your father's memory. And my own obligations to him were such, that the world must pardon my endeavouring at his character, however I may miscarry in the attempt. A thousand ornaments and graces met in the composition of this great man, and contributed to make him universally beloved and esteemed. The figure of his body was strong, proportionable, beautiful: and was his picture well drawn, it must deserve the praise given to the portraits of Raphael; and, at once, create love and respect. While the greatness of his mien informed men, they were approaching the nobleman, the sweetness of it invited them to come nearer to the patron. There was in his look and gesture something that is more easily conceived than described; that gained upon you in his favour, before he spake one word. His behaviour was easy and courteous to all; but distinguished and adapted to each man in particular, according to his station and quality. His civility was free from the formality of rule, and flowed immediately from his good sense. Such were the natural faculties and strength of his mind, that he had occasion to borrow very little from education; and he owed those advantages to his own good parts, which others acquire by study and imitation. His 1. Afterwards created Duke of Dorset.—a Born 24 January, 1637, died 29 January, 1705–6.
wit was abundant, noble, bold. Wit in most writers is like a fountain in a garden, supplied by several streams brought through artful pipes, and playing sometimes agreeably. But the Earl of Dorset's was a source rising from the top of a mountain, which forced its own way, and with inexhaustible supplies, delighted and enriched the country through which it passed. This extraordinary genius was accompanied with so true a judgment in all parts of fine learning, that whatever subject was before him, he discoursed as properly of it, as if the peculiar bent of his study had been applied that way; and he perfected his judgment by reading and digesting the best authors, though he quoted them very seldom, Contemnebat potitls literas, quam nesciebat:
and rather seemed to draw his knowledge from his own stores, than to owe it to any foreign assistance.
The brightness of his parts, the solidity of his judgment, and the candour and generosity of his temper distinguished him in an age of great politeness, and at a Court abounding with men of the finest sense and learning. The most eminent masters in their several ways appealed to his determination. Waller thought it an honour to consult him in the softness and harmony of his verse: and Dr Sprat, in the delicacy and turn of his prose. Dryden determines by him, under the character of Eugenius, as to the laws of dramatic poetry. Butler owed it to him that the Court tasted his Hudibras; Wycherley that the town liked his Plain Dealer; and the late Duke of Buckingham deferred to publish his Rehearsal, till he was sure (as he expressed it) that my Lord Dorset would not rehearse upon him again. If we wanted foreign testimony, La Fontaine and St Evremont have acknowledged, that he was a perfect master of the beauty and fineness of their language, and of all that they call les Belles Lettres. Nor was this nicety of his judgment confined only to books and literature, but was the same in statuary, painting, and all other parts of art. Bernini would have taken his opinion upon the beauty and attitude of a figure; and King Charles did not agree with Lely, that my lady Cleveland's picture was finished, till it had the approbation of my Lord Buckhurst.
As the judgment which he made of others' writings could not be refuted, the manner in which he wrote will hardly ever be equalled. Every one of his pieces is an ingot of gold, intrinsically and solidly valuable; such as, wrought or beaten thinner, would shine through a whole book of any other author. His thought was always new; and the expression of it so particularly happy, that every body knew immediately, it could only be my Lord Dorset's: and yet it was so easy too, that every body was ready to imagine himself capable of writing it. There is a lustre in his verses, like that of the sun in Claude Lorraine's landscapes: it looks natural, and is inimitable. His love-verses have a mixture of delicacy and strength. They convey the wit of Petronius in the softness of Tibullus. His satire indeed is so severely pointed, that in it he appears, what his great friend the Earl of Rochester (that other prodigy of the age) says he was;
The best good man, with the worst natur'd Muse. Yet even here, that character may justly be applied to him, which Persius gives of the best writer in this kind, that ever lived: "See Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poesie.
Omne wafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
And the gentleman had always so much the better of the satirist, that the persons touched did not know where to fix their resentments; and were forced to appear rather ashamed than angry. Yet so far was this great author from valuing himself upon his works, that he cared not what became of them, though every body else did. There are many things of his not extant in writing, which however are always repeated: like the verses and sayings of the ancient Druids, they retain an universal veneration, though they are preserved only by memory.
As it is often seen, that those men who are least qualified for business, love it most; my Lord Dorset's character was, that he certainly understood it, but did not care for it.
Coming very young to the possession of two plentiful estates, and in an age when pleasure was more in fashion than business, he turned his parts rather to books and conversation than to politics, and what more immediately related to the public. But whenever the safety of his country demanded his assistance, he readily entered into the most active parts of life, and underwent the greatest dangers with a constancy of mind which showed, that he had not only read the rules of philosophy, but understood the practice of them.
In the first Dutch war he went a volunteer under the Duke of York. His behaviour, during that campaign, was such as distinguished the Sackville descended from that Hildebrand of the name, who was one of the greatest captains that came into England with the Conqueror. But his making a song" the night before the engagement (and it was one of the prettiest that ever was made) carries with it so sedate a presence of mind, and such an unusual gallantry, that it deserves as much to be recorded, as Alexander's jesting with his soldiers, before he passed the Granicus; or William the First of Orange, giving order over night for a battle, and desiring to be called in the morning, lest he should happen to sleep too long.
From hence, during the remaining part of King Charles' reign, he continued to live in honourable leisure. He was of the bed-chamber to the king, and possessed not only his master's favour, but (in a great degree) his familiarity; never leaving the Court, but when he was sent to that of France, on some short commissions and embassies of compliment: as if the king designed to show the French (who would be thought the politest nation), that one of the finest gentlemen in Europe was his subject; and that we had a prince who understood his worth so well, as not to suffer him to be long out of his presence.
The succeeding reign neither relished my Lord's wit, nor approved his maxims: so he retired altogether from Court. But as the irretrievable mistakes of that unhappy government went on to threaten the nation with something more terrible than a Dutch war, he thought it became him to resume the courage of his youth, and once more to engage himself in defending the liberty of his country. He entered into the Prince of Orange's interest, and carried on his part of that great enterprise here in London, and
1 The song began, ‘To all you ladies now at land,' and may be found in old collections
of the Minor Poets.