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Already laboring with a mighty fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow, And seems to have renewed her charter's date,
Which Heaven will to the death of Time allow,
More great than human now, and more august,
Now deified she from her fires does rise :
And opening into larger parts she flies,
Before, she like some shepherdess did show,
Who sat to bathe her by a river's side;
Nor taught the beauteous arts of modern pride.
Now like a maiden queen she will behold,
From her high turrets, hourly suitors come; The East with incense, and the West with gold,
Will stand like suppliants to receive her doom. The silver Thames, her own domestic flood,
Shall bear her vessels like a sweeping train; And often wind, as of his mistress proud,
With longing eyes to meet her face again.
143. ON MILTON.
FROM “ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL." 144. CHARACTER OF SHAFTESBURY (ACHITOPHEL).
Of these the false Achitophel was first;
poets, but only indulged himself in the luxury of writing; and perhaps knew it was a fault, but hoped the reader would not find it. For this reason, though he must always be thought a great poet, he is no longer esteemed a good writer; and for ten impressions, which his works have had in so many successive years, yet at present a hundred books are scarcely purchased once a twelve-month; for, as my last Lord Rochester said, though somewhat profanely, Not being of God, he could not stand.
Chaucer followed nature everywhere; but was never so bold to go beyond her. It is true, I cannot go so far as he who published the last edition of him; for he would make us believe the fault is in our ears, and that there were really ten syllables in a verse, where we find but nine. But this opinion is not worth confuting; it is so gross and obvious an error, that common sense (which is a rule in everything but matters of faith and revelation) must convince the reader, that equality of numbers in every verse which we call heroic, was either not known, or not always practised in Chaucer's age. It were an easy matter to produce some thousands of his verses, which are lame for want of half a foot, and sometimes a whole one, and which no pronunciation can make otherwise. We can only say, that he lived in the infancy of our poetry, and that nothing is brought to perfection at the first. We must be children, before we grow men. There was an Ennius, and in process of time a Lucilius and a Lucretius, before Virgil and Horace. Even after Chaucer there was a Spenser, a Harrington, a Fairfax, before Waller and Denham were in being; and our numbers were in their nonage till these last appeared.
152. SHAKSPEARE AND BEN JONSON. To begin, then, with Shakspeare. He was the man, who, of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes anything, you more than see it - you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is everywhere alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches,' his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great when some great occasion is presented to him.
The consideration of this made Mr. Hales of Eton say, that there was no subject of which any poet ever writ, but he would produce it much better done in Shakspeare; and however others are now gener.
1 An old word for puns.
ally preferred before him, yet the age wherein he lived, which had contemporaries with him, Fletcher and Jonson, never equalled them to him in their esteem; and in the last king's court, when Ben's reputation was at highest, Sir John Suckling, and with him the greater part of the courtiers, set our Shakspeare far above him.
As for Jons to whose character I am now arrived, if we look upon him while he was himself (for his last plays were but his dotages), I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself, as well as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit, and language, and humor, also in some measure, we had before him; but something of art was wanting to the drama, till he came. He managed his strength to more advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom find him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavoring to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such a height. Humor was his proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to represent mechanic people. He was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them; there is scarce a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times, whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch; and what would be theft in other poets, is only victory in him. With the spoils of these writers he so represents old Rome to us, in his rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their poets had written either of his tragedies, we had seen less of it than in him. If there was any fault in his language, 'twas that he weaved it too closely and laboriously, in his comedies especially: perhaps, too, he did a little too much Romanize our tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latin as he found them; wherein, though he learnedly followed their language, he did not enough comply with the idiom of ours. If I would compare him with Shakspeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakspeare the greater wit. Shakspeare was the Homer, or father of our dramatic poets : Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing: I Amire him, but I love Shakspeare.
ALGERNON SIDNEY. 1621-1684. (Manual, p. 206.)
FROM THE “DISCOURSES ON GOVERNMENT.” 153. INFLUENCE OF GOVERNMENT ON THE CHARACTER OF A PEOPLE.
