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Dryden's skill in versification: The extraordinary art with which the recurrences of the you and your are varied in position so as to give a corresponding variety to the cadence of the verse, is the chief thing to be noted here.' (English Men of Letters, Dryden, p. 31.)
1. 288. A star appeared at noon on the day of Charles the Second's birth, May 29, 1630, as the king his father was proceeding to St. Paul's to give thanks to God for the event. Charles II entered London, when restored to his throne, on his birthday; and Dryden here ascribes renewed force to the star which had been observed on the day of his birth thirty years before. There is nothing to support Scott's unnecessary conjecture that the same star was again visible on May 29, 1660. Cowley and Waller both refer to the star in such a manner as to show that it is only from its appearance on the actual day of Charles's birth that good effect is inferred:
' No star amongst ye all did, I believe,
Such vigorous assistance give
Of the proud sun's meridian light,
No less effects than these we may
Be assured of from that powerful ray
Cowley's Ode on the Restoration.
Waller's Poem on St. James's Park. Dryden refers again to this star presiding over Charles's birth in Annus Mirabilis, stanza 18. It is mentioned by Herrick in his Pastoral upon the Birth of Prince Charles :
* And that his birth should be more singular,
To God's sweet babe, when born at Bethlehem.' Lilly the astrologer declared the star to be the planet Venus; and he was doubtless right. Derrick mentions that Venus was similarly seen by day in 1757. It was lately so seen in May, 1868.
1. 292. Time's whiter series. White,' used to mean ‘fortunate,' is a Latinism. The line probably is an imitation of Silius Italicus (xv. 53) :
*Sed current albusque dies horaeque serenae.' Herrick uses 'white' in this sense frequently in the Hesperides; as,
*Adversity trusts none, but only such
Whom whitest Fortune dandled has too much.' And again,
‘They were discreetly made with white success. 1. 310. The allusion to France's fear of an exile is either to the ready acquiescence of France in Charles's departure from Paris to take up his residence at Cologne in 1654, or more probably perhaps to the dislike more recently shown by Cardinal Mazarin to Charles's visit to Fuentarabia in the autumn of 1659, when the treaty of the Pyrenees was being negotiated.
*l. 316. edicts. Dryden refers to the King's proclamation against vicious, debauched, and profane persons, issued May 30, 1660, the day after he entered London. See Kennet's Register Ecclesiastical and Civil, p. 167. The King specially mentions those riotous Cavaliers, 'who in truth have more discredited our cause by the license of their manners and lives, than they ever could advance it by their affection or courage.'
1. 317. your life and blest example wins. The verb is singular, following the singular number of the noun immediately before it, a common construction of the time. In Threnodia Augustalis, 189, Dryden wrote
Death and despair was in their looks.' Scott, following Derrick, has changed wins, and sins of the preceding line, which makes the rhyme, into win and sin; an unnecessary and improper change. See also The Hind and the Panther, Part ii. 92,
Obliged to laws which Prince and Senate gives.'
P. 23, 1. 6. so is it, unnecessarily changed by most editors, including Scott, into so it is.
P. 24, 1. 18. so is, changed by the editors unnecessarily into so it is.
Account of the Poem. P. 25, 1. 10. The play which Dryden asked Sir R. Howard to read for him was probably The Maiden Queen, which was brought out on the stage early in 1667, on the re-opening of the theatres after the Plague and Fire. The Maiden Queen was composed during the period of closed theatres, from the middle of 1665 to the end of 1666, and during the greater part of this period Dryden was living at Charlton in Wiltshi whence this letter is dated, seat of the Earl of Berkshire, his father-in-law, and father of Sir R. Howard,
P. 25, 1. 31. noblesse, changed into nobles by all modern editors, including Scott. Noblesse was in common use in Dryden's time; it occurs in his Essay of Dramatic Poesy: ‘But if you mean the mixed audience of the populace and the noblesse,' &c.
P. 27, l. 2. female rhymes ; such rhymes as of words ending with e, as noble, chronicle, conventicle, the e being pronounced. In the note on Astræa Redux, 106, where chronicles rhymes with ease, a few other instances of singular rhyming by Dryden of words ending in cle are given, one as late as his translation of the Aeneid, published in 1697. See also, for conventicle rhyming with stickle, the note on Poem on Oliver Cromwell, stanza 11.
1. 7. the Alaric, the Pucelle ; two French poems, the first by Scudery on the Conquest of Rome by Alaric, and the second by Chapelain on Joan of Arc.
1. 8. latter, changed unnecessarily by Scott and other editors to later.
1. 10. Dryden makes a mistake in saying that Chapman's translation of Homer is in Alexandrines of six feet; it is in lines of seven feet.
1. 14. Gondibert, an epic poem by Sir William Davenant, written in the same metre as Annus Mirabilis, published in 1651.
1. 20. prevail myself of it. The French idiom (se prévaloir de) has been lost in all modern editions, avail being substituted for prevail. The same change has been made by the editors, including Scott in Absalom and Achitophel, line 461, where Dryden wrote
Prevail yourself of what occasion gives.'
