ページの画像
PDF
ePub

EPISTLE THE NINTH.

А

LETTER

ΤΟ.

SIR GEORGE ETHEREGE.

i Sir George ETHEREGE, as a lively and witty companion, a smooth sonnetteer, and an excellent writer of comedy, was in high reputation in the seventeenth century. He lived on terms of intimacy with the men of genius, and with those of rank at the court of Charles the Second, and appears to have been particularly acquainted with Dryden. Etherege enjoyed in a particular manner the favour of Queen Mary of Este, through whose influence he was sent envoy to Hamburgh, and afterwards became resident minister at Ratisbon. In this situation, he did not cease to interest himself in the progress of English literature, and we have several of his letters, both in prose and verse, written with great wit and vivacity, to the Duke of Buckingham, and other persons of wit and honour at the court of London. Among others, he wrote an epistle in verse to the Earl of Middleton, who engaged Dryden to return the following answer to it. As Sir George's verses are lively and pleasing, I have prefixed them to Dryden's epistle. Both pieces, with a second letter from Etherege to Middleton, appeared in Dryden's Miscellanies.

Our poet's epistle to Sir George Etherege affords an example how easily Dryden could adapt his poetry to the style which the moment required; since, although this is the only instance in which he has used the verse of eight syllables, it flows as easily from his pen as if he had never written in another measure. This is the more remarkable, as, in the “ Essay on Satire," Dryden speaks very contemptuously of the eight syllable, or Hudibrastic measure, and the ornaments proper to it, as a little instrument, unworthy the use of a great master.* Here, however, he happily retorts upon the witty knight, with his own weapons of gallant and courtly ridicule, and acquits himself, as well in the light arms of a polite and fashionable courtier, as when he wields the trenchant brand of his own keen satire.

Our author had formerly favoured Sir George Etherege with an excellent epilogue to his popular play, called “ The Man of. Mode,” acted in 1676, and he occasionally speaks of him in his writings with great respect. The date of this epistle is not easily ascertained. From a letter of Etherege to the Duke of Buck. ingham, it appears, that Sir George was at Ratisbon when Dryden was engaged in his controversial poetry it but whether that letter be previous or subsequent to the Epistle to the Earl of Middleton, seems uncertain.

Considering the high reputation which Sir George Etherege enjoyed, and the figure which he made as a courtier and a man of letters, it is humbling to add, that we have no accurate information concerning the time or manner of his death. It seems certain, that he never returned from the Continent; but it is dubious, whether, according to one report, he followed the fortunes of King James, and resided with him at the court of St Germains till his death, or whether, as others have said, that event was occasioned by his falling down the stairs of his own house at Ratisbon, when, after drinking freely with a large company, he was attempting to do the honours of their retreat. From the date of the letter to the Duke of Buckingham, 21st October, 1689, it is plain he was then at Ratisbon ; and it is somewhat singular, that he appears to have retained his official situation of Resident, though nearly twelve months had elapsed since the Revolution. This seems to give countenance to the latter report of his having died at Ratisbon. The date of that event was probably abou. 1694.

• Vol. XIII. p. 108.

+ “ They tell me my old acquaintance, Mr Dryden, has left off the theatre, and wholly applies himself to the study of the controversies between the two churches. Pray heaven, this strange alteration in him portends nothing disastrous to the state ; but I have all along observed, that poets do religion as little service by drawing their pens for it, as the divines do poetry, by pretending to versification.” This letter is dated 21st October, 1689.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Since love and verse, as well as wine,
Are brisker where the sun does shine,
'Tis something to lose two degrees,
Now age itself begins to freeze:
Yet this I patiently could bear,
If the rough Danube's beauties were
But only two degrees less fair
Than the bright

nymphs of gentle Thames,
Who warm me hither with their beams :
Such power they have, they can dispense
Five hundred miles their influence.
But hunger forces men to eat,
Though no temptation's in the meat.
How would the ogling sparks despise
The darling damsel of my eyes,
Should they behold her at a play,
As she's trick'd up on holiday,
When the whole family combine,
For public pride, to make her shine !
Her locks, which long before lay matted,
Are on this day comb'd out and plaited ;
A diamond bodkin in each tress,
The badges of her nobleness ;
For every stone, as well as she,
Can boast an ancient pedigree.
These form’d the jewel erst did grace
The cap of the first Graveť o' the race,
Preferr'd by Graffin Marian
To adorn the handle of her fan ;

Charles, 2d Earl of Middleton, a man of some literary accomplishment. He had been Envoy Extraordinary to the Emperor of Germany, and was now one of the secretaries of state for Scotland. + Graf, or Count.

# Countess.

And, as by old record appears,
Worn since in Kunigunda’s years,
Now sparkling in the froein's hair ;*
No rocket breaking in the air
Can with her starry head compare.
Such ropes of pearl her arms encumber,
She scarce can deal the cards at omber;
So many rings each finger freight,
They tremble with the mighty weight.
The like in England ne'er was seen,
Since Holbein drew Halt and his queen.
But after these fantastic flights,
The lustre's meaner than the lights.
The thing that bears this glittering pomp
Is but a tawdry ill-bred romp,
Whose brawny limbs and martial face
Proclaim her of the Gothic race,
More than the mangled pageantry
Of all the father's heraldry.
But there's another sort of creatures,
Whose ruddy look and grotesque features
Are so much out of nature's way,
You'd think them stamp'd on other clay,
No lawful daughters of old Adam.
'Mongst these behold a city madam,
With arms in mittins, head in muff,
A dapper cloak, and reverend ruff:
No farce so pleasant as this maukin,
And the soft sound of High-Dutch talking.
Here, unattended by the Graces,
The queen of love in a sad case is.
Nature, her active minister,
Neglects affairs, and will not stir ;
Thinks it not worth the while to please,
But when she does it for her ease.
Even I, her most devout adorer,
With wandering thoughts appear before her,
And when I'm making an oblation,
Am fain to spur imagination
With some sham London inclination:
The bow is bent at German dame,
The arrow flies at English game.
Kindness, that can indifference warm,
And blow that calm into a storm,
Has in the very tenderest hour
Over my gentleness a power;
True to my country-woman's charms,
When kiss'd and press'd in foreign arms.

Quere, Did Pope think of this passage in his famous account of Belinda's bodkin?

+ Henry VIII.

EPISTLE THE NINTH.

To you,

who live in chill degree, As map informs, of fifty-three, * And do not much for cold atone, By bringing thither fifty-one, Methinks all climes should be alike, From tropic even to pole artique ; Since you have such a constitution As no where suffers diminution, You can be old in grave debate, And young in love affairs of state; And both to wives and husbands show The vigour of a plenipo. Like mighty missioner you come Ad Partes Infidelium. A work of wonderous merit sure, So far to go, so much ť endure;

* The map does not convey any such information. Ratisbon lies in latitude 48° 58' N. Dryden alludes to the commencement of Etherege's Epistle to Middleton, in which he mentions having gone three degrees northward, London being 41° 15' N. Dryden transfers Ratisbon into a high latitude, merely to suit the rhyme, and produce the antithesis of 59 degrees latitude, to 51 years of age.

« 前へ次へ »