« PredošláPokračovať »
land among the nations. The Hudibras of SAMUEL BUTLER, in 1663, represents the fierce reaction which had set in against Puritanism. It is justly famed for wit, learning, good sense, and ingenious drollery, and, in accordance with the new criticism, it is absolutely without obscurity. It is often as terse as Pope's best work. But it is too long, its wit wearies us at last, and it undoes the force of its attack on the Puritans, by its exaggeration. Satire should have at least the semblance of truth; yet Butler calls the Puritans cowards. We turn now to the first of these poets in whom poetry is founded on intellect rather than on feeling, and whose best verse is devoted to argument and satire.”
BIBLIOGRAPHA. COWLEY, WALLER, and BUTLER.-R. Bell's and S. Johnson's Lives Eng. Poets; Ward's Anthology; Minto's Man. Eng. Prose Lit.; J. Coleman's Hist. Essays; Bentley's Miscel., v. 37, 1855; N. A. Rev., v.91, 1860; N. Br. Rev., v. 24, 1855-6, and v. 43, 1865; Fraser's Mag., v. 53, 1856.
LESSON 36. JOHN DRYDEN.—“He was the first of the new, as Milton was the last of the elder, school of poetry. It was late in life that he gained fame. Born in 1631, he was a Cromwellite till the Restoration, when he began the changes which mark his life. His poem on the death of the Protector was soon followed by the Astræa Redux, which celebrated the return of justice to the realm in the person of Charles II. The Annus Mirabilis appeared in 1667, and in this his great power was first clearly shown. It is the power of clear reasoning expressing itself with entire ease in a rapid succession of condensed thoughts in verse. Such a power fitted Dryden for satire, and his Absalom and Ahitophel is the foremost of English eatires.
He had been a playwriter till its appearance in 1681, and the rhymed plays which he had written enabled him to perfect the versification which is so remarkable in it and the poems that followed. The satire itself, written in mockery of the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Bill, attacked Shaftesbury as Ahitophel, was kind to Monmouth as Absalom, and, in its sketch of Buckingham as Zimri, the poet avenged himself for the Rehearsal. It was the first fine example of that party poetry which became still more bitter and personal in the hands of Pope. It was followed by the Medal, a new attack on Shaftesbury, and the Mac Flecknoe, in which Shadwell, a rival poet, who had supported Shaftesbury's party, was made a laughing
After these, Dryden taught theology in verse, and the Religio Laici, 1682, defends, and states the argument for, the Church of England. It was perhaps poverty that drove him, on the accession of James II., to change his religion, and the Hind and Panther, 1687, is as fine a model of clear reasoning in behalf of the milk-white hind of the Church of Rome as the Religio Laici was in behalf of the Church of England, which now becomes the spotted panther.
As a narrative poet his fables and translations, produced late in life, in 1700, give him a high rank, though the fine harmony of their verse does not win us to forget their coarseness, and their lack of that skill in arranging a story which comes from imaginative feeling.
As a lyric poet his fame rests on the animated Ode for St. Cecilia's Day. His translation of Vergil has fire, but wants the dignity and tenderness of the original. From Milton's death till his own, in 1700, Dryden reigned undisputed, and round his throne in Will's Coffeehouse, where he sat as Glorious John,' we may place the names of the lesser poets, the Earls of Dorset, Roscommon, and Mulgrave, Sir Charles Sedley, and the Earl of Rochester. The lighter poetry of the court lived on in the last two. JOHN OLDHAM won a short fame by his Satires on the Jesuits, 1679; and BISHOP KEN, 1668, set on foot, in his Morning and Evening Hymns, a new type of religious poetry.”
“Of the best English poetry it might be said that it is understanding aërated by imagination. In Dryden the solid part too often refused to mix kindly with the leaven, either remaining lumpish, or rising to a hasty puffiness. Grace and lightness were with him much more a laborious achievement than a natural gift, and it is all the more remarkable that he should so often have attained to what seems such an easy perfection in both. He was not wholly and unconsciously a poet, but a thinker who sometimes lost himself on enchanted ground, and was transfigured by its touch.
