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If I should tell the politic arts
To take and keep men's hearts ;
The letters, embassies, and spies,
(Numberless, nameless mysteries),
And all the little lime twigs laid
By Machiavel the waiting maid;
I more voluminous should grow
Than Holinshed or Stow.
But I will briefer with them be,
Since few of them were long with me,
An higher and a nobler strain
Whom now grant long to reign.
In a far different style of the false taste and forced conceits of the metaphysical school are the following love verses,
THE GIVEN HEART.
Woe to her stubborn heart, if once mine come
Into the selfsame room,
’T will tear and blow up all within, Like a granado shot into a magazine.
Then shall love keep the ashes and torn parts
Of both our broken hearts;
Shall out of both a new one make,
ALL OVER LOVE.
Hereafter, if one dust of me
Mix'd with another's substance be,
Let nature if she please, disperse
At the last they easily shall
Themselves know and together call;
One tear will keep me twenty at least;
Fifty a gentle look will give;
A thousand more will added be,
And all beyond is vast eternity! Surely this is a style of courtship that no lady can understand. For who would accept the gift of a heart of metal just going to blow up and destroy like a bombshell; or care for the affection of a masculine compound of atoms ready to be scattered like March dust; or to have a lover with a bill of fare only fit for a skeleton or an Egyptian mummy.
Not all the wit, learning, and ingenuity of Cowley could perpetuate the taste for such absurdity.
The genius of Dryden was too robust to endure those once fashionable follies for long, and he forsook them, as he repented of still graver errors, of which both his predecessors and contemporaries were guilty. “I have 'pleaded guilty” he says “to all thoughts and ex
pressions of mine that can be truly accused of “obscenity, immorality or profaneness, and I retract " them.”
Of the lives of the British poets by Dr. Johnson, one of the very best is his life of Dryden, and in that admirable biography his merits as an author are thus comprehensively stated. “He had more music than “Waller, more vigour than Denham and more nature “than Cowley.”
Of Dryden's works it was said by Pope, that he could select from them betler specimens of every mode of poetry than any_other English writer' could supply.' “Perhaps," says Dr. Johnson “no nation ever produced “ a writer that enriched his language with such a variety ' of models. To him we owe 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 sapere et fari, to “think naturally and express forcibly; he taught us that “it was possible to reason in rhyme; he showed 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; lateritiam invenit, marmoream reliquit, he “ found it brick and he left it marble.”
Pope wrote of him
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
His second ode for St. Cecilia's day, surpassing the first which is of very high merit 'has been always
considered, as exhibiting the highest flight of fancy “and the exacting nicety of art. This is allowed to “stand without a rival. If indeed there is any “excellence beyond it in some other of Dryden's “works that excellence must be found. Compared “ with the ode on Killigrew it may be pronounced “perhaps superior in the whole, but without any single “part, equal to the first stanza of the other.
CDE TO ANNE KILLIGREW.
Such is Dr. Johnson's opinion, and as the former ode is more generally known I will give as a single specimen of Dryden's poetry, that first stanza of
To the pious memory of the accomplished young lady,
Mistress Anné Killigrew, excellent in the two sister arts of
POESY AND PAINTING.
“ Thou youngest virgin, daughter of the skies,
Made in the last promotion of the blest ;
Or in procession fixed and regular,
Or called to more superior bliss,
Since heaven's eternal year is thine.
In no ignoble verse;
While yet a young probationer,
Criticism, which has been practised so variously and so extensively in Reviews, Magazines, and Newspapers, during the present century, was almost unknown, when Dryden wrote his admirable “Essay on Dramatick Poesy,” which entitles him to the rank of the Father of English Criticism.
DRYDEN'S PRAISE OF SHAKSPERE.
The greater portion of his prose writings are critical dissertations, which, as a man of learning, a poet, a translator of poetry, and a dramatist, he was so well qualified to write, with ease, gracefulness, and vigour. His general precepts have been useful guides to many critics who came after him, and may still be studied with pleasure and advantage.
No better or more appropriate example of his high merit as a prose writer need be given, than his critical eulogy of Shakspere—“ He was the man, who, of all “modern and perhaps ancient poets, had ine largest "and most comprehensive soul. All the images of “ nature were still present to him, and he drew them not "laboriously, but luckily. When he describes anything, "you more than see it, you feel it too. Those who "accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the “greater commendation; he was naturally learned; he “needed not the spectacles of books to read nature,
he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say “he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him “ injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. “He is many times flat, insipid; his comick wit • degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into “bombast. But he is always great, when some great " occasion is presented to him; no man can say he ever “had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise “himself as high above the rest of poets.
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.
“The consideration of this made Mr. Hales, of Eton, 'say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever “writ, but he would produce it much better done in
Shakspere; and however others are now generally "preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, · which had cotemporaries with him, Fletcher and “ Jonson, never equalled them to him, in their esteem; “and in the last King's court, when Ben's reputation " was at the highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him