Pagina-afbeeldingen
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posed to have been of Chaucer's own con, trivance : as is also the elegant Vision of the flower and the leaf, which has received new graces from the spirited and harmonious Dryden. It is to his fables, though wrote in his old age *, that Dryden will owe his immortality, and among them, particularly, to Palamon and Arcite, Sigifmunda and Guiscardo, Theodore and Honoria ; and above all, to his exquitte music ode. The warmth and melody of these pieces, has never been excelled in our language, I mean in rhyme. As general and

, upexemplified criticism is always useless and absurd, I must beg leave to select a few passages from these three poems; and the reader must not think any observations on the character of Dryden, the constant pat

• The falling off of his hair, said a man of wit, had no other consequence, than to make his laorels to be seen the morg. A person who trandated some pieces after Dryden used to say,

Experto credite, quantus Io.clypeum alurgat, quo turbine torquear haftam.

Crebillon was ninety when he brought his Catiline on the stage

tera

tern of Pope, unconnected with the main subject of this work. The pi&ture of Arcite in the absence of Emilia, is highly expreffive of the deepest distress, and a compleat image of anguilh.

He rav'd with all the madness of despair,
He roar'd, he beat his breaft, he tore his hair.
Dry forrow in bis ftupid eyes appears,
For wanting nourilhment, he wanted tears:
His eye-balls in their hollow sockets link,
Bereft of deep he loaths bis meat and drink;
He withers at his heart, and looks as wan,
As the pale spectre of a murder'd man

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The image of the Suicide is equally pi&uresque and pathetic.

The layer of himself yet saw I there
The gore congeal'd was clotted in his hair :
With cyes half-clos'd and gaping mouth he lay,
And grim, as when he breath’d his fullen soul away.

This reminds me of that forcible descriptior in a writer whose fancy was eminently strong. “ Catilina vero, longe a suis, inter hoftium cadavera repertus est, paululum

• Palamon and Arcite, Book I.

etiam spirans ; ferociamque animi, quam habucrat vivus, in vultu retinens.” Nor muft I omit that affecting image in Spensers who cyer excels in the pathetics

And him befudes there lay upon the grass
A dreary corse, whose life away did pass
All wallow'd in his own, yet lukewarm, blood,
That from his wound yet welled fresh, alas;
In which a rusty knife faft fixed stood,
And made an open pasage for the gulling food®:

When Palamon perceived his rival bad cscaped,

He stares, he ftamps the ground;
The bollow tow'r with clamour rings around :
With briny tears he bath'd his fetter'd feet,
And dropp'd all o'er with agony of sweat.

Nor are the feelings of Palamon less strongly impressed on the reader, where he fays,

The rage of Jealousy then fir'd his foal,
And his face kindled like a burning coal:

* Pairy Queen, Book I. Canto 9. Stanza 36.

Now

Now cold despair Succeeding in ber ftead,
To livid palenels turn'd the glowing red

If we pass on from descriptions of persons to those of things, we shall find this poem cqually excellent.

The temple of Mars, is situated with propriety, in a country desolate and joyless; all around it,

The landscape was a forest wide and bare ;
Where neither beaft nor human kind repair ;
The fowl, that scent afar, the borders dy,
And thun the bitter blaft, and wheel about the sky.
A cake of scurf lies baking on the ground,
And prickly tubs inftead of trees are found.

The temple itself is nobly and magnificently studied; and, at the same time, adapted to the furious nature of the God to whom it belonged ; and carries with it a barbarous and tremendous idea.

These passages are chiefly of the pathetic fort ; for which Dryden in his tragedies is far from being remarkable. But it is not unusual for the same person to fucceed in defcribing externally a diftressfal chara&er, who may miserably fail in putting proper words in the mouth of such a character. In a word, so much more difficult is DRAUATIC chan DESCRIPTIVE poetry!

The

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The frame of burnilh'd feel that caft a glare
From far, and seem'd to thaw the freezing air.
A ftrait long entry to the temple led,
Blind with high walls and horror over-head:
Thence issued such a blaft and hollow roar,
As threaten'd from the hinge to beave the doors
In through the door a northern light there lone;
'Twas all it bad, for windows there were none.
The gate of adamant, eternal frame,

,
Which hew'd by Mars himself from Indian quarries

canc.

This scene of terror is judiciously contrasted by the pleasing and joyous imagery of the temples of Venus and Diana. The figure of the last goddess, is a design fit for GUIDO to execute.

The graceful Goddess was array'd in green ;
About her feet were little beagles seen,
That watch'd with UPWARD eyes the motions of

their queen.

But above all, the whole description of the entering the lists *, and of the ensuing

• The reader is defined all along to remember, that the frft delineation of all these images is in Chaucer, or Boccace, and it might be worth examining how much Dryden has added purely from his own stock.

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