1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Samuel Cobb, in Poetae Britannici (1700) 19-21.



Crown'd with the sacred Snow of revrend Years,
Dr—n above th' ignobler Crowd appears.
Raises his laurell'd Head, and, as he goes
O'er-shoulders all, and like Apollo shows.
The Native Spark, which first advanc'd his Name,
By industry he kindled to a flame.
Then to a different Coast his Judgment flew,
He left th' Old World behind, and found a New.
On the strong Columns of his lasting Wit,
Instructive Dr—n built, and peopled it.
In every Page Delight, and Profit shines;
Immortal Sense flows in his mighty Lines.
His Images so strong and lively be,
I hear not Words alone, but Substance see.
The proper Phrase of our exalted Tongue
To such Perfection from his Numbers sprung.
His Tropes continu'd, and his Figures fine,
All of a piece throughout, and all Divine.
Adapted Speech, and sweet Expressions move
Our various passions, Pity, Rage and Love.
I weep to hear fond Anthony complain
In Sh—'s fancy, but in Virgil's strain.
Tho for the Comick, others we prefer,
Himself the Judge: nor does his Judgment err.
But Comedy, 'tis thought, can never claim
The sounding Title of a Poem's name.
For Railery, and what creates a smile,
Betrays no lofty Genius, nor a Style.
That heav'nly heat refuses to be seen
In a Town-Character, and Comick Mein.
If we would do him right, we must produce
The Sophoclean Buskin; when his Muse
With her loud Accents fill'd the Listning Ear,
And Peals applauding shook the Theatre.

They fondly seek, Great Name, to blast thy Praise,
Who think that Foreign-banks produc'd thy Bays.
Is he oblig'd to France, who draws from thence
By English Energy, their captive sense?
Tho' Edward, and fam'd Henry war'd in vain,
Subduing what they could not long retain;
Yet now beyond our Arms, the Muse prevails,
And Poets conquer, when the Heroe fails.

This does superiour Excellence betray:
O could I write in thy immortal way!
If Art be Nature's Scholar, and can make
Such great improvements, Nature must forsake
Her ancient Style; and in some grand Design,
She must her own Originals decline,
And for the noblest Copies, follow Thine.
This all the World must offer to thy praise,
And this Thalia sang in rural lays.

As sleep to weary Drovers on the Plain,
As a sweet River to a thirsty Swain;
Such Divine Dr—n's charming Verses show,
Please like the River, like the River flow.
When his first years in mighty order ran,
And cradled Infancy bespoke the Man,
Around his Lips the waxen Artists hung,
And breath'd Ambrosial Odours as they sung.
In yellow Clusters from their Hives they flew,
And on his Tongue distill'd eternal Due:
Thence from his Mouth harmonious Numbers broke,
More sweet than Honey from the knotted Oke.
More smooth than streams, that from a Mountain glide,
Yet lofty as the Top, from whence they slide.

Long He possest th' Hereditary Plains,
Belov'd by all the Herdsmen, and the Swains,
Till he resign'd his Flock, opprest with cares,
And olden'd in his woe, as well as fears.
Yet still, like Aetna's Mount, he kept his Fire,
And look'd, like beauteous Roses on a Brier:
He smil'd, like Phoebus in a stormy morn,
And sung, like Philomel against a Thorn.