This preponderance in him of the reasoning over the intuitive faculties, the one always there, the other flashing in when you least expect it, accounts for that inequality and even incongruousness in his writing which makes one revise his judgment at every tenth page. In his prose you come upon passages that persuade you he is a poet, in spite of his verses' so often turning state's evidence against him as to convince you he is none.
Now and then we come upon something that makes us hesitate again whether, after all, Dryden was not grandiose rather than great. He is best upon a level, table and it is true, and a very high level, but still somewhere between the loftier peaks of inspiration and the plain of every day life. As I read him, I cannot help thinking of an ostrich, to be classed with flying things and capable, what with leap and flap together, of leaving the earth for a longer or shorter space, but loving the open plain, where wing and foot help each other to something that is both flight and run at once.
We always feel his epoch in him, that he was the lock which let our language down from its point of highest poetry to its level of easiest and most gently flowing prose.”— J. R. Lowell.
THE DRAMA.—“The change that now passed over literature was as great in the drama as in poetry. Two acting companies were formed on the king's return, under Thomas Killigrew and Davenant; actresses came upon the stage for the first time, and scenery began to be used. Dryden began his dramatic work with comedies, 1663, but soon after, following Corneille, though he abjured French influence, made rhyme, instead of blank-verse, the vehicle of tragedy. His tragedies, like the rest of the time, were written in a pompous heroic style. The DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM ridiculed them in the Rehearsal, 1671, and sometime after Dryden changed his style, and wrote in another manner, of which All for Love and the Spanish Friar, are perhaps the best examples. His plays have but little sentiment, for Dryden's treatment of the emotions is al
ways brutal, but they have some neat intrigue, some fine passages. John CROWNE's Sir Courtly Nice, Nat LEE's Rival Queens, and two pathetic tragedies by THOMAS OTWAY, The Orphan and Venice Preserved, are of the Restoration time and kept the stage.
It was in Comedy that the dramatists of the Restoration excelled. William Wycherley, whose gross vigor is remarkable, introduced the prose Comedy of Manners, in 1672, and Mrs. Behn, Sir George Etherege, and others carried it on to the Revolution. The wit of their comedies is the wit of a vulgar and licentious society. After the Revolution, William Congreve, Sir John Vanbrugh, and George Farquar made comedy more gentlemanly and its intrigue more subtile. Though without truth to nature, their plays sparkle with wit in every line. They exaggerate the vices of the time, but their immorality is partly forgotten in their swift and delightful gaiety.
Jeremy Collier's famous attack on the stage, 1698, may have had some influence in purifying it, but it was really the growth of a higher tone of society which improved it. It grew dull in the stupid plays of Steele, in ADDISON'S ponderous tragedy of Cato, 1713, and in the melancholy tragedies of Rowe, 170013, whose name is, however, to be remembered as the first editor of Shakespeare, 1709-10. The four folio editions of Shakespeare had been previously set forth in 1623, 1632, 1664, and 1685. The Beggar's Opera, 1728, of Gay introduced a new form of dramatic literature, and Colley Cibber carried on the lighter comedy into the reign of George II. Fielding then made the stage the vehicle of criticism on the follies, literature, and politics of the time, and the actors, Foote and Garrick, did the same in their farces.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY. DRYDEN and CONGREVE.-R. Bell's and S. Johnson's Lives of Eng. Poets; Macaulay's Essays ; Lowell's Among my Books ; D. Masson's Dryden and Lit. of the Rest.; H. Reed's Lectures on Brit. Poets ; Ward's Anthology; Ed. Rev., v. 102; West. Rev., v.63, 1855; Ecl. Mag., Aug., 1854 ; Coleridge's Northern Worthies; Thackeray's Eng. Humorists ; Thomson's Wits and Beaux of Society.
Dryden's Ode in honor of St. Cecilia's Day. 'Twas at the royal feast for Persia won
By Philip's warlike son;
On his imperial throne:
His valiant peers were placed around;
(So should desert in arms be crowned.)
None but the brave,
None but the brave,