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acknowledged to be too loo for a poem, nay, more, for a paper of verses ; but if too low for an ordinary sonnet, how much more for tragedy!' Accordingly, the heroic plays were all in rhyme, set off not only with superb dresses and decorations, but with the richest and most ornate kind of verse, and the furthest removed from ordinary colloquial diction. The comedies were degenerate in a different way. They were framed after the model of the Spanish stage, and adapted to the taste of the king, as exhibiting a variety of complicated intrigues, successful disguises, and constantly shifting scenes and adventures. The old native English virtues of sincerity, conjugal fidelity, and prudence were held up to constant ridicule, as if amusement could only be obtained by obliterating the moral feelings. Dryden ascribes the licentiousness of the stage to the example of the king. Part, however, must be assigned to the e:rlier comedies of Beaumont and Fletcher, and part to the ascetic puritanism and denial of all public amusements during the time of the Commonwealth. If the Puritans had contented themselves with regulating and purifying the theatres, they would have conferred a benefit on the nation; but, by shutting them up entirely, and denouncing all public recreations, they provoked a counteraction in the taste and manners of the people. The over-austerity of one period led naturally to the shameless degeneracy of the succeeding period; and deeply is it to be deplored that the great talents of Dryden were the most instrumental in extending and prolonging this deprayation of the national taste.
The operas and comedies of Sir William Davenant were the first. pieces brought out on the stage after the Restoration. He wrote twenty-five in all; but, notwithstanding the partial revival of the old dramatists, none of Davenant's productions continue to be read. * His last work,' says Southey, 'was his worst; it was an alteration of the Tempest,' executed in conjunction with Dryden; and marvellous indeed it is that two men of such great and indubitable genius should have combined to debase, and vulgarise, and pollute such a poem as the “ Tempest.' The marvel is enhanced when we consider that Dryden writes of their joint labour with evident complacency, at the same time that his prologue to the adapted play contains the following just and beautiful character of his great predecessor:
As when a tree 's cut down, the secret root
One imitates him most, the other best.
Within that circle none durst walk but he. Dryden was in the full tide of his theatrical popularity when Davenant died, in 1668. The great poet commenced writing for the stage in 1662–3, when he produced his · Wild Gallant,' which was followed next year by the ‘Rival Ladies,' the serious parts of which are in rhyme. He then joined Sir Robert Howard in composing the ‘Indian Queen,' a rlıyming heroic play, brought out in 1663-4 with a splendour never before seen in England upon a public stage. A continuation of this piece was shortly afterwards written by Dryden, entitled the ‘Indian Emperor,' and both were received with great applause. All the defects of his style, and many of the choicest specimens of his smooth and easy versification, are to be found in these inflated tragedies. In 1666-7 was represented his Maiden Queen,' a tragi-comedy; and shortly afterwards the Tempest.' These were followed by two comedies copied from the French of Molière and Corneille; by the Royal Martyr,' another furious tragedy, and by his Conquest of Granada,' in two parts (1672), in which he concentrated the wild maguificence, incongruous splendour, and absurd fable that run through all his heroic plays, mixed up witla occasional gleams of true genius. The extravagance and unbounded popularity of the heroic drama, now at its height, prompted the Duke of Buckingham to compose a lively and amusing farce, in ridicule of Dryden and the prevailing taste of the public, which was produced in 1671, under the title of the 'Rehearsal.' The success of the Rehearsal' was unbounded; "the very popularity of the plåys ridiculed, aiding,' as Sir Walter Scott has remarked, the effect of the sutire, since everybody had in their recollection the originals of the passages parodied. The 'Rehearsal' is a clever travesty, and it was well timed. A fatal blow was struck at the rhyming plays, and at the rant and fustian to which they gave birth. Dryden now resorted to comedy, and produced Marriage á-la-Mode' and the ‘Assignation.' In 1973, he constructed a dramatic poem, the 'State of Innocence, or the Fall of Man,' out of the great epic of Milion, clestroying, of course, nearly all that is sublime, simple, and pure in the original. His next play, 'Aurengzebe? (1675), was also "heroic, stilted, and unnatural; but this was the last great literary sin of Dryden. He was now engaged in his immortal satires and fables, and he abandoned henceforward the false and glittering taste which bad so long deluded him. His ‘All for Love' and “Troilus and Cressida' are able adaptations from Shakspeare in blank verse. The 'Spanisli Friar' is a good comedy, remarkable for its happy union of two
