ePub 版

Thence to the famous orators repair,
Those ancient, whose resistless eloquence
Wielded at will that fierce democratie,
Shook the arsenal, and fulmined over Greece,
To Macedon and Artaxerxes' throne.
To sage Philosophy next lend thine ear,


From heaven descended to the low-roofed house
Of Socrates; see there his tenement,

Whom, well inspired, the oracle pronounced
Wisest of men; from whose mouth2 issued forth
Mellifluous streams that watered all the schools
Of Academics3 old and new, with those
Surnamed Peripatetics, and the sect
Epicurean, and the Stoic severe;


These here resolve, or as thou likest, at home,
Till time mature thee to a kingdom's weight;
These rules will render thee a king complete
Within thyself; much more with empire joined.


DARKNESS now rose


As day-light sunk, and brought in lowering Night,
Her shadowy offspring, unsubstantial both,
Privation mere of light and absent day.

Our Saviour, meek, and with untroubled mind
After his aery jaunt," though hurried sore,
Hungry and cold betook him to his rest,
Wherever, under some concourse of shades,

Whose branching arms thick intertwined might shield
From dews and damps of night his sheltered head;

1 Ancient-i. e. Pericles, Eschines, Demosthenes, &c.

2 From whose mouth, &c.-i. e. who was the father and founder of moral philosophy among the Greeks.

3 Academics, &c.-Plato was at the head of the old Academy, Carneades of the new.

Peripatetics-from the Greek Teg, about, and TάTEW, I walk-the followers of Aristotle, who was accustomed to teach as he walked about with his disciples. 5 These rules-as no rules have been mentioned, one critic proposes to read "their rules," while another supposes Milton to refer to the "brief sententious precepts" mentioned before.

6 One of the grandest descriptions in all poetry:" Sir E. Brydges.

7 After his aery jaunt-after being borne through the air by Satan.

But sheltered, slept in vain, for at his head
The tempter watched, and soon with ugly dreams
Disturbed his sleep; and either tropic1 now

'Gan thunder, and both ends2 of heaven; the clouds3
From many a horrid rift abortive poured

Fierce rain with lightning mixed, water with fire
In ruin reconciled: nor slept the winds
Within their stony caves,5 but rushed abroad
From the four hinges of the world, and fell
On the vexed wilderness, whose tallest pines,
Though rooted deep as high, and sturdiest oaks,
Bowed their stiff necks, loaden with stormy blasts,
Or torn up sheer. Ill wast thou shrouded then,
O patient Son of God, yet only stood'st
Unshaken nor yet staid the terror there;
Infernal ghosts, and hellish furies round

Environed thee; some howled, some yelled, some
shrieked ;

Some bent at thee their fiery darts, while thou
Satst unappalled in calm and sinless peace.
Thus passed the night so foul, till morning fair
Came forth with pilgrim steps in amice grey,
Who with her radiant finger stilled the roar
Of thunder, chased the clouds, and laid the winds,
And grisly spectres, which the fiend had raised
To tempt the Son of God with terrors dire.
And now the sun with more effectual beams
Had cheered the face of earth, and dried the wet
From drooping plant, or dropping tree; the birds,
Who all things now behold more fresh and green,

1 From either tropic, &c.-i. e. from both tropics at once-from North and


2 Both ends, &c.-i. e. East and West. This and the last expression taken together imply of course that the thunder rolled all around.

3 The clouds, &c.-i. e. the clouds from many a dreadful fissure ("rift") or opening in the sky, precipitately and with supernatural vehemence (" abortive") poured down their torrents.

4 Ruin-used here in the original sense of the Latin ruina, downfall; the sense therefore is-water and fire, two incongruous elements, were united in the one object of rushing down upon the earth.

5 Stony caves-in allusion to the story of Eolus. See "Eneid," Bk. i. 6 Shrouded-sheltered; an ancient use of the word.

7 Amice-literally, a sacerdotal habiliment used in the Romish Church-here employed in the general sense of a garment or robe.

After a night of storms so ruinous,

Cleared up their choicest notes in bush and spray,
To gratulate the sweet return of morn.