Men are valiant and industrious when they fight for themselves and their country. They prove excellent in all the arts of war and peace, when they are bred up in virtuous exercises, and taught by their
fathers and masters to rejoice in the honors gained by them. They love their country when the good of every particular man is comprehended in the public prosperity, and the success of their achievements is improved to the general advantage. They undertake haze ards and labor for the government, when it is justly administered; when innocence is safe, and virtue honored; when no man is distinguished from the vulgar, but such as have distinguished themselves by the bravery of their actions; when no honor is thought too great for those who do it eminently, unless it be such as cannot be communicated to others of equal merit. They do not spare their persons, purses, or friends, when the public powers are employed for the public benefit, and imprint the like affections in their children from their · infancy. The discipline of obedience, in which the Romans were bred, taught them to command: and few were admitted to the magis. tracies of inferior rank, till they had given such proofs of their virtue as might deserve the supreme. Cincinnatus, Camillus, Papirius, Fabius Maximus, were not made dictators that they might - learn the duties of the office, but because they were judged to be of such wisdom, valor, integrity, and experience, that they might be safely trusted with the highest powers; and, whilst the law reigned, not one was advanced to that honor who did not fully answer what was expected from him. By these means the city was so replenished with men fit for the greatest employments, that even in its infancy, when three hundred and six of the Fabii were killed in one day, the city did lament the loss, but was not so weakened to give any advantage to their enemies : and when every one of those who had been eminent before the second Punic war, Fabius Maximus only excepted, had perished in it, others arose in their places, who surpassed them in number, and were equal to them in virtue. The city was a perpetual spring of such men, as long as liberty lasted; but that was no sooner overthrown, than virtue was torn up by the roots: the people became base and sordid; the small remains of the nobility slothful and effeminate; and, their Italian associates becoming like to them, the empire, whilst it stood, was only sustained by the strength of foreigners. The Grecian virtue had the same fate, and expired with liberty. It is absurd to impute this to the change of times; for time changes nothing; and nothing was changed in those times, but the government, and that changed all things. This is not accidental, but according to the rules given to nature by God, imposing upon all things a necessity of perpetually following their causes. Fruits are always of the same nature with the seeds and roots from which they come, and trees are known by the fruits they bear. As a man begets a man, and a beast a beast, that society of men which constitutes a government upon the foundation of justice, virtue, and the common good, will always have men to promote those ends, and that which intends the advancement of one man's desires and vanity will abound in those that will foment them.
John Ray. 1628-1705. (Manual, p. 261.)
FROM "THE WISDOM OF GOD IN CREATION."
154. CIVILIZATION DESIGNED BY THE CREATOR. I persuade myself that the bountiful and gracious Author of man's being and faculties, and all things else, delights in the beauty of his creation, and is well pleased with the industry of man in adorning the earth with beautiful cities and castles, with pleasant villages and country houses; with regular gardens and orchards, and plantations of all sorts of shrubs, and herbs, and fruits for meat, medicine, or moderate delight; with shady woods and groves, and walks set with rows of elegant trees; with pastures clothed with flocks, and valleys covered over with corn, and meadows burdened with grass, and whatever else differenceth a civil and well-cultivated region from a barren and desolate wilderness.
If a country thus planted and adorned, thus polished and civilized, thus improved to the height by all manner of culture for the support and sustenance, and convenient entertainment of innumerable multitudes of people, be not to be preferred before a barbarous and inhospitable Scythia, without houses, without plantations, without cornfields or vineyards, where the roving hordes of the savage and truculent inhabitants transfer themselves from place to place in wagons, as they can find pasture and forage for their cattle, and live upon milk, and flesh roasted in the sun at the pommels of their saddles; or a rude and unpolished America, peopled with slothful and naked Indians, instead of well built house iving in pitiful huts and cabins, made of poles set endwise; then surely the brute beast's condition and manner of living, to which what we have mentioned doth nearly approach, is to be esteemed better than man's, and wit and reason was in vain bestowed on him.
John BUNYAN. 1628–1688. (Manual, pp. 221–225.)
FROM "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS."
155. THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION. Now they began to go down the hill into the valley of humiliation. It was a steep hill, and the way was slippery; but they were very careful; so they got down pretty well. When they were down in the valley, Piety said to Christiana, this is the place where Christian, your husband, met with that foul fiend Apollyon, and where they had that dreadful fight that they had. I know you cannot but have heard thereof. But be of good courage; as long as you have here Mr. Greatheart to be your guide and conductor, we hope you will fare the better. So when these two had committed the pilgrims unto the conduct of their guide, he went forward, and they went after.