Page images

Doctor epidemic,

Stor'd with deletery med' cines,

Which whosoever took is dead since.

So th' Emperor Caligula,

That triumph'd o'er the British sea,
Took crabs and oysters prisoners,
And lobsters 'stead of cuirassiers ;
Engaged his legions in fierce bustles
With periwinkles, prawns, and mussels,
And led his troops, with furious gallops,
To charge whole regiments of scallops.

Madame, I do, as is my duty

Honour the shadow of your shòe-tie.

Conven'd at midnight in outhouses,
To appoint new rising rendezvouses.

'Mong these there was a politician,
With more heads than a beast in vision.-

So politic, as if one eye

Upon the other were a spy

That to trepan the one to think

The other blind, both strove to blink.1

1 “Strove to blink." - This was Lord Shaftesbury. What an idea of craft and self-deception! a man's two eyes, the most united and friendly of all things, and which cannot stir but in unison, endeavouring to outwit one another!



Should once the world resolve t' abolish

All that's ridiculous and foolish,

It would have nothing left to do,

T' apply in jest or earnest to;
No business of importance, play,
Or state, to pass the time away.



The truest characters of ignorance,

Are vanity, and pride, and arrogance;

As blind men use to bear their noses higher

Than those that have their eyes and sight entire.


More proselytes and converts use t' accrue
To false persuasions than the right and true;
For error and mistake are infinite,

But truth has but one way to be i' th' right.

The greatest saints and sinners have been made
Of proselytes of one another's trade.

A convert's but a fly, that turns about
After his head's pull'd off, to find it out.


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.1

1 Our great satirist is here indulging himself in one of the pleasant "extravagances" which he recommends as refreshments 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 added 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. He had all the goodnature and placability of a child of


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 universal 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 humour 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.

« PreviousContinue »