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JOHN DRYDEN “I considered that pleasure was not the only end of poesie; and that even the instructions of morality were not so wholly the business of a poet as that the precepts and examples of piety were to be omitted. For to leave that employment altogether to the clergy were to forget that religion was first taught in verse. .... By the harmony of words we elevate the mind to a sense of devotion, as our solemn music, which is inarticulate poesie, does in churches; and by the lively images of piety, adorned by actiou, through the senses allure the soul, which, while it is charmed in a silent joy of what it sees and hears, is struck at the same time with a secret veneration of things celestial, and is wound up insensibly into the practice of that which It admires.”—Preface to Tyrannic Love (1669). "These little critics do not well consider what is the work of a poet, and what the graces of a poem. The story is the least part of either: I mean the foundation of it, before it is modelled by the art of him who writes it; who forms it with more care, by exposing only the beautiful parts of it to view, than a skilful lapidary sets a jewel. Judgment, indeed, is necessary in him; but 't is fancy that gives the life-touches and the secret graces to it. . . . . The employment of a poet is like that of a curious gunsmith or watchmaker: the iron or silver is not his own, but they are the least part of that which gives the value; the price lies wholly in the workmanship."-Preface to An Evening's Love (1668). "Imaging is in itself the very height and life of poetry. 'Tis, as Longinus describes it, a discourse which, hy a kind of enthusiasm, or extraordinary emotion of the soul, makes it seem to us that we behold those things which the poet paints, so as to be pleased with them and to admire them.”—Preface to The State of Innocence (1674). "But that benefit which I consider most in it (rhyme), because I have not seldom found it, is that it bounds and circumscribes the fancy. For imagination in a poet is a faculty so wild and lawless that, like an high-ranging spaniel, it must have clogs tied to it, lest it outrun the judg
The great easiness of blank verse renders the poet too luxuriant; he is tempted to say many things which might better be omitted, or at least shut up in fewer words. But when the difficulty of artful rhyming is inter posed, where the poet commonly confines his sense to his couplet, and must contrive that sense into such words that the rhyme shall naturally follow them, not they the rhyme, the fancy then gives leisure to the judgment to come in, which, seeing so heavy a tax imposed, is ready to cut off all unnecessary expenses.”—Epistle Dedicatory to The Rival Ladies (1663). “Let the chastisements of Juvenal be never so necessary for his new kind of satire, let him declaim as wittily and sharply as he pleases, yet still the nicest and most delicate touches of satire consist in fine raillery. ... it is to call rogue and villain, and that wittily! but how hard to make a man appear a fool, a block head, or a knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms! To spare the grossness of the names, and to do the thing yet more severely, is to draw a full face and to make the nose and cheeks stand out, and yet not to employ any depth of shadowing. This is the mystery of that noble trade, which yet no master can teach to his apprentice; he may give the rules, but the scholar is never the nearer in his practice. Neither is it true that this fineness of raillery is offensive: a witty man is tickled, while he is hurt in this manner; and a fool feels it not. The occasion of an offence may possibly be given, but he cannot take it. If it be granted that in effect this way does more mischief; that a man is secretly wounded, and though he be not sensible himself yet the malicious world will find it for him; yet there is still a vast difference betwixt the slovenly butchering of a man, and the fineness of a stroke that separates the head from the body and leaves it standing in its place. A man may be capable, as Jack Ketch's wife said of his servant, of a plain piece of work, a bare hanging; but to make a malefartor die sweetly was only belonging to her husband."-A Discourse on Satire (1692).
(12) HEROIC STANZAS. Stanzas 6–14. (11, 12. Cromwell won his first great victory, at Marston Moor, when he was forty-five; Pompey at the same age celebrated his triumph for his conquest of Mithridates, after which his fortunes declined till his defeat by Caesar thirteen years later. 1 18. that blessing: Cromwell's dominion, or rule. 1 21. sticklersarbitrators, peace-makers; often used of seconds or umpires in a duel, who interposed when
they saw fit. The generals referred to were the Presbyterians Essex, Waller, and others, who were suspected of being unwilling to follow up advantages gained against the king. 1 28. breathing=opening. (13) 30. that bold Greek: Alexander the Great. 135, 36. Of conquests
thick: i. e., as thick with conquests.
(13) Astraea Redux. Subheading, “A poem on the happy restoration and return of his sacred majesty, Charles the Second.” Lines 21-60. 19. their hold attempt: i.e., the bold attempt of them. (15. the sacred purple: the bishops. scarlet gown: the nobles. 117. Typhoeus: a hundred-headed giant of Greek mythology; the same as Typhon.
(14) 25. Cyclops: the savage giant of Greek fable, whose one eye was put out by Ulysses and his companions. 127. our painted ancestors: the ancient Britons, who painted their bodies with a blue pigment 29. Charles his-Charles's.
