Author: Dryden, John, 1631-1700
The Works of John Dryden, now first collected in Eighteen Volumes, Volume 11
NOW FIRST COLLECTED
IN EIGHTEEN VOLUMES.
HISTORICAL, CRITICAL, AND EXPLANATORY,
A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR,
WALTER SCOTT, Esq.
PRINTED FOR WILLIAM MILLER, ALBEMARLE STREET,
BY JAMES BALLANTYNE AND CO. EDINBURGH.
|Epistle I.||To John Hoddeson,||3|
|II.||To Sir Robert Howard,||5|
|III.||To Dr Charleton,||12|
|IV.||To the Lady Castlemain,||18|
|V.||To Mr Lee,||22|
|VI.||To the Earl of Roscommon,||26|
|VII.||To the Duchess of York,||31|
|VIII.||To Mr J. Northleigh,||35|
|IX.||To Sir George Etherege,||38|
|X.||To Mr Southerne,||47|
|XI.||To Henry Higden, Esq.||52|
|XII.||To Mr Congreve,||57|
|XIII.||To Mr Granville,||63|
|XIV.||To Mr Motteux,||67|
|XV.||To Mr John Driden,||71|
|XVI.||To Sir Godfrey Kneller,||84|
|Elegies and Epitaphs.|
|Upon the Death of Lord Hastings,||94|
|To the Memory of Mr Oldham,||99|
|To the pious Memory of Mrs Anne Killigrew,||105|
|Upon the Death of the Viscount of Dundee,||115|
|Eleonora, a panegyrical Poem, to the Memory of|
|the Countess of Abingdon,||117|
|Dedication to the Earl of Abingdon,||121|
|On the Death of Amyntas,||139|
|On the Death of a very young Gentleman,||142|
|Upon young Mr Rogers of Gloucestershire,||144|
|On the Death of Mr Purcell,||145|
|Epitaph on the Lady Whitmore,||150|
|Mrs Margaret Paston,||151|
|the Monument of the Marquis of Winchester,||152|
|Sir Palmer Fairbones’ tomb in Westminster Abbey||155|
|The Monument of a fair Maiden Lady,||158|
|Inscription under Milton’s Picture,||160|
|Odes, Songs, and Lyrical Pieces.|
|The Fair Stranger,||163|
|A Song for St Cecilia’s Day,||165|
|The Tears of Amynta,||171|
|The Lady’s Song,||175|
|A Song to a fair young Lady,||181|
|Alexander’s Feast, or the power of Music, an Ode,||183|
|Veni Creator Spiritus, paraphrased,||190|
|Fables.—Tales from Chaucer.|
|Dedication to the Duke of Ormond,||195|
|Preface prefixed to the Fables,||205|
|Palamon and Arcite; or the Knight’s Tale,||241|
|Dedication to the Duchess of Ormond,||245|
|The Cock and the Fox; or the Tale of the Nun’s Priest,||327|
|The Flower and the Leaf; or the Lady in the Arbour,||356|
|The Wife of Bath, her Tale,||377|
|The Character of a good Parson,||395|
|Fables.—Translations from Boccace.|
|Sigismonda and Guiscardo,||403|
|Theodore and Honoria,||433|
|Cymon and Iphigenia,||452|
EPISTLE THE FIRST,
TO HIS FRIEND
These verses were rescued from oblivion by Mr Malone, having escaped the notice of Dryden’s former editors. I have disposed them among the Epistles, that being the title which the author seems usually to have given to those copies of verses, which he sent to his friends upon their publications, and which, according to the custom of the time, were prefixed to the works to which they related. They form the second of our author’s attempts at poetry hitherto discovered, the “Elegy upon Lord Hastings” being the first. The lines are distinguished by the hard and rugged versification, and strained conceit, which characterised English poetry before the Restoration. The title of Hoddesdon’s book is a sufficiently odd one: “Sion and Parnassus, or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testaments,” 8vo, 1650. Dryden was then a student in Trinity College, Cambridge, and about eighteen years old. The nature of the volume which called forth his poetical approbation, may lead us to suppose, that, at this time, he retained the puritanical principles in which he was doubtless educated. The verses are subscribed, J. Dryden of Trin. C.
EPISTLE THE FIRST.
T hou hast inspired me with thy soul, and I,
Who ne’er before could ken of poetry,
Am grown so good proficient, I can lend
A line in commendation of my friend.
Yet ’tis but of the second hand; if ought
There be in this, ’tis from thy fancy brought.
Good thief, who dar’st, Prometheus-like, aspire,
And fill thy poems with celestial fire;
Enlivened by these sparks divine, their rays
Add a bright lustre to thy crown of bays.
Young eaglet, who thy nest thus soon forsook,
So lofty and divine a course hast took,
As all admire, before the down begin
To peep, as yet, upon thy smoother chin;
And, making heaven thy aim, hast had the grace
To look the sun of righteousness i’the face.
What may we hope, if thou goest on thus fast?
Scriptures at first, enthusiams at last!
Thou hast commenced, betimes, a saint; go on,
Mingling diviner streams with Helicon,
That they who view what epigrams here be,
May learn to make like, in just praise of thee.—
Reader, I’ve done, nor longer will withhold
Thy greedy eyes; looking on this pure gold,
Thou’lt know adulterate copper; which, like this,
Will only serve to be a foil to his.
EPISTLE THE SECOND.
