A country that draws fifty foot of water ;
In which men live, as in the hold of Nature ;
That feed, like cannibals, on other fishes,
And serve their cousins-german up in dishes ;
A land that rides at anchor, and is moor'd;
In which men do not live, but go aboard."

! Our great satirist is here indulging himself in one of the pleasant “extravagances” which he recommends as refresh. ments of thought: but it is impossible to take leave of extracts from such a writer without expressing a kind of transport at the perfection of his wit and good sense.


BORN, 1631-DIED, 1701.

If Dryden had been cast in a somewhat finer mould, and addea sentiment to his other qualifications, he would have been almost as great a poet in the world of nature, as he was in that of art and the town. He had force, expression, scholarship, geniality, admirable good sense, musical enthusiasm. The rhymed heroic couplet in his hands continues still to be the finest in the language. But his perceptions were more acute than subtle ; more sensual, by far, than spiritual. The delicacy of them had no proportion to the strength. He prized the flower, but had little sense of the fragrance; was gross as well as generous in his intellectual diet; and if it had not been genuine and hearty, would have shown an almost impudent delight in doing justice to the least refined of Nature's impressions. His Venus was not the Celestial. He would as soon have described the coarsest flower, as a rose; sooner, if it was large and luxuriant. His very repentance has more relish of sin, than regret; though, indeed, he was too honest a man to have reason to regret anything very strongly; for his faults were those of temperament and an easy disposition. Even his enmities, powerfully as he could word them, were but those of the poet and partizan, not of the human being. They required a public cause or repeated private offence to provoke them. Ilo had all the goodnature and placability of a child of nature.

Agreeably to this character of his genius, Dryden's wit is less airy than masculine ; less quick to move than eloquent when roused ; less productive of pleasure and love than admiration and a sense of his mastery. His satire, if not so learned and univer.


sal as Butler's, is aimed more at the individual and his public standing, and therefore comes more home to us. The titled wits of the day, who affected alternately to patronize and to correct him, he generally submitted to with his natural modesty, and with the policy of a poor man; but when the humor or party necessity came upon him, he seized the unlucky individual, as Gulliver might have done a lord of Lilliput; and gripping him, and holding him up by the ribs, exposed his pretensions, limb by limb, to the spectator. Still it was rather in vindication of a power derided, or of a sense of justice provoked, than from an ungenerous desire to give pain. He could bestow commendation on the offender; and was always ready to break off into some enthusiastic strain of verse or reflection.

The famous satire on Shadwell entitled Mac Flecnoe (that is to say, Flecnoe's son) is, for the most part, so coarse, that I can only quote a few lines from it, which I have accordingly put in this place. But they are the best. They are comprised in the exordium. Flecnoe, the bad poet indicated by Marvel (see p. 174), is supposed to abdicate the throne of Dulness in favor of its heir. apparent Shadwell. Shadwell had repeatedly intimated his own superiority compared with Dryden, as a writer of plays; and he was newly appointed laureate to King William, who had ousted James the Second and his greater laureate; so that Dryden had every provocation against him, political and poetical.

All human things are subject to decay,
And when fate summons, monarchs must obey ;
This Flecnoe found, who, like Augustus, young,
Was call'd to empire, and had govern'd long :
In prose and verse was own'd without dispute,
Through all the realms of Nonsense, absolute.
This aged prince, now governing in peace,
And blest with issue of a large increase,
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the succession of the state;
And, pondering which of all his sons was fit
To reign, and wage immortal war with wit,
Cry'd, 'Tis resolv'd; for nature pleads, that he
Should only rule, who most resembles me.
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears;
Mature in dulness from his tender years :

Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he
Who stands confirm'd in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through, and make a lucid interval :
But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray;
His rising fogs prevail against the day.
Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye,
And seems design'd for thoughtless majesty;
Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the plain,
And spread in solemn state supinely reign.
Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee,
Thou last great prophet of tautology!

Heywood and Shirley were dramatic writers of the past age, both superior to what Dryden here intimates of them ; but he saw their tediousness and commonplace, and did not feel their sentiment. Shadwell was a great fat debauchee, who mistook will for genius; and because he enjoyed the humor of Ben Jonson, and was not indeed altogether destitute of humor himself, poured forth a profusion of shallow dialogue, which was the very dotage of pertness. As to his “ poetry,” the reader may see a specimen of it in “ Imagination and Fancy," p. 31.

It is a curious oversight of Dryden's in this satire, that he should put the best wit of it into the mouth of Flecnoe himself.



From the poem of “ ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL."*
This plot which fail'd for want of common sense,t
Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence :
For as when raging fevers boil the blood,
The standing lake soon floats into a flood,


• “ Absalom and Achitophel" is a satire, under Jewish names, upon the intrigues of Lord Shaftesbury and the Duke of Monmouth against the Catholic and Court interest,

† The Popish Plot, real or pretended, which was sworn to by the infa mous Titus Oates.


And every hostile humor, which before
Slept quiet in its channels, bubbles o'er ;
So several factions, from this first ferment,
Work up to foam, and threat the government.
Some by their friends, more by themselves, thought wise,
Oppos'd the power to which they could not rise.
Some had in courts been great, and, thrown from thence,
Like fiends were harden'd in impenitence.
Some, by their monarch’s fatal mercy, grown,
From pardon'd rebels, kinsmen to the throne,
Were rais'd in power, and public office high ;
Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie.

of these the false Achitophel was first, -
A name to all succeeding ages curst;
For close designs and crooked councils fit;
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit ;
Restless, untix'd in principles and place,
In power unpleas’d, impatient of disgrace;
A fiery soui, that working out ils way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay,
And o'er-inform'd the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleas'd with the danger when the waves went higlo,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to show his wit.
Great wils to madness surely are allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide ;)
Else, why should he, with wealth and honor blest,
Refuse his age the needful hours of rest;
Punish a body which he could not please,
Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease,
And all to leave what with such toil he won,
To that unfeatherd two-legg'd thing, a son ;'
Got, while his soul did huddled notions try,
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy ?

In friendship false, implacable in bate,
Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state,
To compass this the triple bond he broke,
The pillars of the public safety shook,
And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke ;
Then, seiz'd with fear, yet still affecting fame,
Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name.
So easy still it proves, in factious times,
With public zeal to cancel private crimes.
How safe is treason, and how sacred ill,
Where none can sin against the people's will!

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