« VorigeDoorgaan »
combat, which is told at length, in the middle of the third book, is marvellously fpirited; and fo lively, as to make us spectators of that interesting and magnificent tournament. Even the absurdity of feigning ancient heroes, fuch as Thefeus and Lycurgus, prefent at the lifts and a modern combat, is overwhelmed and obliterated amidst the blaze, the pomp, and the profufion of fuch animated poetry. Frigid and phlegmatic must be the critic, who could have leifure dully and foberly to attend to the anachronism on fo ftriking an occafion. The mind is whirled away by a torrent of rapid imagery, and propriety is forgot.
THE tale of Sigifmonda and Guifcardo is heightened with many new and affecting touches by Dryden. I shall select only the following picture of Sigifmonda, as it has the fame attitude in which the appears in a famous piece of CORREGGIO.
Mute, folemn forrow, free from female noife,
For bending o'er the cup, the tears the shed
There is an incomparable wildness in the vifion of Theodore and Honoria*, that represents the furious spectre of "the horfeman ghost that came thundering for his prey," and of the gaunt mastiffs that tore the fides of the fhrieking damfel he purfued; which is a fubject worthy the pencil of Spagnoletti, as it partakes of that savageness which is fo ftriking to the imagination. I shall confine myself to point out only two paffages, which relate the two appearances of this formidable figure:
This is one of Boccace's moft ferious ftories." It is a curious thing to fee at the head of an edition of Boccace's tales, printed at Florence in 1573, a privilege of Gregory XIII. who fays, that in this he follows the steps of Pius V. his predeceffor, of bleffed memory, and which threatens with fevere punishments all thofe, who fhall dare to give any disturbance to thofe bookfellers to whom this privilege ́is granted. There is also a decree of the inquifition in favour of this edition, in which the holy father caufed some afterations to be made." LONGUERUANA, Tom. II. P. 62. a Berlin, 1754.
and I place them last, as I think them the moft lofty of any part of Dryden's works.
Whilft lift'ning to the murm'ring leaves he ftood,
The fenfations of a man upon the approach of fome ftrange and fupernatural danger, can scarcely be reprefented more feelingly. All nature is thus faid to fympathize at the fecond appearance of
The felon on his fable fteed
Arm'd with his naked fword that urg'd his dogs to speed.
Thus it runs
The fiend's alarm began; the hollow found
BUT to conclude this digreffion on Dryden. It must be owned, that his ode on the power of mufic, which is the chief ornament of this volume, is the most un
rivalled of his compofitions. By that strange fatality which feems to disqualify authors from judging of their own works, he does not appear to have valued this piece, because he totally omits it in the enumeration and criticism he has given, of the reft, in his preface to the volume. I shall add nothing to what I have already faid on this subject; but only relate the occasion and manner of his writing it. Mr. St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a morning vifit to Dryden, whom he always refpected+, found him in an unusual agitation of fpirits, even to â trembling. On enquiring the cause, have been up all night, replied the old bard; my mufical friends made me promife to write them an ode for their feast of St. Cæcilia: I have been fo ftruck with the
* Vol. I. pag. 51.
+ See his verfes to Dryden, prefixed to the tranflation of Virgil. Lord Bolingbroke affured POPE, that Dryden often declared to him, that he got more from the Spanish critics alone, than from the Italian, French, and all other critics put together; which appears ftrange. This from Mr. Spence.
subject which occurred to me, that I could not leave it till I had completed it; here it is, finished at one fitting." And immediately he fhewed him this ode, which places the British lyric poetry above that of any other nation. This anecdote, as true as it is curious, was imparted by Lord Bolingbroke to POPE, by POPE to Mr. Gilbert Weft, by him to the ingenious friend who communicated it to me*. The rapidity, and yet the perfpicuity of the thoughts, the glow and the expreffiveness of the images, those certain marks of the first sketch of a master, conspire to corroborate the truth of the fact.
THE TRANSLATION of the first book of Statius, is the next piece that belongs to this Section. It was in his childhood only, that he could make choice of fo injudicious a writer. It were to be wished that no youth of genius were fuffered ever to look
Richard Berenger, Efq.