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Beauty like a shadow flies,
Phyllis! to this truth we owe
ON A GIRDLE.
THAT, which her slender waist confin'd,
It was my Heaven's extremest sphere, The pale which held that lovely deer: My joy, my grief, my hope, my love, Did all within this circle move!
A narrow compass! and yet there
FAIREST piece of well-form'd earth!
Nor all appear, among those few,
"Tis art, and knowledge, which draw forth
Where your lov'd mother slept with Jove,
TO A LADY,
SINGING A SONG OF HIS COMPOSING.
CHLORIS, yourself you so excel,
When you vouchsafe to breathe my thought, That, like a spirit, with this spell
Of my own teaching, I am caught.
That eagle's fate and mine are one,
Which, on the shaft that made him die, Espy'd a feather of his own,
Wherewith he wont to soar so high.
Had Echo with so sweet a grace
Narcissus' loud complaints return'd, Not for reflection of his face,
But of his voice, the boy had burn'd.
JOHN DRYDEN was born, probably in 1631, in post of poet-laureate, to which was added the sinethe parish of Aldwincle-Allsaints, in Northampton- cure place of historiographer royal; the joint salashire. His father possessed a small estate, acted ries of which amounted to 2001. as a justice of the peace during the usurpation, and The tragedies composed by Dryden were written seems to have been a Presbyterian. John, at a in his earlier periods, in rhyme, which circumstance proper age, was sent to Westminster school, of which probably contributed to the poetical rant by which Busby was then master; and was thence elected they were too much characterized. For the corto a scholarship in Trinity college, Cambridge. rection of this fault, Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, He took his degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts in conjunction with other wits, wrote the celebrated in the university; but though he had written two burlesque drama, entitled "The Rehearsal," of short copies of verses about the time of his admis- which Dryden, under the name of Bayes, was made sion, his name does not occur among the academi- the hero; and, in order to point the ridicule, his cal poets of this period. By his father's death, in dress, phraseology, and mode of recitation, were 1654, he succeeded to the estate, and, removing to exactly imitated by the actor. It does not, however, the metropolis, he made his entrance into public appear that his solid reputation as a poet was injured life, under the auspices of his kinsman, Sir Gilbert by this attack. He had the candor to acknowledge Pickering, one of Cromwell's council and house that several of the strokes were just, and he wisely of lords, and staunch to the principles then predom-refrained from making any direct reply. inant. On the death of Cromwell, Dryden wrote! In 1681, and, as it is asserted, at the king's exsome "Heroic Stanzas," strongly marked by the press desire, he wrote his famous political poem, loftiness of expression and variety of imagery which entitled "Absalom and Achitophel;" in which the characterized his more mature efforts. They were, incidents in the life of David were adapted to however, criticised with some severity. those of Charles II. in relation to the Duke of At the Restoration, Dryden lost no time in oblit- Monmouth and the Earl of Shaftesbury. Its poetry erating former stains; and, as far as it was possible, and its severity caused it to be read with great rendered himself peculiarly distinguished for the eagerness; and as it raised the author to high favor base servility of his strains. He greeted the king's with the court party, so it involved him in irreconreturn by a poem, entitled "Astræa Redux," which cilable enmity with its opponents. These feelings was followed by "A Panegyric on the Corona-were rendered more acute by his "Medal, a Satire tion:" nor did Lord Chancellor Clarendon escape on Sedition," written in the same year, on occasion his encomiastic lines. His marriage with Lady of a medal struck by the whigs, when a grand Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Earl of Berk- jury returned Ignoramus to an indictment preferred shire, is supposed to have taken place in 1665. against Lord Shaftesbury, for high treason. The About this time he first appears as a writer for the rancor of this piece is not easily to be paralleled stage, in which quality he composed several pieces; among party poems. In 1682 he published "Macand though he did not display himself as a prime Flecknoe," a short piece, throwing ridicule upon favorite of the dramatic muse, his facility of har- his very unequal rival, Shadwell. In the same monious versification, and his splendor of poetic year, one of his most serious poems, the "Religio diction, gained him admirers. In 1667 he publish- Laici," made its appearance. Its purpose was ed a singular poem, entitled "Annus Mirabilis," to give a compendious view of the arguments for the subjects of which were, the naval war with revealed religion, and to ascertain in what the authe Dutch, and the fire of London. It was written thority of revelation essentially consists. in four-line stanzas, a form which has since gone Soon after this time, he ceased to write for the into disuse in heroic subjects; but the piece stage. His dramatic vein was probably exhausted, abounded in images of genuine poetry, though in- and his circumstances were distressed. To this petermixed with many extravagances. riod Mr. Malone refers a letter written by him to Hyde, Earl of Rochester, in which, with modest dignity, he pleads merit enough not to deserve to
At this period of his life, Dryden became professionally a writer for the stage, having entered into a contract with the patentees of the King's starve, and requests some small employment in the Theatre, to supply them with three plays in a year, customs or excise, or, at least, the payment of half upon the condition of being allowed the profit of a year's pension for the supply of his present necesone share and a quarter out of twelve shares and sities. He never obtained any of the requested three quarters, into which the theatrical stock was places, and was doomed to find the booksellers his divided. Of the plays written upon the above con- best patrons.
