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Happy, happy, happy pair ! -
Timotheus, placed on high
Amid the tuneful quire,
With Aying fingers touched the lyre ;
And heavenly joys inspire !
As instances of Dryden's lighter verse, we present the following :
I feed a Aame within, which so torments me,
O, lull me, lull me, charming air !
My senses rock with wonder sweet !
Grief who need fear
And slumbering die,
Ah, how sweet it is to love!
Pains of love be sweeter far
Than all other pleasures are.
Do but gently heave the heart;
Lovers, when they lose their breath,
Dryden happening to pass an evening at the Duke of Buckingham’s, where were assembled Lord Dorset, the Earl of Rochester, and other distinguished men, the conversation chanced to turn upon literary topics. After some debate, it was agreed that each person present should improvise some lines on any subject his fancy might suggest, and that the contributions should be placed under the candlestick. Dryden was excepted, but the office of umpire was assigned to him. Some of the company were at more than ordinary pains to outrival their competitors; but Lord Dorset was noticed to write his two or three lines with the most tranquil unconcern. All the wits having contributed their effusions, Dryden proceeded to unfold the leaves of their literary destiny. He discovered deep emotion during the process, and at length exclaimed,
“I must acknowledge that there are abundance of fine things in hands, and such as do honour to the personages who penned them ; but I am under the indispensable necessity of giving the preference to Lord Dorset. I must request you will hear it yourselves, gentlemen, and I believe you will all then approve my judgment :-- I promise to pay to John Dryden, Esq., or order, on demand, the sum of Five hundred pounds.—Dorset.' I must confess,” continued Dryden, “that I am equally charmed with the style and the subject; and I Aatter myself, gentlemen, that I stand in need of no argument to induce you to acquiesce in opinion, even against yourselves. This style of writing excels any other, ancient or modern: it is not the essence, but the quintessence of language, and is, in fact, reason and argument surpassing every thing in letters.”. Of course, the company cordially concurred with the bard, and complimented the superior penetration of the noble donor.
When Dryden was a boy at Westminster School, he was put, with others, to write a copy of verses on the miracle of the conversion of water into wine. Being a great truant, he had not time to compose his verses; and when brought up, he had only made one line of Latin, and two of English :
“Vidit et erubuit lympha pudica Deum!"
Beheld its God, and blushed itself to wine;"
which so pleased the master, that instead of being angry, he said it was a presage of future greatness, and gave the youth a crown on the occasion. What a contrast this first outburst of poetic power presents with the closing days of his literary career! when in his seventieth year he complains that, “worn out with study, and oppressed with fortune, he was compelled to contract with his publisher to furnish ten thousand verses at sixpence per line !"
Macaulay thus writes of Dryden :-“His command of language was immense. With him died the secret of the old poetic diction
1 This may be a plagiarism from Crashaw's—“Nympha pudica Deum vidit, et erubuit.”
of England,—the art of producing rich effects by familiar words. On the other hand, he was the first writer under whose skilful management the scientific vocabulary fell into natural and pleasing
* The varying verse, the full-resounding line,
Warton says, the most splendid and sublime passage that Dryden ever wrote is the following :
So when of old the Almighty Father sate
Then, not till then, the Eternal Son from high
ADDISON's poetry is generally considered cold and artificial, although his graver productions are harmonious and beautiful; they are, indeed, accepted as his best compositions. His well-known Hymn, says Thackeray, “ shines like the stars.” Here it is :
The spacious firmament on high,