(14) INCANTATION. From The Indian Queen, III. i. Ismeron, an Indian conjuror, summons the god of sleep to interpret a disturbing dream of Zempoalla, an Indian queen who has usurped the throne of Mexico. 114. clifts-cliffs.
(15) 24. use=are accustomed.
Stanzas 119–32, 216–30. “I have chosen to write my poem in quatrains, or stanzas of four in alternate rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble and of greater dignity, both for the sound and number, than any other verse in use amongst us. .... But to proceed from wit in the general notion of it to the proper wit of an heroic or historical poem, I judge it chiefly to consist in the delightful imaging of persons, actions, passions, or things. T is not the jerk or sting of an epigram, nor the seeming contradiction of a poor antithesis,
neither is it so much the morality of a grave sentence,
but it is some lively and apt description, dressed in such colors of speech that it sets before your eyes the absent object as perfectly and more delightfully than nature.”—An Account of the Ensuing Poem.
(15) The War with Holland. The passage describes a part of the last day of a prolonged battle, June 1-4, 1666
(16) 12. heartless=faint-bearted. 26. Mix=fur.
(16) The Great London Fire. The fire burned for six days, and destroyed about 13,000 houses besides many public buildings
(17) 25. letted=hindered. ! 29. The heads of executed traitors were displayed on London Bridge; the heads of some of the leaders in the civil war had recently been placed there. 132. Sabbath notes: “The infernal hymns chanted at the witches' sabbath, a meeting concerning which antiquity told and believed strange things."-Scott.
(18) 54. the hallowed quire: St. Paul's Cathedral. 57. Belgian wind: Holland was still at war with England, and even a wind from that quarter might be conceived of as hostile.
(18) PROLOGUE TO "AURENG-ZEBE.” Aureng-Zebe, the last of Dryden's tragedies in rhyme, was acted at the Theatre Royal, in Drury Lane, in 1675. 18. Cf. p. 430 for Dryden's former defense of rhyme in plays.
(19) 37. 38. The reference is to the rivalry of the two principal theaters, the Theatre Royal and the Duke's Theatre; both had recently built expensive playhouses. 140. Wit - mind; so usually in literature of this period (O. E. "witan,” to know; Latin "videre.” to see)
(19) FAREWELL, UNGRATEFUL TRAITOR. From The Spanish Friar, V. i.
(20) Part I. Cf. II Sam., chaps. 15-18 The device of using the parallel Scripture story, for safety and emphasis, did not originate with Dryden. In 1680 there had been printed in London a prose broadside, "Absalom's Conspiracy, or the Tragedy of Treason." It begins with a warning against the dangers of ambition for sovereignty, as shown by "instances both modern and ancient’'; tells the Bible story of Absalom; and ends significantly with the
words, “A severe Admonition to all green Heads to avoid the Temptations of grey Achitophels," and "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our Instruction.” The broadside (a copy of which is in the Library of Harvard University) would seem to have suggested to Dryden the framework of his poem. 1. The Jews: the English. 7. Adam-wits: not knowing when they were well off, like Adam before his fall. 113. Soul: Oliver Cromwell. 114. Ishbesheth: Richard Cromwell. (15. David: Charles II. Hebron: in the key published in 1716 by Tonson, Dryden's publisher, Hebron is Scotland, although Flanders would be more natural here; perhaps there is a reference to the fact that Scotland had already proclaimed Charles king, and that General Monk's army, which was largely instrumental in restoring the monarchy, marched down from Scotland. 18. humour=caprice. ? 22. golden calf: see Exod. 32:1-6.
(21) 41. Jerusalem: London. 142. Jebusites: Roman Catholics. 160. The Jewish rabbins: doctors of the English Church. 164. that Plot: the so-called Popish Plot, an alleged plot of English Papists, in 1678, to kill Charles II and get control of the government.
(22) 74-77. A sneer at the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, or belief that the bread and wine of the sacrament are changed into the flesh and blood of Christ. Egyptian: French, France being taken as a typical Roman Catholic country. 184. Hebrew priests: clergymen of the English Church. | 106. Achitophel: Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury. He had been Lord Chancellor, and President of the Privy Council, under Charles II; but for supporting the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of the king, as a claimant to the throne, in opposition to the succession of James, the king's Papist brother, he was thrown into the Tower ou a charge of high treason, a few months before the publication of “Absalom and Achitophel"; shortly after the poem appeared, the grand jury threw out the bill against him, and he was released 1111. disgrace: Shaftesbury had been dismissed from the chancellorship and the Privy Council.
