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Men are but children of a larger growth.
All for Love.
That friendship which from withered love doth shoot,
Like the faint herbage on a rock, wants root.
Love is a tender amity, refined:
Grafted on friendship, it exalts the mind;
But when the graff no longer does remain,
The dull stock lives, but never bears again.
Conquest of Granada.
Wordsworth found one of Dryden's highly celebrated dramatic " gems " (a description of Nature, in the "Indian Emperor") "vague, bombastic, and senseless." Its charm undoubtedly consisted in its melody.
In 1G81 Dryden published his "Absalom and Achitophel," — a bold political satire, allowed to be the " most vigorous and elastic, the most highly varied and beautiful, which the English language can boast." Its popularity placed the author above all his poetical cotemporaries. It was followed by two other equally vigorous satires, — "The Medal" and "Mac Flecknoe." In his satires Drjxlen drew from the life, and produced matchless portraits. After the accession of James, the poet declared himself a convert to popery. His change of creed, happening at a time when it suited his interests to become a Catholic, was looked uport with suspicion; but it has been proved that his conduct was not fairly open to the charge of uuprincipled selfishness. lie brought up his family and died in his new belief, the first published fruit of which was his allegorical poem of "The Hind and Panther." The Church of Rome is the Hind, the Church of England the Panther; the other sects are represented as bears, hares, boars, eta, and the Calvinist as a famished
"... His rough crest rears, And pricks up his predestinating ears."
The revolution in 1668 deprived Dryden of the income derived from his office of laureate; and stimulated by the want of an independent income, he produced in the latter years of his life the noblest of his works. The " Ode to St. Cecilia" (supposed to be the inventress of the organ), commonly called " Alexander's Feast," was his next work, and is the loftiest and most imaginative of all his compositions. This immortal poem, though superseded in our recitation-books by poorer pieces, is the most superb example of splendid versification that our language affords. It is too long to be given entire; but a stanza or two may convey to those who do not familiarly know it an idea of its exquisite rhythmical flow: —
"T was at the royal feast, for Penia won
By Philip's warlike son:
On his imperial throne;
(So should desert in arms be crowned).
The mighty master Rmiled to see
That love was in the next degree:
T was but a kindred sound to move,
For pity melts the mind to love.
Softly sweet in Lydian measures,
War, he sung, is toil and trouble;
Honour but an empty bubble;
Fighting still, and still destroying;
If the world be worth thy winning,
Lovely Thais sits beside thee,
Take the good the gods provide thee:
'I'llus long ago
Ere heaving bellows learned to blow,
And sounding lyre,
At last divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame;
Enlarged the former narrow bounds
And added length to solemn sounds,
Let old Timothens yield the prize,
Or both divide the crown:
She drew an angel down."
In his sixty-eighth year Dryden published his " Fables," — imitations of Boccaccio and Chaucer, — affording the finest specimens of his happy versification. It has been happily observed that "they shed a glory on the last days of the poet, when his fancy, brighter and more .prolific than ever, may be compared to a noble river, that expands in breadth, and fertilizes a wider tract of country ere it is finally engulfed in the ocean." He died on the 1st of May, 1700. His remains, after being embalmed, and lying in state twelve days, were interred with great pomp in Westminster Abbey.
Dryden's genius was debased by the false taste of the age; his moral nature — not of the higher type organically — was vitiated by the bad morals of a corrupt court, and he was innately deficient in the higher emotions of love and tenderness. Critics have allowed him invention, fancy, wit, no humor, immense strength of character, elegance, masterly ease, indignant contempt approaching to the sublime, no tenderness, but eloquent declamation and the perfection of uncorrupted English style and of sounding, vehement, varied versification. Pope thus praises his admirable versiflcation : —
"\Valler was smooth; but Dryden tanght to join
"Perhaps no nation," says Dr. Johnson, "ever produced a writer that enriched his language with such a variety of models; to him we owe the improvement of our metre, the refinement of our language, and what was said of Rome adorned by Augustus may be applied to English poetry embellished by Dryden, — he found it brick and he left it marble."
Though habitually a careless writer, and constitutionally averse to labor, Dryden is said to have spent a fortnight in perfecting his masterpiece, the " Ode to St. Cecilia." Warton gives us this account of the occasion and manner of his writing it: —
"Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a visit to Dryden, found him in an unusual agitation of spirits, even to trembling. On inquiring the cause, ' I have been up all night,' replied the old bard; 'my musical friends made me promise to write them an ode for their feast of St. Cecilia. I have been so struck with the subject which occurred to me that I could not leave it till I had completed it; here it is, finished at one sitting.' And immediately he showed him the ode which places the British lyric poetry above that of any other nation."
In the drama Dryden was completely out of his element. With all his command of language, information, and imagery, he had not art or judgment to construct an interesting or consistent drama, or to preserve himself from extravagance and absurdity. A pure and lofty ideal of womanhood seems to have been entirely beyond his reach. Of the softer passions he could form no conception. His love degenerates into licentiousness, his tenderness into rant and fustian; and it has been observed that "like Voltaire, he probably never drew a tear from reader or spectator." The staple materials of his tragedy are the bowl and dagger, glory, ambition, lust, and crime. It has little truth of coloring, or natural passion; its characters are for the most part personages in high life, of transcendent virtue, vice, or ambition. It is crowded with fierce passion, with splendid processions, with superhuman love and beauty, and with long dialogues alternately formed of metaphysical subtlety and the most extravagant and bombastic expression. 'His comedy exhibits a variety of constantly shifting scenes and adventures, complicated intrigues, and successful disguises; is false to nature, improbable and ill-arranged, and equally offensive to taste and morality.
The merit of Dryden's drama consists in a wild Oriental magnificence of style, in the richness of his versification, and occasional gleams of true genius. "Don Sebastian" is considered his highest effort in dramatic composition. His " All for Love," founded on the story of Antony and Cleopatra, and avowedly written in imitation of Shakespeare, is the only play Dryden ever wrote for himself; "the rest," he says, "were given to the people." The scene between Antony and his general he is said to have preferred to anything which he had written of that kind. It is thought to contain passages that challenge comparison with Shakespeare. It will only be necessary to compare Dryden's conception of the noble Roman with