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“Thou youngest virgin-daughter of the skies,

Made in the last promotion of the blest.”

And in his translation of the third book of the “Æneid,” he describes Achæmenides, the Greek rescued by the Trojans from the island of the Cyclops, as “ bolting” from the woods.

Dryden, in making verse the vehicle of good sense and argument rather than of passion and intuition, affords but an indication of the tendency of the time in which he lived, - a tendency quickened by the influence which could not fail to be exerted by his really splendid powers as a poet, especially by the copious felicity of his language and his fine instinct for the energies and harmonies of rhythm. But the fact that a great deal of his work was job-work, that most of it was done in a hurry, led him often to fill up a gap with the first sonorous epithet that came to hand, and his indolence was thus partly to blame for that poetic diction which brought poetry to a deadlock in the next century. Dryden knew very well that sound makes part of the sense and a large part of the sentiment of a verse, and, where he is in the vein, few poets have known better than he how to conjure with vowels, or to beguile the mind into acquiescence through the ear. Addison said truly, though in verses whose see-saw cadence and lack of musical instinct would have vexed the master's ear:

Great Dryden next, whose tuneful Muse affords

The sweetest numbers and the fittest words." But Dryden never made the discovery that ten syllables arranged in a proper accentual order were

all that was needful to make a ten-syllable verse. He is great Dryden, after all, and between him and Wordsworth there was no poet with enough energy of imagination to deserve that epithet. But he had taught the trick of cadences that made the manufacture of verses more easy, and he had brought the language of poetry nearer, not to the language of real life as Wordsworth understood it, that is, to the speech of the people, but to the language of the educated and polite. He himself tells us at the end of the “Religio Laici:" —

“And this unpolished, rugged verse I chose

As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose.” Unpolished and rugged the verse certainly was not, nor in his hands could ever be. It is the thought that has an irresistible attraction for prosaic phrase, and coalesces with it in a stubborn precipitate which will not become ductile to the poetic form.

Dryden perfected the English rhymed heroic verse by giving it a variety of cadence and pomp of movement which it had never had before. Pope's epigrammatic cast of thought led him to spend his skill on bringing to a nicer adjustment the balance of the couplet, in which he succeeded only too: wearisomely well. Between them they reduced versification in their favorite measure to the precision of a mechanical art, and then came the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease. Through the whole eighteenth century the artificial school of poetry reigned by a kind of undivine right over a public which admired - and yawned. This public seems to have listened to its poets as it did to its

preachers, satisfied that all was orthodox if only they heard the same thing over again every time, and believing the pentameter couplet a part of the British Constitution. And yet it is to the credit of that age to have kept alive the wholesome tradition that Writing, whether in prose or verse, was an Art that required training, at least, if nothing more, in those who assumed to practise it.

Burke thought it impossible to draw an indictment against a whole people, and the remark is equally just if we apply it to a century. It is true that with the eighteenth a season of common sense set in with uncommon severity, and such a season acts like a drought upon the springs of poesy. To be sure, an unsentimental person might say that the world can get on much better without the finest verses that ever were written than without common sense, and I am willing to admit that the question is a debatable one, and to compromise upon uncommon sense whenever it is to be had. Let us admit that the eighteenth century was, on the whole, prosaic, yet it may have been a pretty fair one as cen

“ 'Tis hard to find a whole age to imitate, or what century to propose for example,” says wise Sir Thomas Browne. Every age is as good as the people who live in it choose or can contrive to make it, and, if good enough for them, perhaps we, who had no hand in the making of it, can complain of it only so far as it had a hand in the making of us. Perhaps even our

own age, with its marvels of applied science that have made the world more prosily comfortable, will loom less

turies go.

gigantic than now through the prospective of the future. Perhaps it will even be found that the telephone, of which we are so proud, cannot carry human speech so far as Homer and Plato have contrived to carry it with their simpler appliances.

As one grows older, one finds more points of halfreluctant sympathy with that undyspeptic and rather worldly period, much in the same way as one grows to find a keener savor in Horace and Montaigne. In the first three quarters of it, at least, there was a cheerfulness and contentment with things as they were, which is no unsound philosophy for the mass of mankind, and which has been impossible since the first French Revolution. For our own War of Independence, though it gave the first impulse to that awful riot of human nature turned loose among first principles, was but the reassertion of established precedents and traditions, and essentially conservative in its aim, however deflected in its course. It is true that, to a certain extent, the theories of the French doctrinaires gave a tinge to the rhetoric of our patriots, but it is equally true that they did not perceptibly affect the conclusions uf our Constitution-makers. Nor had those doctrinaires themselves any suspicion of the explosive mixture that can be made by the conjunction of abstract theory with brutal human instinct. Before 1789 there was a delightful period of universal confidence, during which a belief in the perfectibility of man was insensibly merging into a conviction that he could be perfected by some formula of words, just as a man is knighted. He kneels down

a simple man like ourselves, is told to rise up a Perfect Being, and rises accordingly. It certainly was a comfortable time. If there was discontent, it was in the individual, and not in the air ; sporadic, not epidemic. The discomfort of Cowper was not concerning this world but the world to come. Men sate as roomily in their consciences as in the broad-bottomed chairs which suggest such solidity of repose. Responsibility for the Universe had not yet been invented. A few solitary persons saw a swarm of ominous question marks wherever they turned their eyes ; but sensible people pronounced them the mere musco, volitantes of indigestion which an honest dose of rhubarb would disperse. Men read Rousseau for amusement, and never dreamed that those flowers of rhetoric were ripening the seed of the guillotine. Post and telegraph were not so importunate as now. People were not compelled to know what all the fools in the world were saying or doing yesterday. It is impossible to conceive of a man's enjoying now the unconcerned seclusion of White at Selborne, who, a century ago, recorded the important fact that “ the old tortoise at Lewes in Sussex awakened and came forth out of his dormitory,” but does not seem to have heard of Burgoyne's surrender, the news of which ought to have reached him about the time he was writing. It may argue pusillanimity, but I can hardly help envying the remorseless indifference of such men to the burning questions of the hour, at the first alarm of which we are all expected to run with our buckets, or it may

be with our can of

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