1. 28. Descriptas servare, &c. Horace, Ars Poetica, 87. P. 28, 1. 11. Omnia sponte sua reddit justissima tellus, a misquotation by Dryden, who probably confused in his memory two passages of Virgil : 'Fundit humo facilem victum justissima tellus,'
Georg. iv. 460, and Omnis feret omnia tellus.'
Ecl. iv. 391. Ovid also says,
Per se dabat omnia tellus.' Metam. i. 1021. 1. 18. is it, changed by Scott and other editors unnecessarily to it is.
1. 32. This comparison of imagination with a spaniel is again used by Dryden in his Dedication to the Earl of Orrery of the Rival Ladies (1664): 'Imagination in a poet is a faculty so wild and lawless, that, like an high-ranging spaniel, it must have clogs tied to it, lest it outrun the judgment.'
P. 29, 1. 5. paronomasia, a pun; called in humbler language by Dryden and his contemporaries, by Pope also, a clench or clinch.
1. 12. driving has been changed by the editors, including Scott, into deriving.
P. 30, 1. 8. We see the objects he represents us within their native figures. The editors, not understanding represents us, which means of course represents to us, have changed Dryden's words to presents us with in their native figures.
1. 14. Virgil, Aen. vi. 726
1. 24. The editors have changed The Battle of Bulls to The Battle of the Bulls.
1. 30. Materiem superabat opus. Ovid, Metam. ii. 4. P. 31, 1. 3. Horace, Ars Poetica, 47.
1. 24. Ars Poetica, 52. P. 32, 1. 6. Compare with this passage another in Dryden's Preface to Tyrannic Love: “If with much pains and some success I have drawn a deformed piece, there is as much of art and as near an imitation of nature in a lazar as in a Venus.'
1. 13. Stantes, &c. Juvenal, Sat. viii. 43.
Serpit humi tutus nimium timidusque procellae.' 1. 23. Nunc non, &c. Horace, Ars Poetica, 19. P. 33, 1. 1. Verses to her Royal Highness the Duchess. This is the Duchess of York, Anne Hyde, daughter of Lord Chancellor Clarendon. These verses to her were now for the first time printed; they had doubtless before, according to the custom of the time, been circulated in manuscript, and Dryden had probably received a handsome present from the Duke in return for his complimentary poem. War had been declared by England against the Dutch in February, 1665. The Duke of York, who was Lord High Admiral, took the command of the feet, and went to sea in the beginning of May. On the 3rd of June he engaged with the Dutch fleet off the coast of Suffolk, near Low and obtained a decided victory, showing great bravery in the battle. The Duke of York was not permitted to go to sea again after this victory: the command of the fleet was then given to the Earl of Sandwich. In August the Duke was sent by the King into Yorkshire, there being fears of a rising in the north. His valour at sea and his victory had made him very popular, and he and the Duchess were received throughout the journey with great honours.
1. 21. sea rhymes with obey, and in l. 12 of p. 34 with way. So in Annus Mirabilis, stanza 9, sea rhymes with lay, and in stanza 31 with prey. This pronunciation of sea is constant through Dryden's works. Key (quay) and sea both rhyme with weigh in one of Dryden's latest poems, Cymon and Iphigenia, 612 :
• The crew with merry shouts their anchor weigh,
While troops of gathered Rhodians crowd the key.'
A tuft of daisies on a flowery lea
They saw, and thitherward they bent their way.' The verb flay is spelt flea in Dryden and Lee's Oedipus, Act iv. Sc. 1.
1. 34. Exodus xvii. 11-13: 'And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed ; and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy: and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.' Dryden, who is wont to repeat his illustrations, refers again to this fight of Joshua and Amalek in Britannia Rediviva, 296:
Nor Amalek can rout the chosen bands,
While Hur and Aaron hold up Moses' hands.' 1. 35. The battle of June 3 was off the coast of Suffolk, near Lowestoft, and the guns were heard in London. Dryden refers to this fact also in the opening of his Essay of Dramatic Poesy. “The noise of the cannon from both navies reached all ears about the city, so that, all men being alarmed with it and in a dreadful suspense of the event which they knew was then deciding, every one went following the sound as his fancy led him.' A letter from Lord Arlington, Secretary of State, to the Lord Mayor, in the Public Record Office, giving the official news of the victory, mentions 'the King having been in expectation ever since the guns were heard.'
P. 34, 1. 21. Dryden repeats this simile of the phoenix in the Threnodia Augustalis, 364:
• As when the new-born phoenix takes his way
Attends his wondrous progress o'er the plain.'
Pastorals, i. 16. 1. 29. I wrong the public to detain you longer. Probably in imitation of Horace:
'In publica cominoda peccem Si longo sermone morer tua tempora, Caesar.' Epist. ii. 1, 2. 1. 34. nec sunt parum multi, &c. Plin. Epist. vii. 28.