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The temple itself is nobly and magnificently studied; and, at the same time, adapted to the furious nature of the god to whom it belonged; and carries with it a barbarous and tremendous idea.
The frame of burnish'd steel, that cast a glare
This scene of terror is judiciously contrasted by the pleasing and joyous imagery of the temples of Venus and Diana. The figure of the last goddess is a design fit for Guido to exe
The graceful Goddess was array'd in green;
But, above all, the whole description of the entering the lists, * and of the ensuing combat, which is told at length, in the middle of the third book, is marvellously spirited ; and so lively, as to make us spectators of that interesting and magnificent tournament. Even the ab. surdity of feigning ancient heroes, such as Theseus and Lycurgus, present at the lists and a modern combat, is overwhelmed and obliterated amidst the blaze, the pomp, and the profusion, of such animated poetry. Frigid and phlegmatic must be the critic, who could have leisure« dully and soberly to attend to the anachronism on so striking an occasion. The mind is whirled away by a torrent of rapid imagery, and propriety is forgot.
The tale of Sigismunda and Guiscardo is heightened with many new and affecting touches by Dryden. I shall select only the following picture of Sigismunda, as it has the same atti
* The reader is desired all along to remember, that the first delineation of all these images is in Chaucer, or Boccace; and it might be worth examining how much Dryden has added purely from his own stock.
tude in which she appears in a famous piece of CORREGGIO.
Mute, solemn sorrow, free from female noise,
There is an incomparable wildness in the vision of Theodore and Honoria,* that represents the furious spectre of “the horseman ghost that came thundering for his prey;" and of the gaunt mastiffs that tore the sides of the shrieking damsel he pursued; which is a subject worthy the pencil of Spagnoletti, as it partakes of that savageness which is so striking to the imagination. I shall confine myself to point out only two pas
« It is a
* This is one of Boccace's most serious stories. curious thing to see at the head of an edition of Boccace's tales, printed at Florence in 1573, a privilege of Gregory XIII. who says, that in this he follows the steps of Pius V. his predecessor, of blessed memory, and which threatens with severe punishments, all those who shall dare to give any disturbance to those booksellers to whom this privilege is granted. There is also a decree of the inquisition in favour of this edition, in which the holy father caused some alterations to be made. LONGUERUANA, Tom. II. p. 62. a Berlin, 1754.
sages, which relate the two appearances of this formidable figure ; and I place them last, as I think them the most lofty of any part of Dryden's works :
Whilst list'ning to the murm'ring leaves he stood,
The sensations of a man upon the approach of some strange and supernatural danger, can scarcely be represented more feelingly. All nature is thus said to sympathize at the second appear
The felon on his sable steed Arm'd with his naked sword, that urg'd his dogs to speed.
Thus it runs
The fiend's alarm began; the hollow sound
But to conclude this digression on Dryden. It must be owned, that his Ode on the Power of Music, which is the chief ornament of this volume, is the most unrivalled of his compositions. By that strange fatality which seems to disqualify authors from judging of their own works, he does not appear to have valued this piece, because he totally omits it in the enumeration and criticism he has given of the rest in his preface to the volume. I shall add nothing to what I have already said on this subject,* but only relate the occasion and manner of his writing it. Mr. St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a visit to Dryden, whom he always respected, † found him in an unusual agitation of spirits, even to a trembling. On enquiring the cause, “I have been up all night, (replied the old bard.) My musical friends made me promise to write them an ode for their feast of St. Cæ
+ See his verses to Dryden, prefixed to the translation of Virgil. Lord Bolingbroke assured Pope, that Dryden often declared to him, that he got more from the Spanish critics alone, than from the Italian, French, and all other critics put together; which appears strange. This from Mr. Spence.