1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Giles Jacob, in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 261-65.



There remains nothing to be said of this excellent Poet, after his Life, and the incomparable Character of him and his Talents, by the ingenious Mr. Congreve, in my Poetical Register, but to give some Account of his many admirable Performances out of the Dramatick way. The most considerable of them are,

I. Mack-Flecknoe. This is a sever Satire on Mr. Shadwell and some other Poets.

II. Absolom and Achitophel. This inimitable Poem was writ by Mr. Dryden at the Request of King Charles the Second: It contains Satyrical Characters of the most considerable Persons then at Court; particularly the Duke of Monmouth, Lord Shaftesbury, the late Duke of Buckingham, &c. It begins thus:

In pious Times, e'er Priestcraft did begin,
Before Polygamy was made a Sin;
When Man on many multiply'd his Kind,
E'er one to one was cursedly confin'd:
When Nature prompted, and no Law deny'd
Promiscuous Use of Concubine and Bride:
Then Israel's Monarch, after Heav'ns own Heart—

III. The Medal. A Satire against Sedition.

IV. Heroick Stanza's on Oliver Cromwell: Written after his Funeral.

V. Astrea Redux: A Poem on the happy Restoration and Return of his Sacred Majesty King Charles the Second. This is an incomparable Piece.

VI. To his Sacred Majesty Charles the Second on his Coronation.

VII. To the Lord Chancellor Hyde, presented on New-Year's Day, 1662.

VIII. Religio Laici; or, a Layman's Faith, an excellent Poem. The Earl of Roscommon very much commends this Piece, in a Copy of Verses to the Author.

IX. Annus Mirabilis: The Year of Wonders, 1666. An Historical Poem. This Piece is written upon a very Heroick Subject; the Poet having describ'd the Motives, Beginning, Progress, and Successes of a most just and necessary War, and in it the Care and Prudence of the King, the Conduct and Valour of his Generals, Admiral, &c. It is composed in alternate Verse, and in Stanza's of Quartains like Sir William Davenant's Gondibert.

X. Threnodia Augustalis: A Funeral Pindarick Poem sacred to the happy Memory of King Charles II.

XI. To Sir Godfrey Kneller. This Piece has a very great Compliment to Sir Godfrey, and his Art.

XII. Boileau's Art of Poetry. Made English by Sir William Soane, Revis'd and Alter'd.

XIII. The Hind and the Panther. A Poem. In three Parts. This is the famous Piece written in the Reign of King James the Second, which made so much Noise, and was answer'd by the late Lord Halifax and Mr. Prior, in the City-Mouse and Country-Mouse.

XIV. Eleonora: A Panegyrical Poem. Dedicated to the Memory of the Countess of Abington.

XV. Upon the Death of the EArl of Dundee.

XVI. To Sir Robert Howard, on his excellent Poems.

XVII. Veni Creator Spiritus, translated in Paraphrase.

XVIII. Hoart. Ode 3. lib. 1. inscrib'd to the Earl of Roscommon, on his intended Voyage to Ireland.

XIX. The Speech of Venus to Vulcan.

XX. Translations from Lucretius.

XXI. Daphnis. From Theocritus, Idyll 27.

XXII. Persius translated. Translations from Juvenal, Virgil, &c. Virgil (Publius Virgilius Maro) the Prince of the Latin Heroick Poets, was the Son of Maro, a Potter, born in the third Year of the 177th Olympiad, about 67 Years before Christ, at Andes, a Village not far from Mantua, whence he is stil'd, The Mantuan Swan. He dy'd at Brundusium, a City in Italy, the second Year of the 190th Olympiad, in the 51st Year of his Age.

Mr. Dryden was the most elegant Translator of Poetry that any Age has produced: His Works sufficiently shew what our Language is capable of; and to give Specimens of his Beauties, would be endless, he has so many Excellencies, and was such a universal Writer; I shall therefore conclude with Mr. Dennis's admirable Ode to him, upon his Translation of the third Book of Virgil's Georgicks.

Sometimes of humble Rural Things,
Thy Muse, which keeps great Maro still in Sight,
In middle Air with varied Numbers Sings;
And sometimes her sonorous Flight
To Heav'n sublimely wings:
But first takes time with Majesty to rise,
Then, without Pride, divinely great,
She mounts her Native Skies;
And, Goddess-like, retains her State
When down again she flies:
Commands which Judgment gives, she still obeys,
Both to depress her Flight, and raise.
Thus Mercury from Heav'n descends,
And to this Under-World his Journey bends,
When Jove his dread Command has giv'n;
But, still descending, Dignity maintains,
As much a God upon our humble Plains,
As when he tow'ring reascends to Heav'n.

But when thy Goddess takes her Flight,
With so much Majesty, to such a Height,
As can alone suffice to prove,
That she descends from mighty Jove;
Gods! how thy Thoughts then rise, and soar, and shine!
Immortal Spirit animates each Line:
Each with bright Flame that Fires our Souls is Crown'd,
Each has magnificence of Sound,
And Harmony Divine.
Thus the first Orbs, in their high Rounds,
With shining Pomp advance,
And to their own Celestial Sounds
Majestically dance:
On with eternal Symphony they roll,
Each turn'd in its harmonious Course,
And each inform'd, by the prodigious Force
Of an Empyreal Soul.