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became an author, had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations from a more extensive cir.cumference of science. Dryden knew more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation; and those of Pope by minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.
Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied ; that of Pope is cautious and uniform. Dryden observes the motions of his own mind ; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.
Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet; that quality without which judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert; that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates; the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred that of this poetical vigor Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more ; for every other writer since Milton must give place to Pope ; and even of Dryden it must be said, that, if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.
Life of Pope.
Shakspeare is, above all writers, at least above all modern writers,-the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world ; by the peculiarities of studies or profes
sions, which can operate but upon small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions, they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual : in those of Shakspeare it is commonly a species.
It is from this wide extension of design that so much instruction is derived. It is this which fills the plays of Shakspeare with practical axioms and domestic wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse was a precept; and it may be said of Shakspeare, that from his works may be collected a system of civil and economical prudence. Yet his real power is not shown in the splendor of particular passages, but by the progress of his fable, and the tenor of his dialogue : and he that tries to recommend him by select quotations, will succeed like the pedant in Hierocles, who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen.
It will not easily be imagined how much Shakspeare excels in accommodating his sentiments to real life, but by comparing him with other authors. It was observed of the ancient schools of declamation, that the more diligently they were frequented, the more was the student disqualified for the world, because he found nothing there which he should ever meet in any other place. The same remark may be applied to every stage but that of Shakspeare. The theatre, when it is under any other direction, is peopled by such characters as were never seen, conversing in a language which was never heard, upon topics which will never arise in the commerce of mankind. But the dialogue of this author is often so evidently determined by the incident which produces it, and is pursued with so much ease and simplicity, that it seems scarcely to claim the merit of fiction, but to have been gleaned by diligent selection out of common conversa ion and common occur
Upon every other stage the universal agent is love, by whose power all good and evil is distributed, and every action quickened or retarded. To bring a lover, a lady, and a rival into the fable ; to entangle them in contradictory obligations, perplex them with oppositions of interest, and harass them with violence of desires inconsistent with each other; to make them meet in rapture, and part in agony ; to fill their mouths with hyperbolical joy and outrageous sorrow; to distress them as nothing human ever was distressed ; to deliver them as nothing human ever was aclivered ; is the business of a modern dramatist. For this, probability is
violated, life is misrepresented, and language is depraved. But love is only one of many passions; and as it has no great influ ence upon the sum of life, it has little operation in the dramas of a poet, who caught his ideas from the living world, and exhibited only what he saw before him. He knew that
other passion, as it was regular or exorbitant, was a cause of happiness or calamity.
This, therefore, is the praise of Shakspeare, that his drama is the mirror of life; that he who has mazed his imagination, in following the phantoms which other writers raise up before him, may here be cured of his delirious ecstasies, by reading human sentiments in human language, by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor predict the progress of the passions.
Shakspeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind ; exhibiting the real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion, and innumerable modes of combination ; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another; in which, at the same time, the reveller is hasting to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend; in which the malignity of one is sometimes defeated by the frolic of another; and many mischiefs and
benefits are done and hindered without design.
Shakspeare has united the powers of exciting laughter and sorrow not only in one mind, but in one composition. Almost all his plays are divided between serious and ludicrous characters, and, in the successive evolutions of the design, sometimes produce seriousness and sorrow, and sometimes levity and laughter.
That this is a practice contrary to the rules of criticism will be readily allowed ; but there is always an appeal open from criticism to nature. The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing. That the mingled drama may convey all the instruction of tragedy or comedy cannot be denied, because it includes both in its alternations of exhibition, and approaches nearer than either to the appearance of life, by showing how great machinations and slender designs may promote or obviate one another, and the high and the low co-operate in the general system by unavoidable concatenation.
The force of his comic scenes has suffered little diminution from the changes made by a century and a half, in manners or in words. As his personages act upon principles arising from genuine passion, very little modified by particular forms, their pleasures and vexations are communicable to all times and to all places; they are natural, and therefore durable. The adventitious pecu
liarities of personal habits are only superficial dyes, bright ana pleasing for a little while, yet soon fading to a dim tinct, without any remains of former lustre; but the discriminations of true passion are the colors of nature; they pervade the whole mass, and can only perish with the body that exhibits them. The accidental compositions of heterogeneous modes are dissolved by the chance which combined them; but the uniform simplicity of primitive qualities neither admits increase, nor suffers decay. The sand heaped by one flood is scattered by another; but the rock always continues in its place. The stream of time, which is continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets, passes without injury by the adamant of Shakspeare.
Preface to Shakspeare.
THE FATE OF POVERTY.
By numbers here from shame or censure free,
Of all the griefs that harass the distress’d,
Has Heaven reserved, in pity to the poor,
In full-blown dignity see Wolsey stand,
1 The Spaniards had at this time laid claim to several of the English provinces in America.
At length his sovereign frowns-the train of state
Vanity of Human Wishes
On what foundation stands the warrior's pride, How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide. A frame of adamant, a soul of fire, No dangers fright him, and no labors tire; O’er love, o'er fear, extends his wide domain, Unconquer'd lord of pleasure and of pain; No joys to him pacific sceptres yield, War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field: Behold surrounding kings their powers combine, And one capitulate, and one resign; Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain; “Think nothing gain’d,” he cries, “till naught remain, On Moscow's walls till Gothic standards fly, And all be mine beneath the polar sky." The march begins in military state, And nations on his eye suspended wait; Stern Famine guards the solitary coast, And Winter barricades the realms of Frost; He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay ;Hide, blushing Glory, hide Pultowa's day! The vanquish'd hero leaves his broken bands, And shows his miseries in distant lands; Condemn'd, a needy suppliant, to wait, While ladies interpose, and slaves debate. But did not Chance at length her error mend? Did no subverted empire mark his end? Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound? Or hostile millions press him to the ground? His fall was destined to a barren strand, A petty fortress, and a dubious hand; He left a name, at which the world grew pale, To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
Vanity of Human Wishes.
1 Charles XII., King of Sweden, having invaded Russia, was totally defeated at the battle of PulLowa, and forced to seek refuge in Turkey. He was afterwards killed at the siege of a little fort in Norway.