TO MY HONOURED FRIEND
SIR ROBERT HOWARD,
This epistle was prefixed to Sir Robert Howard’s poems, printed for Herringman, 12mo, 1660, and entered in the Stationers’ books on 16th April that year. It was probably written about the commencement of Dryden’s intimacy with the author, whose sister he afterwards married. Sir Robert Howard, son to the Earl of Berkshire, a man of quality, a wit, and a cavalier, was able to extend effectual patronage to a rising author; and so willing to do it, that he is even said to have received Dryden into his own house. These lines, therefore, make part of Dryden’s grateful acknowledgments, of which more may be found in the prefatory letter to the “Annus Mirabilis,” addressed to Sir Robert Howard. The friendship of the brother poets was afterwards suspended for some time, in consequence of Sir Robert’s strictures on the “Essay on Dramatic Poetry,” and Dryden’s contemptuous refutation of his criticism. But there is reason to believe, that this interval of coldness was of short duration; and that, if the warmth of their original intimacy was never renewed, they resumed the usual kindly intercourse of relations and friends.
The epistle itself is earlier in date than the poem called “Astrea Redux,” which was probably not published till the summer of 1660 was somewhat advanced. This copy of verses, therefore, is the first avowed production of our author after the Restoration, and may rank, in place and merit, with “Astrea Redux,” the “Poem on the Coronation,” and the “Address to the Chancellor.” There is the same anxiety to turn and point every sentence, and the same tendency to extravagant and unnatural conceit. Yet it is sometimes difficult to avoid admiring the strength of the author’s mind, even when employed in wresting ideas the wrong way. It is remarkable, also, that Dryden ventures to praise the verses of his patron, on account of that absence of extravagant metaphor, and that sobriety of poetic composition, for which, to judge by his own immediate practice, he ought rather to have censured them.
Those who may be induced to peruse the works of Sir Robert Howard, by the high commendation here bestowed upon them, will have more reason to praise the gratitude of our author, than the justice of his panegyric. They are productions of a most freezing mediocrity.
EPISTLE THE SECOND.
A s there is music uninformed by art
In those wild notes, which, with a merry heart,
The birds in unfrequented shades express,
Who, better taught at home, yet please us less;
So in your verse a native sweetness dwells,
Which shames composure, and its art excells.
Singing no more can your soft numbers grace,
Than paint adds charms unto a beauteous face.
Yet as when mighty rivers gently creep,
Their even calmness does suppose them deep,
Such is your muse: no metaphor swelled high
With dangerous boldness lifts her to the sky:
Those mounting fancies, when they fall again,
Show sand and dirt at bottom do remain.
So firm a strength, and yet withal so sweet,
Did never but in Sampson’s riddle meet.
‘Tis strange each line so great a weight should bear,
And yet no sign of toil, no sweat appear.
Either your art hides art, as stoics feign
Then least to feel, when most they suffer pain;
And we, dull souls, admire, but cannot see
What hidden springs within the engine be:
Or ’tis some happiness, that still pursues
Each act and motion of your graceful muse.
Or is it fortune’s work, that in your head
The curious net that is for fancies spread,
Lets through its meshes every meaner thought,
While rich ideas there are only caught?
Sure that’s not all; this is a piece too fair
To be the child of chance, and not of care.
No atoms, casually together hurled,
Could e’er produce so beautiful a world;
Nor dare I such a doctrine here admit,
As would destroy the providence of wit.
‘Tis your strong genius, then, which does not feel
Those weights, would make a weaker spirit reel.
To carry weight, and run so lightly too,
Is what alone your Pegasus can do.
Great Hercules himself could ne’er do more,
Than not to feel those heavens and gods he bore.
Your easier odes, which for delight were penned,
Yet our instruction make their second end;
We’re both enriched and pleased, like them that woo
At once a beauty, and a fortune too.
Of moral knowledge poesy was queen,
And still she might, had wanton wits not been;
Who, like ill guardians, lived themselves at large,
And, not content with that, debauched their charge.
Like some brave captain, your successful pen
Restores the exiled to her crown again;
And gives us hope, that having seen the days
When nothing flourished but fanatic bays,
All will at length in this opinion rest,—
“A sober prince’s government is best.”
This is not all; your art the way has found
To make improvement of the richest ground;
That soil which those immortal laurels bore,
That once the sacred Maro’s temples wore.
Eliza’s griefs are so expressed by you,
They are too eloquent to have been true.
Had she so spoke, Æneas had obeyed
What Dido, rather than what Jove, had said.
If funeral rites can give a ghost repose,
Your muse so justly has discharged those,
Eliza’s shade may now its wandering cease,
And claim a title to the fields of peace.
But if Æneas be obliged, no less
Your kindness great Achilles doth confess;
Who, dressed by Statius in too bold a look,
Did ill become those virgin robes he took.
To understand how much we owe to you,
We must your numbers, with your author’s, view:
Then we shall see his work was lamely rough,
Each figure stiff, as if designed in buff;
His colours laid so thick on every place,
As only showed the paint, but hid the face.
But, as in perspective, we beauties see,
Which in the glass, not in the picture, be;
So here our sight obligingly mistakes
That wealth, which his your bounty only makes.
Thus vulgar dishes are, by cooks, disguised,
More for their dressing than their substance prized.
Your curious notes so search into that age,
When all was fable but the sacred page,
That, since in that dark night we needs must stray,
We are at least misled in pleasant way.
But, what we most admire, your verse no less
The prophet than the poet doth confess.
Ere our weak eyes discerned the doubtful streak
Of light, you saw great Charles his morning break:
So skilful seamen ken the land from far,
Which shows like mists to the dull passenger.
To Charles your muse first pays her duteous love,
As still the ancients did begin from Jove;
With Monk you end, whose name preserved shall be,