1808 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Oldham

Walter Scott, in Life of Dryden (1808; 1834) 239.



Oldham, who flourished in Dryden's time, and enjoyed his friendship, wrote his verses in the crabbed tone of Cleveland and Donne. Dryden, in the copy of verses dedicated to his memory, alludes to this deficiency, and seems to admit the subject as an apology:—

O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more!
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.

Yet the apology which he admitted for Oldham, Dryden disdained to make use of himself. He did not, as has been said of Horace, willfully untune his harp when he commenced satirist. Aware that a wound may be given more deeply with a burnished than a rusty blade, he bestowed upon the versification of his satires the same pains which he had given to his rhyming plays and serious poems.