plots, and its delineation of comic character. His principal remaining plays are ‘Don Sebastian' (1690), “ Amphitryon' (1690), 'Cleomenes' (1692), and ‘Love Triumphant' (1694). "Don Sebastian' is This highest effort in dramatic composition, and though deformed, like all his other plays, by scenes of spurious and licentious comedy, it contains passages that approach closely to Shakspeare. The quarrel and reconciliation of Sebastian and Dorax is a masterly copy from the similar scene between Brutus and Cassius. In the altercation between Ventidius and Antony, in ‘All for Love,' he has also challenged comparison with the great poet, and seems to have been inspired to new vigour by the competition. This latter triumph in the genius of Dryden was completed by his 'Ode to St. Cecilia,' and the ‘Fables, published togeiher in the spring of 1700, a few weeks before his death-thus realising a saying of his own Sebastian:
A setting sun Should leave a track of glory in the skies. Dryden's plays have fallen completely into oblivion. He could reason powerfully in verse, and had the command of rich stores of language, information and imagery. Strong energetic characters and passions he could portray with considerable success, but he had not art or judgment to construct an interesting or consistent drama, or to preserve himself from extravagance and absurdity. The female character and softer passions seem to have been entirely beyond his reach. His love is always licentiousness—his tenderness a mere trick of the stage. Like Voltaire, he probably never drew a tear from reader or spectator. His merit consists in a sort of Eastern magnificence of style, and in the richness of his versification. The bowl and dagger-glory, ambition, lust, and crime-are the staple materials of his tragedy, and lead occasionally 10 poetical grandeur and brilliancy of fancy. His comedy is, with scarce an exception, false to nature, improbable and ill-arranged, and offensive equally to taste and morality.
Before presenting a scene from Dryden, we shall string together a few of those similes or detached sentiments which relieve thie great mass of his turgid dramatic verse:
Love is that madness which all lovers have;
Conquest of Granada, Part II.
And bending to the blast, all pale and dead,
Ibid, Part II.
Tyrannic Love Savage Freedom. No man has more contempt than I of breath : But whence hast thou the right to give me death ? I am as free as Nature first inade man, Ere the base laws of servitude began, When wild in woods the noble savage ran.
Conquest of Granada, Part I Love and Beauty. A change so swift what heart did ever feel ! It rushed upon me like a mighty stream, And bore me in a moment far from shore. I've loved away myself; in one short hour Already am I gone an age of passion. Wus it his youib, his valour, or success ? These might, perhaps, be found in other men. 'Twas that respect, that awful homag: paid me; That fearful love which trembled in his eyes, And with a silent earthquake shook his soul. But when he spoke, what tender words he said ! So softly, that like flakes of feathered show, They melted as they fell.
Spanish Friar. Meinight Repose. All things are hushed, as Nature's self lay dead; The mountains seem to nod their drowsy head, The little birds in dreams their songs repeat, Aud sleeping flowers beneath the night-dew sweat; Even lust and envy sleep, yet love denies Rest to my soul and slumber to my eyes. Three days I promised to attend my doom, And two long days and nights are yet to come; Tis sure the noise of a tumultuous fight; [Noise within. They break the truce, and sally out by night. Indian Emperet.
Wordsworth has remarked that the above lines on midnight, once highly celebrated, are ‘vague, bombastic, and senseless." Their cların consists in their melody.
Conquest of Granada, Part II,
All for Love,
Picture of Life.
Fear of Deaih.
BERENICE. ST. CATHERINE.
ST. CATHERINE. The wisest and the best some fear may show,
BER. As some faint pilgrim, standing on the shore,