tract, a small proportion have kept their place Charles II. died in 1685, and was succeeded by on the stage, or in the closet. On the death of his brother James II., who openly declared his at Sir W. Davenant, in 1668, Dryden obtained the tachment to the religion of Rome. It was not long
before Dryden conformed to the same religion. to be told, that the ten concluding years of his life, 149 This step has been the cause of much obloquy on in which he wrote for bread, and composed at a cerone side, and has found much excuse on the other; tain rate per line, were those of many of the pieces but if it be considered, from a view of his past life, which have most contributed to immortalize his that, in changing his religious profession, he could name. They were those of his translation of Juvehave had little difficulty to encounter, it will appear nal and Persius; of that of Virgil entire, a work no breach of candor to suppose that his immediate which enriches the English language, and has motive was nothing more than personal interest. greatly promoted the author's fame; of his celeThe reward he obtained for his compliance was an brated Alexander's Feast; and of his Fables, conaddition to his pension of 100l. per annum. time after he was engaged in a work which was the pieces which he ever composed. Of these, several Some taining some of the richest and most truly poetical longest single piece he ever composed. This was will appear in the subsequent collection of his works. his elaborate controversial poem of "The Hind Nor ought his prose writings to be neglected, and Panther." When completed, notwithstanding which, chiefly consisting of the critical essays preits unpromising subject, and signal absurdity of fixed to his poems, are performances of extraordiplan, such was the power of Dryden's verse, that it nary vigor and comprehension of mind, and afford, was read with avidity, and bore every mark of oc- perhaps, the best specimens of genuine English. cupying the public attention. The birth of a prince called forth a congratulatory poem from Dryden, entitled Britannia Rediviva," in which he ventured to use a poet's privilege of prophecy, foretelling a commencing era of prosperity to the nation and the church from this auspicious event; but in vain! for the revolution took place within a few months, and the hopes of the party were blasted for
Dryden was a severe sufferer from the change: his posts and pensions were taken away, and the poetical laurel was conferred upon his insignificant rival, Shadwell. He was now, in advanced life, to depend upon his own exertions for a security from absolute indigence. His faculties were equal to the emergency; and it will surprise some theorists
of his toes, on the first of May, 1700, and was Dryden died of a spreading inflammation in one buried in Westminster Abbey, next to the tomb of Chaucer. No monument marked his grave, till a plain one, with his bust, was erected, at the expense of Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. He left behind him three sons, all brought up to letters. His own character was cold and reserved, backward in conversation. personal advances to the great, and rather heavy in in literature to devote much of his time to society. In fact, he was too much engaged Few writers of his time delighted so much to approach the verge of profaneness; whence it may be inferred, that though religion was an interesting topic of discussion to him, he had very little of its spirit in his heart.
See how he feeds th' Iberian with delays,
To render us his timely friendship vain:
He rocks the cradle of the babe of Spain.
Such deep designs of empire does he lay
O'er them, whose cause he seems to take in hand
To whom with ease he can give laws by land.
This saw our king; and long within his breast
He griev'd the land he freed should be oppress'd,
His generous mind the fair ideas drew
Where wealth, like fruit on precipices, grew,
Like hunted castors, conscious of their store, [bring:
And Winter brooded on the eastern Spring.
Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard
These fight like husbands, but like lovers those :
Amidst whole heaps of spices lights a ball,
And now their odors arm'd against them fly: Some preciously by shatter'd porcelain fall, And some by aromatic splinters die.
And though by tempests of the prize bereft,
And only yielded to the seas and wind.
Nor wholly lost we so deserv'd a prey;
For storms, repenting, part of it restor❜d:
The British ocean sent her mighty lord.
Go, mortals, now, and vex yourselves in vain
For wealth, which so uncertainly must come : When what was brought so far, and with such pain Was only kept to lose it nearer home.
The son, who twice three months on th' ocean tost,
Prepar'd to tell what he had pass'd before,
And parents' arms, in vain, stretch'd from the shore.
This careful husband had been long away,
Whom his chaste wife and little children mourn: Who on their fingers learn'd to tell the day
On which their father promis'd to return.
Such are the proud designs of human-kind,
And so we suffer shipwreck everywhere!
Who in the night of Fate must blindly steer!
The undistinguish'd seeds of good and ill,
Heaven in his bosom from our knowledge hides And draws them in contempt of human skill, Which oft for friends mistaken foes provides.
Let Munster's prelate ever be accurst,
In whom we seek the German faith in vain :
And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught Happy, who never trust a stranger's will,
With all the riches of the rising Sun:
Whose friendship's in his interest understood!
Till now, alone the mighty nations strove;
The rest, at gaze, without the lists did stand; And threatening France, plac'd like a painted Jove, Kept idle thunder in his lifted hand.