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[TO MR. DRYDEN:-These lines, of which Johnson says, "in his twentysecond year he first shewed his power of English poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden," hardly deserve the careful examination which Hurd has bestowed upon them. They were probably called forth by the publication of Tonson's Third Miscellany, which contained of Dryden's, beside a few songs, the first book of the Metamorphoses, with part of the ninth and sixteenth. Dryden, whom his politics and change of religion had driven, in his old age, to earn his bread by translating, was gratified by the applause of a promising scholar from the University of which he had writ

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and an intercourse began, which if Macaulay's conjecture be true, had a decisive influence upon Addison's fortunes; for Dryden presented him to Congreve, and Congreve to Montague, afterwards Lord Halifax, one of his earliest and most efficient patrons.-G.]


How long, great poet, shall thy sacred lays
Provoke our wonder, and transcend our praise?
Can neither injuries of time, or age,

Damp thy poetick heat, and quench thy rage?

Not so thy Ovid in his exile wrote,

Grief chill'd his breast, and check'd his rising thought;
Pensive and sad, his drooping muse betrays
The Roman genius in its last decays.

Prevailing warmth has still thy mind possest,
And second youth is kindled in thy breast;

Thou mak'st the beauties of the Romans known,b
And England boasts of riches not her own;

a It would not be fair to criticise our author's poetry, especially the poetry of his younger days, very exactly. He was not a poet born; or, he had not studied, with sufficient care, the best models of English poetry. Whatever the cause might be, he had not the command of what Dryden so eminently possessed, a truly poetic diction. His poetry is only pure prose, put into verse. And

"Non satis est puris versum perscribere verbis."

However, it may not be amiss to point out the principal defects of his expression, that his great example may not be pleaded in excuse of them.

b Thou makest, vide after, Thou teachest. This way of using verbs of the present and imperfect tense, in the second person singular, should be utterly banished from our poetry. The sound is intolerable. Milton and others have rather chosen to violate grammar itself, than offend the ear thus unmercifully. This liberty may, perhaps, be taken sometimes, in the greater poetry; in odes especially. But the better way will generally be to turn the expression differently: As, 'Tis thine to teach, or in some such way.

Thy lines have heighten'd Virgil's majesty,
And Horace wonders at himself in thee.
Thou teachest Persius to inform our isle
In smoother numbers, and a clearer stile;
And Juvenal, instructed in thy page,
Edges his satyr, and improves his rage.
Thy copy casts a fairer light on all,
And still outshines the bright original.

Now Ovid boasts a th' advantage of thy song,

And tells his story in the British tongue;


Thy charming verse, and fair translations, show
How thy own laurel first began to grow;
How wild Lycaon chang'd by angry gods,


And frighted at himself, ran howling through the woods.
O mayst thou still the noble task prolong,
Nor age, nor sickness interrupt thy song:
Then may we wondering read, how human limbs
Have water'd kingdoms, and dissolv'd in streams;
Of those rich fruits that on the fertile mould
Turn'd yellow by degrees, and ripen'd into gold :
How some in feathers, or a ragged hide,

Have liv'd a second life, and different natures try'd.
Then will thy Ovid, thus transform'd, reveal

A nobler change than he himself can tell.e

Mag. Coll. Oxon. June 2, 1693.

The Author's age 21.

a —th' advantage of thy song. An instance of unpoetical expression. b Thy charming verse and fair translations. The epithets too general and prosaic.

Alexandrines, as they are called, should never be admitted into this kind of verse. But Dryden's unconfined genius had given a sanction to


It might

O mayst thou still, &c. See note in the preceding page. have stood thus: "Still may thy muse the noble task prolong.' ereveal-tell. Bad rhymes. There are other instances in this short poem; and in general Mr. Addison was a bad rhymist.

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TO MR. H. S.1a APRIL 3, 1694.



SINCE, dearest Harry, you will needs request
A short account of all the muse-possest,

That, down from Chaucer's days to Dryden's times,
Have spent their noble rage in British rhymes;
Without more preface, writ in formal length,

To speak the undertaker's want of strength,

1 The Sacheverell to whom these lines were addressed, was, according to one account, a Manxman, who died young, leaving a history of the Isle of Man. He left his papers to Addison, and among them the plan of a tragedy on the death of Socrates. In this. case, Johnson's sarcasm is at fault, though it is somewhat strange that with the voucher for this fact among his own papers, he should not have corrected his mistake.-[Vide note to Johnson's Life of Addison.] But as is more generally believed, he was the celebrated Dr. Sacheverell, whose trial excited so much attention; and Addison is said, on the authority of Dr. Young, to have been in love with a sister of his.

This piece was first published in a miscellany, and never reprinted by Addison himself, who probably saw reason, in after years, to change some of his opinions. Johnson says he never printed it. The omission of Shakspeare's name has been often noticed. The finest passage is the lines on Milton.-G.

Henry Sacheverell, whose story is well known. Yet with all his follies, some respect may seem due to the memory of a man, who had merit in his youth, as appears from a paper of verses under his name, in Dryden's Miscellanies; and who lived in the early friendship of Mr. Addison.

b The introductory and concluding lines of this poem are a bad imitation of Horace's manner-Sermoni propiora. -Sermoni propiora. In the rest, the poetry is better than the criticism, which is right or wrong, as it chances; being echoed

from the common voice.

I'll try to make their several beauties known,
And show their verses worth, tho' not my own.

Long had our dull forefathers slept supine,
Nor felt the raptures of the tuneful Nine;
'Till Chaucer first, a merry bard, arose,
And many a story told in rhyme and prose.
But age has rusted what the poet writ,
Worn out his language, and obscur'd his wit :
In vain he jests in his unpolish'd strain,
And tries to make his readers laugh in vain.

Old Spenser,1 next, warm'd with poetic rage,
In ancient tales amus'd a barb'rous age;
An age that yet uncultivate and rude,
Where'er the poet's fancy led, pursu'd
Through pathless fields, and unfrequented floods,
To dens of dragons, and enchanted woods.
But now the mystic tale, that pleas'd of yore,
Can charm an understanding age no more;
The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
While the dull moral lies too plain below.
We view well-pleas'd at distance all the sights
Of arms and palfries, battles, fields, and fights,
And damsels in distress, and courteous knights.
But when we look too near, the shades decay,
And all the pleasing landscape fades away.

Great Cowley then' (a mighty genius) wrote,
O'er-run with wit, and lavish of his thought:

1 Old Spenser. Addison is said to have confessed that when he wrote this judgment, he had never read Spenser. In the Spectator he puts Spenser "in the same class with Milton."-G.

2. Great Cowley then. But if he had not read Spenser, he evidently had read Cowley, whose prose he must have admired, if for nothing else, for its freedom from the faults which are here so justly condemned in his

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