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with as much exactness as Virgil's; but there seems to be a greater spirit in them. There is a secret happiness attends his choice, which in Petronius is called curiosa felicitas, and which I suppose he had from the feliciter audere of Horace himself. But the most distin- 5 guishing part of all his character seems to me to be his briskness, his jollity, and his good humour; and those I have chiefly endeavoured to copy; his other excellencies, I confess, are above my imitation. One Ode, which infinitely pleased me in the reading, I have 10 attempted to translate in Pindaric verse : 'tis that which is inscribed to the present Earl of Rochester, to whom I have particular obligations which this small testimony of my gratitude can never pay. 'Tis his darling in the Latin, and I have taken some pains to 15 make it my master-piece in English: for which reason I took this kind of verse, which allows more latitude than any other. Every one knows it was introduced into our language, in this age, by the happy genius of Mr. Cowley. The seeming easiness of it has made it 20 spread; but it has not been considered enough, to be so well cultivated. It languishes in almost every hand but his, and some very few, whom (to keep the rest in countenance) I do not name. He, indeed, has brought it as near perfection as was possible in so short a time. 23 But if I may be allowed to speak my mind modestly, and without injury to his sacred ashes, somewhat of the purity of English, somewhat of more equal thoughts, somewhat of sweetness in the numbers, in one word, somewhat of a finer turn and more lyrical verse, is yet 30 wanting. As for the soul of it, which consists in the warmth and vigour of fancy, the masterly figures, and the copiousness of imagination, he has excelled all others in this kind. Yet if the kind itself be capable of more perfection, though rather in the ornamental parts 35

of it than the essential, what rules of morality or respect have I broken, in naming the defects, that they may hereafter be amended ? Imitation is a nice point, and there are few poets who deserve to be models in all 5 they write. Milton's Paradise Lost is admirable; but am I therefore bound to maintain, that there are no flats amongst his elevations, when 'tis evident he creeps along sometimes for above an hundred lines together ?

Cannot I admire the height of his invention, and the 10 strength of his expression, without defending his anti

quated words, and the perpetual harshness of their sound ? It is as much commendation as a man can bear, to own him excellent; all beyond it is idolatry.

Since Pindar was the prince of lyric poets, let me have 15 leave to say, that, in imitating him, our numbers should,

for the most part, be lyrical : for variety, or rather where the majesty of thought requires it, they may be stretched to the English heroic of five feet, and to the French

Alexandrine of six. But the ear must preside, and 20 direct the judgment to the choice of numbers : without

the nicety of this, the harmony of Pindaric verse can never be complete ; the cadency of one line inust be a rule to that of the next; and the sound of the former

must slide gently into that which follows, without leap25 ing from one extreme into another. It must be done like

the shadowings of a picture, which fall by degrees into a darker colour. I shall be glad, if I have so explained myself as to be understood ; but if I have not, quod nequeo dicere, et sentio tantum, must be my excuse.

There remains much more to be said on this subject; but, to avoid envy, I will be silent. What I have said is the general opinion of the best judges, and in a manner has been forced from me, by seeing a noble sort

of poetry so happily restored by one man, and so 35 grossly copied by almost all the rest. A musical ear,

30

and a great genius, if another Mr. Cowley could arise in another age, may bring it to perfection. In the meantime,

· fingar vice cotis, acutum Reddere quæ ferrum valet, expers ipsa secandi.

5 I hope it will not be expected from me, that I should say anything of niy fellow undertakers in this Miscellany. Some of them are too nearly related to me, to be commended without suspicion of partiality; others I am sure need it not; and the rest I have not perused. 10

To conclude, I am sensible that I have written this too hastily and too loosely; I fear I have been tedious, and, which is worse, it comes out from the first draught, and uncorrected. This I grant is no excuse ; for it may be reasonably urged, why did he not write with 15 more leisure, or if he had it not, (which was certainly my case,) why did he attempt to write on so nice a subject? The objection is unanswerable; but, in part of recompense, let me assure the reader, that, in hasty productions, he is sure to meet with an author's present 20 sense, which cooler thoughts would possibly have disguised. There is undoubtedly more of spirit, though not of judgment, in these uncorrect essays; and consequently, though my hazard be the greater, yet the reader's pleasure is not the less.

John Dryden.

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ALBION AND ALBANIUS,

AN OPERA

(1685]

THE PREFACE

IF Wit has truly been defined, 'a propriety of thoughts and words,' then that definition will extend to all sorts of Poetry: and, among the rest, to this present entertainment of an opera. Propriety of thought is that fancy 5 which arises naturally from the subject, or which the poet adapts to it. Propriety of words is the clothing of those thoughts with such expressions as are naturally proper to them; and from both these, if they are judici

ously performed, the delight of poetry results. An opera 10 is a poetical tale, or fiction, represented by vocal and

instrumental music, adorned with scenes, machines, and dancing. The supposed persons of this musical drama are generally supernatural, as gods, and goddesses, and

heroes, which at least are descended from them, and 15 are in due time to be adopted into their number. The

subject, therefore, being extended beyond the limits of human nature, admits of that sort of marvellous and surprising conduct, which is rejected in other plays.

Human impossibilities are to be received as they are 20 in faith ; because, where gods are introduced, a supreme

power is to be understood, and second causes are out of doors. Yet propriety is to be observed even here.

The gods are all to manage their peculiar provinces; and what was attributed by the heathens to one power ought not to be performed by any other. Phoebus must foretell, Mercury must charm with his caduceus, and Juno must reconcile the quarrels of the marriage-bed. 5 To conclude, they must all act according to their distinct and peculiar characters. If the persons represented were to speak upon the stage, it would follow, of necessity, that the expressions should be lofty, figurative, and majestical : but the nature of an opera denies the fre. 10 quent use of these poetical ornaments; for vocal music, though it often admits a loftiness of sound, yet always exacts an harmonious sweetness; or, to distinguish yet more justly, the recitative part of the opera requires a more masculine beauty of expression and sound; the 15 other, which, for want of a proper English word, I must call the songish part, must abound in the softness and variety of numbers; its principal intention being to please hearing rather than to gratify the understanding. It appears, indeed, preposterous at first sight, that 20 rhyme, on any consideration, should take place of reason; but, in order to resolve the problem, this fundamental proposition must be settled, that the first inventors of any art or science, provided they have brought it to perfection, are, in reason, to give laws to 25 it; and, according to their model, all after-undertakers are to build. Thus, in Epic Poetry, no man ought to dispute the authority of Homer, who gave the first being to that masterpiece of art, and endued it with that form of perfection in all its parts that nothing was 30 wanting to its excellency. Virgil therefore, and those very few who have succeeded him, endeavoured not to introduce, or innovate, anything in a design already perfected, but imitated the plan of the inventor; and are only so far true heroic poets as they have built on 35

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