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married a wife with a competent fortune, and lived quietly, without any suspicion of having lessened his affection towards the King.
The King sent Wilmot to him, and acquainted him where he was, and 'that he would gladly speak with him'. It was not hard for him to choose a good place where to meet, and thereupon the day was appointed. After the King had taken his leave of Mrs. Lane, who remained with her cousin Norton, the King, and the Lord Wilmot, met the colonel; and, in the way, he encountered in a town, through which they passed, Mr. Kirton, a servant of the King's, who well knew the Lord Wilmot, who had no other disguise than the hawk, but took no notice of him, nor suspected the King to be there; yet that day made the King more wary of having him in his company upon the way. At the place of meeting they rested only one night, and then the King went to the colonel's house; where he rested many days, whilst the colonel projected at what place the King might embark, and how they might procure a vessel to be ready there; which was not easy to find; there being so great caution in all the ports, and so great a fear possessing those who were honest, that it was hard to procure any vessel that was outward bound to take in any passenger.
THOMAS TRAHERNE (see Chapter I, p. 31). Traherne describes the world as it first appeared to him when he was a child.
CENTURIES OF MEDITATIONS
THE corn was orient and immortal wheat which never
should be reaped nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates
were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me; their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things. The men! oh, what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal cherubims! And young men glittering and sparkling angels! and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street were moving jewels: I knew not that they were born or should die. But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the light of the day, and something infinite behind everything appeared, which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes, and gold and silver were mine as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins, and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the world was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish proprieties nor bounds nor divisions; but all proprieties and divisions were mine, all treasures and the possessors of them. So that with much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world-which I now unlearn, and become, as it were--a little child again, that I may enter into the Kingdom of God.
In the army of letters John Dryden takes rank as brilliant and successful soldier of fortune. When in 1657 he left Cambridge and went up to London he was frankly intent on making a career, and, if we may judge by events, little concerned whether it were Trojan or Tyrian, Cavalier or Roundhead, under whose colours he enlisted. His first considerable poem was an elegy on Cromwell, his next a panegyric on Charles II: brought up in a Puritan household, he soon became the most audacious of Restoration dramatists; a master of fence, he cut his way by sheer swordsmanship to the Laureate's office, and held it at the rapier's point against all comers. Buckingham attacked him, and the answer was the portrait of Zimri. Shadwell attacked him, and the answer was Mac Flecknoe. Rochester supported Elkanah Settle, and he crippled patron and protégé with one disdainful thrust. For nearly thirty years his chair at Wills's coffee-house was a dictator's throne, where wits and scholars crowded to pay him court, and where his lightest word could make or destroy a reputation.
Macaulay accounts for his influence upon the age by saying that there was no one on whom the age exercised so great an influence: but this, though true, is only a part of the truth. The fact is that he united two types of character which are hardly ever seen in combination. In the first place he was a true genius-far greater than Boileau, with whom he is often compared-he had wit and oratory and a luminous good sense; he had a faultless ear and
an unerring use of words; he mastered the heroic couplet as no man ever mastered it before or after him; his prose is of that highest art in which all art is concealed. In the second place—and it is here that the influence of his age is apparent-he was a born campaigner, quick to seize any vantage ground that occasion offered, and to use any tactics that were sanctioned by the laws of war. And these two sides reacted and alternated in the strangest manner throughout his career. In some points his conscience seems to have been as flexible as the patriotism of Captain Dugald Dalgetty: in others it was as rigorous as the justice of Cato the Censor. The Court wanted licentious comedies, and he wrote examples that are worse than Wycherley. It wanted sentimental tragedies, and he gave it the Conquest of Granada and the Indian Emperor. It wanted libretti for the composers of the Chapel Royal, and he carved it an opera out of Paradise Lost. Yet in all questions of literary form and method he was the most fearless and upright of controversialists; and, at a time when he needed friends, quarrelled with the most powerful of those that he possessed rather than surrender his doctrine of the preeminence of rhyme.
His chief strength lay in satire and in criticism. The former of these had already become a literary fashion: Donne was a mighty satirist, Cowley had a neat hand, and Cleveland a bitter tongue : Butler's Hudibras, which we now read in forlorn astonishment, so hit the taste of the town that it came near to winning its author the Laureateship. But above all these, as above all his rivals and opponents, Dryden rises supreme. His satire is strong, masculine, dignified: it neither scolds nor blusters, it cuts a clean stroke without venom and without malignity. If it is sometimes coarse it is far less so than the practice of the time admitted; it fights not like
a bravo but like a soldier, who in the midst of conflict has at heart the honour of his profession.
His criticisms may be said to have laid, in England, the foundations of a logical and reasoned method. Sidney's Apology is a noble panegyric: the pamphlets of Campion and Daniel contain some passages of brilliant skirmishing, but it is with Dryden's prefaces that our science of criticism really begins. Into these he poured all his treasures of wit and learning, all his persuasive wisdom, all his gift of lucid exposition. Sometimes he advocated a cause that has been given against him: to say this detracts nothing from the merit of his advocacy. Sometimes, as in the passage on translation here quoted, he seems to have said the last word that the subject admits-all that is left is to apply his maxims and develop his arguments. And all through he has a cordial and honest admiration for good work, even when it is of a kind that is different from his own. He rescued Chaucer from oblivion and restored him to his place among the great poets. He reverenced Shakespeare in an age which thought Othello ‘a mean thing' and the Midsummer Night's Dream 'a most insipid, ridiculous play'. He paid royal homage to Milton while the Town wits were sneering at the old blind schoolmaster's tedious poem upon the fall of man'. Grant that the other Dryden, dramatist and adapter, laid sacrilegious hands upon all three. Grant that even Dryden the critic was not faultless in his adjustment of praise and censure. It still remains true that he had a far deeper insight into poetry than any other critic of his time; and that his judgements, whether right or wrong, are the reasoned conclusions from principles which he believed to be just.
It is useless to inquire whether he could have made a lasting name as a dramatist. Of his twenty-seven plays one alone was 'written to please himself': all