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EPISTLE THE FIRST.

TO HIS FRIEND

JOHN HODDESDON,

ON HIS

DIVINE EPIGRAMS.

These verses were rescued from oblivion by Mr Malone, ha. ving escaped the notice of Dryden's former editors, I have disposed them among the Epistles, that being the title which the author seems usually to have given to those copies of verses, which he sent to his friends upon their publications, and which, according to the custom of the time, were prefixed to the works to which they related. They form the second of our author's attempts at poetry hitherto discovered, the “ Elegy upon Lord Hastings” being the first. The lines are distinguished by the hard and rugged versification, and strained conceit, which characterised English poetry before the Restoration. The title of Hoddesdon's book is a sufficiently odd one: “ Sion and Pamassus, or Epigrams on several Texts of the Old and New Testaments,” 8vo, 1650. Dryden was then a student in Trinity College, Cambridge, and about eighteen years old. The nature of the volume which called forth his poetical approbation, may lead us to suppose, that, at this time, he retained the puritanical principles in which he was doubtless educated. The verses are subscribed, J. Dryden of Trin. C.

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EPISTLE THE FIRST.

Thou hast inspired me with thy soul, and I,
Who ne'er before could ken of poetry,
Am grown so good proficient, I can lend
A line in commendation of my friend.
Yet ’tis but of the second hand ; if ought
There be in this, 'tis from thy fancy brought.
Good thief, who dar'st, Prometheus-like, aspire,
And fill thy poems with celestial fire ;
Enliven'd by these sparks divine, their rays
Add a bright lustre to thy crown of bays.
Young eaglet, who thy nest thus soon forsook,
So lofty and divine a course hast took,
As all admire, before the down begin
To

peep, as yet, upon thy smoother chin;
And, making heaven thy aim, hast had the grace
To look the sun of righteousness i’the face.
What may we hope, if thou goest on thus fast ?
Scriptures at first, enthusiasms at last!
Thou hast commenced, betimes, a saint; go on,
Mingling diviner streams with Helicon,
That they who view what epigrams here be,
May learn to make like, in just praise of thee.-
Reader, I've done, nor longer will withhold
Thy greedy eyes ; looking on this pure gold,
Thou’lt know adulterate copper; which, like this,
Will only serve to be a foil to his.

EPISTLE THE SECOND.

TO MY HONOURED FRIEND

SIR ROBERT HOWARD,

ON HIS

EXCELLENT POEMS.

This epistle was prefixed to Sir Robert Howard's poems, printed for Herringman, 12mo, 1660, and entered in the Stationers’ books on 16th April that year. It was probably written about the commencement of Dryden's intimacy with the author, whose sister he afterwards married. Sir Robert Howard, son to the Earl of Berkshire, a man of quality, a wit, and a cavalier, was able to extend effectual patronage to a rising author; and so willing to do it, that he is even said to have received Dryden into his own house. These lines, therefore, make part of Dryden's grateful acknowledgments, of which more may be found in the prefatory letter to the “ Annus Mirabilis," addressed to Sir Robert Howard.* The friendship of the brother poets was afterwards suspended for some time, in consequence of Sir Robert's strictures on the “Essay on Dramatic Poetry," and Dryden's contemptuous refutation of his criticism. But there is reason to believe, that this interval of coldness was of short duration ; and that, if the warmth of their ori

*“ I am so many ways obliged to you, and so little able to return your favours, that, like those who owe too much, I can only live by getting farther into your debt. You have not only been careful of my fortune, which was the effect of your nobleness, but you have been solicitous of my reputation, which is that of your kindness."

ginal intimacy was never renewed, they resumed the usual kindly intercourse of relations and friends.

The epistle itself is earlier in date than the poem called “ Astrea Redux," which was probably not published till the summer of 1660 was somewhat advanced. This copy of verses, therefore, is the first avowed production of our author after the Restoration, and may rank, in place and merit, with “ Astrea Redux," the “ Poem on the Coronation,” and the “ Address to the Chancellor.” There is the same anxiety to turn and point every sentence, and the same tendency to extravagant and unnatural conceit. Yet it is sometimes difficult to avoid admiring the strength of the author's mind, even when employed in wresting ideas the wrong way. It is reinarkable, also, that Dryden ventures to praise the verses of his patron, on account of that absence of extravagant metaphor, and that sobriety of poetic composition, for which, to judge by his own immediate practice, he ought rather to have censured them,

Those who may be induced to peruse the works of Sir Robert Howard, by the high commendation here bestowed upon them. will have more reason to praise the gratitude of our author, than the justice of his panegyric. They are productions of a most freezing medioerity.

EPISTLE THE SECOND.

As there is music uninform’d by art
In those wild notes, which, with a merry heart,
The birds in unfrequented shades express,
Who, better taught at home, yet please us less ;
So in your verse a native sweetness dwells,
Which shames composure,* and its art excells.
Singing no more can your soft numbers grace,
Than paint adds charms unto a beauteous face.t
Yet as when mighty rivers gently creep,
Their even calmness does suppose them deep,
Such is your muse: no metaphor swelld high
With dangerous boldness lifts her to the sky
Those mounting fancies, when they fall again,
Show sand and dirt at bottom do remain.
So firm a strength, and yet withal so sweet,
Did never but in Sampson's riddle meet.
'Tis strange each line so great a weight should bear,
And yet no sign of toil, no sweat appear.
Either your art hides art, as stoics feign
Then least to feel, when most they suffer pain ;

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• Used for elaborate composition. + Some of Sir Robert Howard's songs were set to music. One of them, beginning, “ O Charon, gentle Charon,” is quoted as a popular air in one of Shadwell's plays.

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