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woman says, that her husband frequently read to

her out of a volume that contained,

Valerius whole; and of Saint Jerome part;
Chrysippus, and Tertullian, Ovid's Art,

Solomon's Proverbs, Eloisa's Loves;

With many more than sure the church approves.*

POPE has omitted a stroke of humour; for in the original, she naturally mistakes the rank and age of St. Jerome: the lines must be transcribed:

Yclepid Valerie and Theophrast,

At which boke he lough alwey full fast;
And eke there was a clerk sometime in Rome,
A cardinal, that hightin St. Jerome,
That made a boke agenst Jovinian,
In which boke there was eke Tertullian,
Chrysippus, Trotula, and Helowis,
That was an Abbess not ferr fro Paris;
And eke the Parables of Solomon,

Ovid' is art, and bokis many a one.†

In the library which Charles V. founded in France about the year thirteen hundred and seventy-six, among many books of devotion, astrology, chemistry, and romance, there was not


* Ver. 359.

† Ver. 671.

one copy of Tully to be found; and no Latin poet, but Ovid, Lucan, and Boethius; some French translations of Livy, Valerius Maximus, and St. Austin's City of God. He placed these in one of the towers of the old Louvre, which was called the Tower of the Library. This was the foundation of the present magnificent Royal Library at Paris.

The tale to which this is the Prologue, has been versified by Dryden; and is supposed to have been of Chaucer's own contrivance as is also the elegant VISION of the Flower and the Leaf, which has received new graces from the spirited and harmonious Dryden. It is to his Fables, though wrote in his old age,* that Dryden will owe his immortality; and among them, particularly, to Palamon and Arcite, Sigismunda and Guiscardo, Theodore and Honoria; and,


*The falling off of his hair, said a man of wit, had no other consequence, than to make his laurels to be seen the more. A person who translated some pieces after Dryden, used to say,

Experto credite, quantus

In clypeum assurgat, quo turbine torqueat hastam.

Crebillon was ninety when he brought his Catiline on the stage.

above all, to his exquisite music ode. The warmth and melody of these pieces has never been excelled in our language; I mean in rhyme. As general and unexemplified criticism is always useless and absurd, I must beg leave to select a few passages from these three poems; and the reader must not think any observations on the character of Dryden, the constant pattern of POPE, unconnected with the main subject of this work. The picture of Arcite, in the absence of Emilia, is highly expressive of the deepest distress, and a complete image of anguish :

He rav'd with all the madness of despair;
He roar'd, he beat his breast, he tore his hair.
Dry sorrow in his stupid eyes appears;
For wanting nourishment, he wanted tears:
His eye-balls in their hollow sockets sink;
Bereft of sleep, he loaths his meat and drink;
He withers at his heart, and looks as wan
As the pale spectre of a murder'd man.*

The image of the Suicide is equally picturesque and pathetic.

Palamon and Arcite, Book I.


The slayer of himself yet saw I there,

The gore congeal'd was clotted in his hair:
With eyes half-clos'd and gaping mouth he lay,
And grim as when he breath'd his sullen soul away.


This reminds me of that forcible description in a writer whose fancy was eminently strong, lina vero, longe a suis, inter hostium cadavera repertus est, paululum etiam spirans ; ferociamque animi, quam habuerat vivus, in vultu retinens." Nor must I omit that affecting image in Spenser, who ever excels in the pathetic:

And him besides there lay upon the grass
A dreary corse, whose life away did pass,
All wallow'd in his own, yet lukewarm, blood,
That from his wound yet welled fresh, alas!

In which a rusty knife fast fixed stood,

And made an open passage for the gushing flood.*

When Palamon perceived his rival had escaped,

He stares, he stamps the ground;

The hollow tow'r with clamour rings around:
With briny tears he bath'd his fetter'd feet,
And dropp'd all o'er with agony of sweat.

Fairy Queen, Book I. Canto 9. Stanza 36.


Nor are the feelings of Palamon less strongly impressed on the reader, where he says,

The rage of Jealousy then fir'd his soul,
And his face kindled like a burning coal:
Now cold despair succeeding in her stead,
To livid paleness turn'd the glowing red.*

If we pass on from descriptions of persons to those of things, we shall find this poem equally excellent. The temple of Mars is situated with propriety in a country desolate and joyless; all around it,

The landscape was a forest wide and bare,
Where neither beast nor human-kind repair;
The fowl, that scent afar, the borders fly,

And shun the bitter blast, and wheel about the sky.
A cake of scurf lies baking on the ground,

And prickly stubs instead of trees are found.


* These passages are chiefly of the pathetic sort; for which Dryden in his tragedies is far from being remarkable. But it is not unusual for the same person to succeed in describing externally a distressful character, who may miserably fail in putting proper words in the mouth of such a character. In a word, so much more difficult is DRAMATIC than DESCRIPTIVE poetry!

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