(23) 114. o'er-informed: "inform” is used here in its sense of "animate," "fill with life.” 1119, 120. Cf. Seneca (who is citing Aristotle), De tranquilitate animi, xv. 16: “Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fit,!' “There is no great genius without admixture of madness." But Dryden may have borrowed directly from Thomas Shadwell's Sullen Lovers (1669), III. i: “Great wits, you know, have always a mixture of madness.” wits=minds. $126. unfeathered two-legged thing: cf. the definition of man, attributed by Diogenes Laertius (Vitae philosophorum, vi. 40) to Plato: Swov dimovv åttepov, “an animal two-footed, without wings." 131. the triple bond: the alliance, formed in 1667, of England, Holland, and Sweden against France. It was virtually broken in 1670, when Charles made a secret treaty with France against Holland (see l. 133). 136-47. Added in the second edition, December, 1681, after Shaftesbury had been released from prison. (144. Abbethdin-chief justice. 149. gown: judges in England wear black gowns when on the bench. wanted=lacked. one immortal song: “Absalom and Achitophel"; the poem was published anonymously, a fact which should be remembered in estimating Dryden's modesty. (24) 154, 155. Cf. a couplet in Knolles's Generall Historie of the Tur kes (1603):
Greatnesse on goodnesse loves to slide, not stand,
And leaves for Fortune's ice Vertue's firme land. 1 169. the King himself a Jebusite: as a matter of fact Charles had agreed, in the secret treaty with France, to declare himself a Roman Catholic. 1 177. warlike Absalon: James, Duke of Monmouth (1649-85), recognized by Charles II as his illegitimate son, had commanded the English army in the second war with Hoiland in 1672–74, against the Scotch Covenanters in 1675, and in the war with France in 1678; he was a bold soldier, though no general. 9180. his title: his title to the throne; the king steadily refused to admit that there had been a contract of marriage between himself and the duke's mother, the notorious Lucy Walters.
(25) 203: feeds: a grammatical error for "feed.” 1210. prevail – avail (a Gallicism: cf. French “prévaloir,” to avail, take advantage of). 219. plighted vows: Charles had
4153 formally acknowledged James as his legitimate successor. 1 226–35. This very indulgent portrait of the dissolute and sometimes violent duke was due to Dryden's knowledge that the king still loved the young man, and to his hope that a reconciliation might yet take place. It was not to be. In 1682 Monmouth made another tour through the western counties, stirring up popular sentiment in his favor by his singular personal charm. He was arrested, but was released on bail; in 1683 he fled to Holland, and probably never saw the king again. After the accession of James, Monmouth made an unsuccessful attempt to raise the west of England in revolution; he was taken prisoner, and died on the scaffold in 1685. Shaftesbury had died in Holland, two years before.
(26) 262. The Solymaean rout: the London rabble (Latin "Solyma,” Jerusalem). 1 266. an Ethnic plot: the Popish Plot. 1 268. Levites: Presbyterian ministers, who had now lost the power which they had under the Commonwealth ("the Judges' days”), being ousted from their churches by the Act of Uniformity, which required every clergyman to use the prayer-book and assent to everything in it. 1272. Sanhedrin: Parliament.
(27) 293. Zimri: George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, a brilliant but profligate man; he was for a time chief minister under Charles, but, being dismissed from office in 1674, he threw himself into the opposition party; he was one of the writers of The Rehearsal (1671), in which Dryden was severely ridiculed for his plays. This portrait of Buckingham was a favorite with the author, who wrote thus of it in his Discourse on Satire (1692): “The character of Zimri, in my 'Absalom,' is, in my opinion, worth the whole poem; it is not bloody, but it is ridiculous enough; and he for whom it was intended was too witty to resent it as an injury. If I had railed, I might have suffered for it justly; but I managed my own work more happily, perhaps more dexterously. I avoided the mention of great crimes, and applied myself to the representing of blind sides and little extravagances; to which the wittier a man is, he is generally the more obnoxious. It succeeded as I wished; the jest went round, and he was laughed at in his turn who began the frolic.”
(28) Part 11. 11. Doeg: Elkanah Settle, a poor poet and playwright of the day, with whom Dryden had long been at odds; he had recently replied to “Absalom and Achitophel by a poem entitled “Absalom Senior,” in which James, the king's brother, was represented as Absalom. 128. Og: Thomas Shadwell; see the notes on “Mac Flecknoe" below. 130. link=torch.
(30) MAC FLECKNOE. “Mac Flecknoe" is a name invented by Dryden for Thomas Shadwell, a contemporary poet and dramatist; it means “son of Flecknoe.” Richard Flecknoe was a dull Irish poet, who had died in 1678. Shadwell and Dryden had formerly been friends; but Shadwell was a Whig, while Dryden was a Tory, and political antagonism made them enemies. “Mac Flecknoe" was directly occasioned by Shadwell's attack upon Dryden, in a poem entitled “The Medal of John Bayes”—a reply to Dryden's poem, "The Medal,” m which Shaftesbury and the Whigs were scourged. “Mac Flecknoe” was published anonymously, being announced as “by the author of 'Absalom and Achitophel.'" 12. witmind. (25. goodly fabric: Shadwell was large and fat. 29. Heywood and Shirley: Thomas Heywood and James Shirley, dramatists in the reigns of James I and Charles I; they were playwrights of considerable ability, and Dryden's contemptuous reference to them shows the change of taste in the England of the Restoration and the growing ignorance of the literature of the preceding age. 133. Norwich drugget: drugget was a coarse woolen cloth; Norwich was a center for the manufacture of cloths.
