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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. 238), is supposed to abdicate the throne of Dulness in favour 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 humour of Ben Jonson, and was not indeed altogether destitute of humour 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. 44.

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.



This plot which fail'd for want of common sense,†
Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence :

For as when raging fevers boil the blood,
The standing lake soon floats into a flood,
And every hostile humour, 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 friends 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, unfix'd in principles and place,
In power unpleas'd, impatient of disgrace;
A fiery soul, that working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay,

And o'er-inform'd the tenement of clay.

* "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 infamous Titus Oates.

A daring pilot in extremity,

Pleas'd with the danger when the waves went high,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,

Would steer too nigh the sands to show his wit.
Great wits to madness surely are allied,

And thin partitions do their bounds divide;2
Else, why should he, with wealth and honour 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 unfeather'd two-legg'd thing, a son;3
Got, while his soul did huddled notions try,
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy ?
In friendship false, implacable in hate,
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!
Where crowds can wink, and no offence be known,

Since in another's guilt they see their own.

Yet fame deserv'd no enemy can grudge;

The statesman we abhor, but praise the judge.

In Israel's courts ne'er sat an Abethdin*

With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean;

Unbrib'd, unsought, the wretched to redress;

Swift of despatch, and easy of access.

* A Jewish word for judge. Shaftesbury had been Lord Chan



Oh! had he been content to serve the crown
With virtues only proper to the gown,

Or had the rankness of the soil been freed
From cockle that oppress'd the noble seed,
David for him his tuneful harp had strung,
And heaven had wanted one immortal song.

1 "Character of Lord Shaftesbury."-Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftesbury, a mercurial and ambitious man, not very well principled where power was to be obtained, but not indisposed to be just and patriotic when possessed of it. Even the famous reply which he is said to have made to a banter of Charles the Second, contained a sort of impudent aspiration, which must have at once disconcerted and delighted the merry monarch; for it implied that his majesty and he stood in a very remarkable state of relationship.

The King. Shaftesbury, I believe thou art the wickedest dog in \my dominions.

Shaftesbury (with a bow). May it please your majesty, of a subject I believe I am."

2 "Great wits to madness surely are allied,

And thin partitions do their bounds divide."

The truth of this striking couplet may seem to be exemplified in the history of Swift and others; but it is not the greatness of the wit that is allied to the madness; it is the weakness or violence of the will. Rabelais was no madman, Molière was none, Sterne was none, Butler none, Horace, Aristophanes, Ari

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