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It hath been generally acknowledged that the Lyric is a more excellent kind of writing than the Satiric and consequently, he who excels in the most excellent species, must undoubtedly be esteemed the greatest poet. Mr. Pope has very happily succeeded in many of his occasional pieces, such as Eloisa to Abelard, his Elegy on an unfortunate young Lady, and a variety of other performances deservedly celebrated. To these may be opposed Mr. Dryden's Fables, which though written in a very advanced age, are yet the most perfect of his works. In these Fables there is, perhaps, a greater variety than in Pope's occasional pieces : many of them indeed, are translations, but such as are original show a great extent of invention, and a large compass of genius.
There are not in Pope's works such poignant discoveries of wit, or such a general knowledge of the humours and character of men, as in the Prologues and Epilogues of Dryden, which are the best records of the whims and capricious oddities of the times in which they are written.
When these two great geniuses are considered in the light of translators, it will, indeed, be difficult to determine into whose scale the balance should be thrown. That Mr. Pope had a more arduous province in doing justice to Homer, than Dryden with regard to Virgil, is certainly true; as Homer is a more various and diffuse poet than Virgil; and it is likewise true that Pope has even exceeded Dryden in the execution, and none will deny that Pope's Homer's Iliad is a finer poem than Dryden's Æneid of Virgil, making a proper allowance for the disproportion of the original authors. But then a candid critic should reflect, that as Dryden was prior in the great attempt of rendering Virgil into English, so did he perform the task under many disadvantages which Pope, by a happier situation in life, was enabled to avoid ; and could not but improve upon Drydon's
errors, though the authors translated were not the same: and it is much to be doubted if Dryden were to translate the Æneid now, with that attention which the correctness of the present age would force upon him, whether the preference would be due to Pope's Homer.
But supposing it to be yielded (as it certainly musti that the latter baru was the greatest translator, we are now to throw into Mr. Dryden's scale all his dramatic works; which, though not the most excellent of his writings, as yet nothing of Mr. Pope's can be opposed to them, they have an undoubted right to turn the balance greatly in favour of Mr. Dryden. When the two poets are considered as critics, the comparison will very imperfectly hold. Dryden's Dedications and Prefaces, besides that they are more numerous, and are the best models for courtly panegyric, show, that he understood poetry as an art, beyond any man that ever lived; and he explained this art so well, that he taught his antagonist to turn the tables against himself; for he so illuminated the mind by his clear and perspicuous reasoning, that dulness itself became capable of discerning; and when at any time his performances fell short of his own ideas of excellence, his enemies tried him by rules of his own establishing; and though they owed to him the ability of judging, they seldom had candour enough to spare him.
Perhaps it may be true that Pope's works are read with more appetite, as there is a greater evenness and correctness in them; but in perusing the works of Dryden, the mind will take a wider range, and be more fraught with poetical ideas. We admire Dry. den as the greater genius, and Pope as the most pleasing versifier.--Cibber's Lives.
He corres, be comes ! bid every bard prepare The song of triumph, and attend his car.
Great Sheffield's muse the long procession heads,
But hark! whatsu Juts, what gath'ring crowds rejoice
But who are they that turn the sacred page ?
The chariot now the painful steep ascends,
To Sir William Trumbal.
You that, too wise for pride, tno good for power
Soon as the rocks shook off the nightly dews, Two swains, whom love kept wakeful, and the musa, Pour'd o'er the whitening vale their fleecy care, Fresh as the morn, and as the season fair :