ページの画像
PDF
ePub

EPISTLE THE FIFTH.

The blast of common censure could I fear,
Before your play my name should not appear;
For 'twill be thought, and with some colour too,
I pay the bribe I first received from you ;
That mutual vouchers for our fame we stand,
And play the game into each others hand;
And as cheap pen'orths to ourselves afford,
As Bessus and the brothers of the sword.*
Such libels private men may well endure,
When states and kings themselves are not secure ;
For ill men, conscious of their inward guilt,
Think the best actions on by-ends are built.
And yet my silence had not ’scaped their spite ;
Then, envy had not suffer'd me to write ;
For, since I could not ignorance pretend,
Such merit I must envy or commend.

* Our author alludes to the copy of verses addressed to him by Lee, on his drama, called the “ State of Innocence,” and which the reader will find in Vol. V. p. 103. Dryden expresses some apprehension, lest his friend and he should be considered as vouching for each other's genius, in the same manner that Bessus and the two Swordsmen, in " King and no King,” grant certificates of each other's courage, after having been all soundly beaten and kicked by Bacurius.

“ 2 Swordsman. Captain, we must request your hand now to our honours.

Bessus. Yes, marry shall ye ; and then let all the world come, we are valiant to ourselves, and there's an end." Act V.

So many candidates there stand for wit,
A place at court is scarce so hard to get :
In vain they crowd each other at the door ;
For e'en reversions are all begg'd before :
Desert, how known soe'er, is long delay'd,
And then, too, fools and knaves are better paid.
Yet, as some actions bear so great a name,
That courts themselves are just, for fear of shame;
So has the mighty merit of your play
Extorted praise, and forced itself a way.
'Tis here as 'tis at sea ; who farthest goes,
Or dares the most, makes all the rest his foes.
Yet when some virtue much outgrows the rest,
It shoots too fast, and high, to be supprest ;
As his heroic worth struck envy dumb,
Who took the Dutchman, and who cut the boom.*
Such praise is yours, while you the passions move,
That 'tis no longer feignd, 'tis real love,
Where nature triumphs over wretched art;
We only warm the head, but you the heart.
Always you warm ; and if the rising year,
As in hot regions, brings the sun too near,
'Tis but to make your fragrant spices blow,
Which in our cooler climates will not grow.
They only think you animate your theme
With too much fire, who are themselves all phlegm.

• The person thus distinguished seems to be the gallant Sir Edward Spragge, noted for his gallantry in the two Dutch wars, and finally killed in the great battle of 11th August, 1672. In 1671, he was sent to the Mediterranean with a squadron, to chastise the Algerines. He found seven vessels belonging to these pirates, lying in the bay of Bugia, covered by the fire of a castle and forts, and defended by a boom, drawn across the entrance of the bay, made of yards, top-masts, and cables, buoyed up by casks. Nevertheless, Sir Edward bore into the bay, silenced the forts, and, having broken the boom with his pinnaces, sent in a fire-ship, which effectually destroyed the Algerine squadron ; a blo which was long remembered by these piratical states.

Prizes would be for lags of slowest pace,
Were cripples made the judges of the race.
Despise those drones, who praise, while they accuse,
The too much vigour of your youthful muse.
That humble style, which they your virtue make,
Is in your power; you need but stoop and take.
Your beauteous images must be allow'd
By all, but some vile poets of the crowd.
But how should any sign-post dauber know
The worth of Titian, or of Angelo ?
Hard features every bungler can command;
To draw true beauty, shews a master's hand.

EPISTLE THE SIXTH.

TO THE

EARL OF ROSCOMMON,

ON HIS EXCELLENT

ESSAY ON TRANSLATED VERSE.

The Earl of Roscommon’s “ Essay on Translated Verse,” a work which abounds with much excellent criticism, expressed in correct, succinct, and manly language, was first published in 4to, in 1680; a second edition, corrected and enlarged, appeared in 1684. To both editions is prefixed the following copy of verses by our author ; and to the second there is also one in Latin by his son Charles Dryden, afterwards translated by Mr Needler.

The high applause which our author has here and elsewhere* bestowed on the “ Essay on Translated Verse," is censured by Dr Johnson, as unmerited and exaggerated. But while something is allowed for the partiality of a friend, and the zeal of a panegyrist, it must also be remembered, that the rules of criticism, now so well known as to be even trite and hackneyed, were then almost new to the literary world, and that translation was but then beginning to be emancipated from the fetters of verbal and literal

• See Vol. XII. p. 264.

versions. But Johnson elsewhere does Roscommon more justice, where he acknowledges, that “he improved taste, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the benefactors of English literature."

Dryden has testified, in several places of his works, that he loved and honoured Roscommon; particularly by inscribing and applying to him his version of the Third Ode of the First Book of Horace. * Roscommon repaid these favours by a copy of verses addressed to Dryden on the “ Religio Laici.”ť

[blocks in formation]
« 前へ次へ »