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a common reader takes, they had concluded Statius to have written higher than Virgil, for,

Quæ superimposito moles geminata Colosso carries a more thundering kind of sound than Tityre tu patulæ recubans sub tegmine fagi:

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yet Virgil had all the majesty of a lawful prince, and Statius only the blustering of a tyrant. But when men affect a virtue which they cannot easily reach, they fall into a vice which bears the nearest resemblance to it. Thus an injudicious poet who aims at loftiness runs to easily into the swelling puffy style, because it looks like greatness. I remember, when I was a boy, I thought inimitable Spenser a mean poet, in comparison of Sylvester's Dubartas, and was rapt into an ecstasy when I read these lines:

Now, when the Winter's keener breath began
To chrystallize the Baltick Ocean;

To glaze the Lakes, to bridle up the Floods,
And periwig with Snow the bald-pate Woods.

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I am much deceived if this be not abominable fustian, 20 that is, thoughts and words ill-sorted, and without the least relation to each other; yet I dare not answer for an audience, that they would not clap it on the stage: so little value there is to be given to the common cry, that nothing but madness can please madmen, and 25 a poet must be of a piece with the spectators, to gain a reputation with them. [But as in a room contrived for state, the height of the roof should bear a proportion to the area; so, in the heightenings of Poetry, the strength and vehemence of figures should be suited to 30 the occasion, the subject, and the persons. All beyond this is monstrous: 'tis out of Nature, 'tis an excrescence, and not a living part of Poetry.] I had not said thus much, if some young gallants, who pretend to criticism,

had not told me that this tragi-comedy wanted the dignity of style; but as a man who is charged with a crime of which he thinks himself innocent, is apt to be too eager in his own defence, so perhaps I have vindi5 cated my play with more partiality than I ought, or than such a trifle can deserve. Yet, whatever beauties it may want, 'tis free at least from the grossness of those faults I mentioned: what credit it has gained upon the stage, I value no further than in reference to 10 my profit, and the satisfaction I had in seeing it represented with all the justness and gracefulness of action. But, as 'tis my interest to please my audience, so 'tis my ambition to be read: that I am sure is the more lasting and the nobler design: for the propriety of thoughts 15 and words, which are the hidden beauties of a play, are but confusedly judged in the vehemence of action: all things are there beheld as in a hasty motion, where the objects only glide before the eye and disappear. The most discerning critic can judge no more of these 20 silent graces in the action than he who rides post through an unknown country can distinguish the situation of places, and the nature of the soil. The purity of phrase, the clearness of conception and expression, the boldness maintained to majesty, the 25 significancy and sound of words, not strained into bombast, but justly elevated; in short, those very words and thoughts, which cannot be changed, but for the worse, must of necessity escape our transient view upon the theatre; and yet without all these a play may take. 30 For if either the story move us, or the actor help the lameness of it with his performance, or now and then a glittering beam of wit or passion strike through the obscurity of the poem, any of these are sufficient to effect a present liking, but not to fix a lasting admira35 tion; for nothing but truth can long continue; and

time is the surest judge of truth. I am not vain enough to think I have left no faults in this, which that touchstone will not discover; neither indeed is it possible to avoid them in a play of this nature. There are evidently two actions in it; but it will be clear to any judicious 5 man, that with half the pains I could have raised a play from either of them; for this time I satisfied my own humour, which was to tack two plays together; and to break a rule for the pleasure of variety. The truth is, the audience are grown weary of continued melancholy 10 scenes; and I dare venture to prophesy, that few tragedies except those in verse shall succeed in this age, if they are not lightened with a course of mirth. For the feast is too dull and solemn without the fiddles. But how difficult a task this is, will soon be tried; for 15 a several genius is required to either way; and, without both of 'em, a man, in my opinion, is but half a poet for the stage. Neither is it so trivial an undertaking, to make a tragedy end happily; for 'tis more difficult to save than 'tis to kill. The dagger and the cup of poison 20 are always in a readiness; but to bring the action to the last extremity, and then by probable means to recover all, will require the art and judgment of a writer, and cost him many a pang in the performance.

And now, My Lord, I must confess, that what I have 25 written looks more like a Preface, than a Dedication; and truly it was thus far my design, that I might entertain you with somewhat in my own art which might be more worthy of a noble mind, than the stale exploded trick of fulsome panegyrics. 'Tis difficult to write justly 30 on anything, but almost impossible in praise. I shall therefore waive so nice a subject; and only tell you, that, in recommending a Protestant play to a Protestant patron, as I do myself an honour, so I do your noble family a right, who have been always eminent in the 35

support and favour of our religion and liberties. And if the promises of your youth, your education at home, and your experience abroad, deceive me not, the principles you have embraced are such, as will no way 5 degenerate from your ancestors, but refresh their memory in the minds of all true Englishmen, and renew their lustre in your person; which, My Lord, is not more the wish, than it is the constant expectation, of your Lordship's

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Most obedient,

faithful Servant,

JOHN DRYDEN.

SYLVE:

OR, THE SECOND PART OF POETICAL

MISCELLANIES

[1685]

PREFACE

For this last half year I have been troubled with the disease (as I may call it) of translation; the cold prose fits of it, which are always the most tedious with me, were spent in the History of the League: the hot, which succeeded them, in this volume of Verse Miscellanies. 5 The truth is, I fancied to myself a kind of ease in the change of the paroxysm; never suspecting but that the humour would have wasted itself in two or three Pastorals of Theocritus, and as many Odes of Horace. But finding, or at least thinking I found, something that 10 was more pleasing in them than my ordinary productions, I encouraged myself to renew my old acquaintance with Lucretius and Virgil; and immediately fixed upon some parts of them, which had most affected me in the reading. These were my natural impulses for the 15 undertaking. But there was an accidental motive which was full as forcible, and God forgive him who was the occasion of it. It was my Lord Roscommon's Essay on Translated Verse, which made me uneasy till I tried whether or no I was capable of following his rules, and 20

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