PRINCIPAL EVENTS OF HIS LIFE.-John Dryden-the founder of what is called the artificial style of English Poetry-was born in 1631, at Aldwinkle, in Northamptonshire. His father, who was a gentleman of some property, gave his son the benefit of a learned education, by placing him under the famous Dr. Busby, at Westminster School. He thence removed in 1650, to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he resided three years after taking his degree of Master of Arts. In early life he was a friend and visitor of Milton, and seems to have been generally attached to the party of Cromwell, on whose death he wrote some highly eulogistic stanzas. The versatility, however, of his principles, was clearly evinced by the publication shortly afterwards of courtly strains of fulsome adulation in honour of Charles II. In 1666, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard, an alliance-like that formed by Addison subsequently with a lady of rank and title-which very little promoted the happiness of the poet. For some years before, and long after this epoch, he wrote for the stage. In 1668, he was appointed Poet Laureate, but appears at this time in the ranks of the political adversaries of the king's or high court party. Subsequently, with more ease than honour, he passed directly over to those whom he had previously assailed, and discovered for their benefit his powerful but hitherto unappreciated vein of satire, by writing the famous poem of "Absalom and Achitophel," which was soon succeeded by others of the same character. On the accession of James II, we find Dryden with suspicious, though in his case not remark. able, flexibility, attaching himself to the Roman Catholic Church.

1 Sweet return, &c." The preceding description," remarks Dr. Warton, "exhibits some of the finest lines which Milton has written in all his poems."

At the revolution all his prospects were overclouded, and for the remainder of his life he was compelled to depend upon his literary labours for the means of subsistence. He died on the 1st of May, 1700, at his house in Gerard Street, London, and was buried at Westminster Abbey, between Chaucer and Cowley.

PRINCIPAL WORKS.-Dryden's most important miscellaneous poems are "Annus Mirabilis," "Ode to the Memory of Mrs. Anne Killigrew," and "Alexander's Feast;" of his dramatical works, the only two now considered above mediocrity are "Don Sebastian," and "All for Love;" as a satirist, "Absalom and Achitophel," the "Medal," and "Mac Flecnoe," are best known, and perhaps "Religio Laici," and the "Hind and the Panther," may be referred to the same head. He translated the whole of Virgil, and paraphrased and modernised several of Chaucer's and Boccacio's Tales.

CHARACTERISTIC SPIRIT AND STYLE.-"Dryden and Pope are the great masters of the artificial style of poetry in our language, as Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, were of the natural; and though this artificial style is generally and very justly acknowledged to be inferior to the other, yet those who stand at the head of that class, ought, perhaps, to rank higher than those who occupy an inferior place in a superior class.1

"He [Dryden] is a writer of manly and elastic character. His strong judgment gave force as well as direction to a flexible fancy; and his harmony is generally the echo of solid thoughts. But he was not gifted with intense or lofty sensibility; on the contrary, the grosser any idea is, the happier he seems to expatiate upon it. The transports of the heart, and the deep and varied delineations of the passions, are strangers to his poetry. He could describe character in the abstract, but could not embody it in the drama, for he entered into character more from clear perception than fervid sympathy. This great High Priest of all the Nine was not a confessor to the finer secrets of the human breast."2

VERSIFICATION..—“What can be said of his versification, will be little more than a dilatation of the praise given it by Pope ::

1 Hazlitt.

'Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join

The varying verse, the full-resounding line,
The long majestic march, and energy divine.'

"Lectures, &c." p. 135.

2 Campbell. "Specimens, &c." Introduction, p. lxxxv.

"Some improvements had been already made in English numbers; but the full force of our language was not yet felt; the verse that was smooth was commonly feeble. If Cowley had sometimes a finished line, he had it by chance. Dryden knew how to choose the flowing and the sonorous words; to vary the pauses, and adjust the accents; to diversify the cadence, and yet preserve the smoothness of his metre."1



Or these3 the false Achitophel+ was first;
A name to all succeeding ages curst;
For close designs and crooked counsels fit;
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit;
Restless, unfixed in principles and place;
In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace:
A fiery soul, which, working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay,

And o'er-informed5 the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremety;

Pleased with the danger when the waves went high,

He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.
Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide;

1 Johnson. "Lives of the Poets."

2 From the Satire of "Absalom and Achitophel"-considered by many competent judges, the finest poem of the kind in our language. It was written in 1681, to defend the king, Charles II, against the political factions raised by his own son, the Duke of Monmouth, and his crafty counsellor the Earl of Shaftesbury.

3 of these-i. e. of those who had factiously risen against the monarch.

4 Achitophel-The character of the original Achitophel and his connection with Absalom may be seen in 2 Sam. xvi, 23.

5 O'er-informed-over-animated. See note 2, p. 130.

6 Great wits, &c.-Sir Charles Lamb thus controverts the above position, "the greatest wits," says he, "will ever be found to be the sanest writers. It is impossible for the mind to conceive of a mad Shakspeare. The greatness of wit, by which the poetic talent is here chiefly to be understood, manifests itself in the admirable balance of all the faculties. Madness is the disproportionate straining or excess of any one of them."

« 上一頁繼續 »