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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;
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 :
Y clepid Valerie and Theophrast,
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.
f 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
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;
The image of the Suicide is equally picturesque and pathetic.
The slayer of himself yet saw I there,
This reminds me of that forcible description in a writer whose fancy was eminently strong, “Catilina 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
When Palamon perceived his rival had escaped,
He stares, he stamps the ground;
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,
If we pass on from descriptions of persons to those of things, we shall find this
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,
* 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 put. ting proper words in the mouth of such a character. In a word, so much more difficult is DRAMATIC than DESCRIPTIVE poetry!