Imágenes de páginas

a couple of young geese, stodged full of meteors, erbs, spheres, track, hideous draughts, dark characters, white forms and radiant lights, designed not only to please appetite, and indulge luxury; but it is also physłcal, being an approved medicine to purge choler; for it is propounded, by Morena, as a receipt to cure their fathers of their cholerick humours; and, were it written in characters as barbarous as the words, might very well pass for a doctor's bill. To conclude : it is porridge, ’tis a receipt, 'tis a pig with a pudding in the belly, 'tis I know not what : for, certainly, never any one that pretended to write sense had the impudence before to put such stuff as this into the mouths of those that were to speak it before an audience, whom he did not take to be all fools; and after that to print it too, and expose it to the examination of the world. But let us see what we can make of this stuff.

[ocr errors]

Here he tells us what it is to be dead; it is to have our freed souls sct free. Now, if to have a soul set free, is to be dead; then to have a freed soul set free, is to have a dead man die.

Then, gently as a happy lover’s sigh— They two like one sigh, and that one sigh like two wandering meteors,

—Shall fly through the air—

That is, they shall mount above like falling stars, or else they shall skip like two Jacks with lanthorns, or Will with a whisp, and Madge with a candle,” “And in their airy walk steal into their cruel fathers’ breasts, like subtle guests. So that their fathers’ breasts must be in an airy walk, an airy walk of a flier. And there they will read their souls, and track the spheres of their passions. That is, these

walking fliers, Jack with a lanthorn, &c. will put on his spectacles, and fall a reading souls; and put on his pumps and fall a tracking of spheres: so that he will read and run, walk and fly, at the same time ! Oh! Nimble Jack . Then he will see, how revenge here, how ambition there The birds will hop about. And then view the dark characters of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and wars, in their orbs: Track the characters to their forms : Oh! rare sport for Jack : Never was place so full of game as these breasts: You cannot stir, but flush a sphere, start a character, or unkennel an orb l’” Settle's is said to have been the first play embellished with sculptures; those ornaments seem to have given poor Dryden great disturbance. He tries however to ease his pain by venting his malice in a parody. t “The poet has not only been so imprudent to expose all this stuff, but so arrogant to defend it with an epistle; like a saucy booth-keeper, that, when he had put a cheat upon the people, would wrangle and fight with any that would not like it, or would offer to discover it; for which arrogance our poet receives this correction; and, to jerk him a little the sharper, I will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own words transnonsense sense, that, by my stuff, people may judge the better what his is :

Great boy, thy tragedy and sculptures done,
From press and plates, in fleets do homeward run :
And, in ridiculous and humble pride,
Their course in ballad-singers' baskets guide,
Whose greasy twigs do all new beauties take,
From the gay shows thy dainty sculptures make.
Thy lines a mess of rhyming nonsense yield,
A senseless tale, with flattering fustian fill’d.
No grain of sense does in one line appear,
Thy words big bulks of boisterous bombast bear.

[ocr errors]

With noise they move, and from players' mouths rebound, When their tongues dance to thy words' empty sound, By thee inspir'd the rumbling verses roll, As if that rhyme and bombast lent a soul: And with that soul they seem taught duty too; To huffing words does humble nonsense bow, As if it would thy worthless worth enhance, To th’ lowest rank of fops thy praise advance, To whom, by instinct, all thy stuff is dear: Their loud claps echo to the theatre. From breaths of fools thy commendation spreads, Fame sings thy praise with mouths of logger-heads. With noise and laughing each thy fustian greets, *Tis clapt by choirs of empty-headed cits, Who have their tribute sent, and homage given, As men in whispers send loud noise to Heaven. “Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle ! and now we are come from aboard his dancing, masking, rebounding, breathing fleet: and, as if we had landed at Gotham, we meet nothing but fools and nonsense.” Such was the criticism to which the genius of Dryden could be reduced, between rage and terrour; rage with little provocation, and terrour with little danger. To see the highest mind thus levelled with the meanest, may produce some solace to the consciousness of weakness, and some mortification to the pride of wisdom. But let it be remembered that minds are not levelled in their powers, but when they are first levelled in their desires. Dryden and Settle had both placed their happiness in the claps of multitudes. An Evenings Love, or The Mock Astrologer, a comedy, (1671) is dedicated to the illustrious duke of ‘Newcastle, whom he courts by adding to his praises those of his lady, not only as a lover but a partner of his studies. It is unpleasing to think how many names, once celebrated, are since forgotten. Of Newcore’s works nothing is now known but his * calise of Horsemanship.

The preface seems very elaborately written, and contains many just remarks on the fathers of the English drama. Shakspeare’s plots, he says, are in the hundred novels of Cinthio; those of Beaumont and Fletcher, in Spanish stories; Jonson only made them for himself. His criticisms upon tragedy, comedy, and farce, are judicious and profound. He endeavours to defend the immorality of some of his comedies by the example of former writers; which is only to say that he was not the first nor perhaps the greatest offender. Against those that accused him of plagiarism he alleges a favourable expression of the king : “He only desired that they, who accuse me of thefts, would steal him plays like mine ;” and then relates how much labour he spends in fitting for the English stage what he borrows from others. Tyrannick Love, or the Virgin Martyr, (1672) was another tragedy in rhyme, conspicuous for many passages of strength and elegance, and many of empty noise and ridiculous turbulence. The rants of Maximin have been always the sport of criticism ; and were at length, if his own confession may be trusted, the shame of the writer. Of this play he has taken care to let the reader know, that it was contrived and written in seven weeks. Want of time is often his excuse, or perhaps shortness of time was his private boast in the form of an apology. It was written before The Conquest of Granada, but published after it. The design is to recommend piety, “I considered that pleasure was not the only end of Poesy; and that even the instructions of morality were not so wholly the business of a poet, as that the precepts and examples of piety were to be omitted; for to leave that employment altogether to the clergy, were

to forget that religion was first taught in verse, which the laziness or dullness of succeeding priesthood turned afterwards into prose.” Thus foolishly could Dryden write, rather than not show his malice to the parsons. The two parts of The Conquest of Granada (1672) are written with a seeming determination to glut the publick with dramatick wonders, to exhibit in its highest elevation, a theatrical meteor of incredible love and impossible valour, and to leave no room for a wilder flight to the extravagance of posterity. All the rays of romantick heat, whether amorous or warlike, glow in Almanzor by a kind of concentration. He is above all laws; he is exempt from all restraints; he ranges the world at will, and governs wherever he appears. He fights without inquiring the cause, and loves in spite of the obligations of justice, of rejection by his mistress, and of prohibition from the dead. Yet the scenes are, for the most part, delightful; they exhibit a kind of illustrious depravity, and majestick madness, such as, if it is sometimes despised, is often reverenced, and in which the ridiculous is mingled with the astonishing. In the Epilogue to the second part of The Conquest of Granada, Dryden indulges his favourite pleasure of discrediting his predecessors; and this Epilogue he has defended by a long postscript. He had promised a second dialogue, in which he should more fully treat of the virtues and faults of the English poets, who have written in the dramatick, epick, or lyrick way. This promise was never formally performed; but, with respect to the dramatick writers, he has given us in his prefaces, and in this postscript, something equivalent; but his purpose being to exalt himself by the comparison, he shows faults distinctly, and only praises excellence in general terms.

« AnteriorContinuar »