(31) 42. There seems to be a reference both to Shadwell's play, Epsom Wells, and to the custom of tossing obnoxious persons in a blanket. 1 43. Arion: an early Greek poet, of whom there was a legend that, when he was thrown into the sea, dolphins, entranced by his songs, carried him to shore. 53. St. André's feet: St. André was a celebrated dancingmaster of the time. 54. 'Psyche's': Psyche was an opera by Shadwell. 157. Singleton: a stage-singer. 159. Villerius: a general in The Siege of Rhodes, an opera by William Davenant; “lute and sword” (1. 58) ridicules the combination of singing and fighting. 164
Augusta: London. The Romans so named the city, in honor of Augustus Cæsar; and the name was now revived, partly as flattery to Charles II, who was sometimes addressed as Cæsar and Augustus. 65. much to fears inclined: an allusion to the recent fears of a Popish plot. 167. hight=was called (the sole survival in English of a passive form without the use of the auxiliary "to be"; O. E. "hatte,” is or was called). 178. Maximins: Maximin was the hero in Dryden's play, Tyrannic Love; he thus defies the gods with his last breath:
And, shoving back this earth on which I sit,
I'll mount-and scatter all the gods I hit. 179. Fletcher: John Fletcher (1579–1625), who in collaboration with Francis Beaumont wrote many excellent plays; they were more popular than Shakspere's plays on the Restoration stage. buskins: buskins stand for tragedy, from the fact that Greek actors wore highheeled shoes, called buskins, when playing tragedy. 180. Jonson: Ben Jonson (15737-1637); his comedies, by their realism and ingenuity of plot, pleased the taste of Dryden's age more than the romantic comedies of Shakspere. socks: socks stand for comedy, from the fact that Greek actors wore low-heeled shoes, called socks, when playing comedy. 181. gentle Simkin: Simkin was a cobbler in a contemporary interlude, or farce; shoemaking was called "the gentle craft.” ( 83. clinches=repartees, puns, etc. 184. Panton: a noted punster.
(32) 87. Decker: Thomas Decker, or Dekker (15701-1637?), a dramatist. 191-93. The Miser and The Humourists are plays by Shadwell. Raymond is a character in the latter play; Bruce, a character in Shadwell's Virtuoso. There seems to be no particular reference in the use of the word "Hypocrites.” 1 97. Bunhill Row is a little to the north of the Barbican; Watling Street is to the south, not much farther off; the satire in limiting Shadwell's fame to this restricted area, with the mock boast in “distant,” is obvious. [102. Ogleby: John Ogleby (1600–76), an obscure poet and translator. | 104. Bilked: defrauded of their pay by the small sale of poor poets' works. yeomen: a hundred yeomen used to form the bodyguard of the English king. 1105. Herringman: a leading publisher. [106. the hoary prince: Flecknoe. (108. our young Ascanius: Shadwell. (In the Æneid Ascanius is the son and heir of Æneas.) 108, 109. Cf. the Æneid, xii. 168, “Et juxta Ascanius, magnae spes altera Romae,” “And Ascanius next, the other hope of great Rome III. Cf. the Æneid, ii. 682-84:
Ecce levis summo de vertice visus Iuli
Lambere flamma comas et circum tempora pasci.
Strange to relate, from young lülus' head
Around his brows, and on his temples fed. $118. unction=the act of anointing, or consecrating. made=performed. | 120. sinister left. ball: English kings at their coronation held a ball, in the right hand, as a symbol of dominion over the earth. ( 121. ole: selected for its heavy, dulling quality. 122. “Love's Kingdom": a play by Flecknoe. 1125. recorded=sung (Psyche was an opera). (33) 136, 137. Cf. the Æneid, vi. 78, 79:
Bacchatur vates, magnum si pectore possit
Excussisse deum. "The prophetess rages, if perchance she may shake from her breast the great god.” 1151. George: George Etheridge (or Etherege) author of several popular Restoration comedies, in which occur the characters mentioned in the next two lines.
1 163. Sedley: Sir Charles Sedley, a wit and light poet (see p. 7), who had revised one of Shadwell's plays and written a prologue for another; Dryden insinuates that the best parts of Shadwell's plays were written by Sedley. 166, 167. Dryden unduly depreciates Shadwell, who was far from dull; his plays have many really comic characters and situations, and his Bury Fair, at least, has ep.