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My part being small, I have had time to-day, To mark your various censures of our play. First, looking for a judgment or a wit, Like Jews, I saw them scattered through the pit; And where a knot of smilers lent an ear To one that talked, I knew the foe was there. The club of jests went round; he, who had none, Borrowed o'the next, and told it for bis own. Among the rest, they kept a fearful stir, Iur whispering that he stole the Astrologer ; And said, betwixt a French and English plot, He eased his half-tired muse, on pace and trot. Up starts a Monsieur, new come c'er, and warm In the French stoop, and the pull-back o'the arm; Morbleu, dit il, and cocks, I am a rogue, But he has quite spoiled the feigned Astrologue. ’Pox, says another, here's so great a stir With a son of a whore farce that's regular, A rule, where nothing must decorum shock! Damme, 'tis as dull, as diving by the clock. An evening! Why the devil should we be vext, Whether he gets the wench this night or next? When I heard this, I to the poet went, Told him the house was full of discontent, And asked him what excuse he could invent. He neither swore or stormed, as poels do, but, most unlike an author, vowed 'twas true; Yet said, he used the French like enemies, And did not steal their plots, but made them prize. But should he all the pains and charges count Of taking them, the bill so high would mount, That, like prize-goods, which through the office come, He could have had them much more cheap at home. He still must write; and, banquier-like, cach day Accept new bills, and he must break, or pay. When through his hands such sums must yearly run, You cannot think the stock is all his own. His haste his other errors might excuse, But there's no mercy for a guilty muse ; For, like a mistress, she must stand or fall, And please you to a height, or not at all.
THE “ Royal Martyr" is one of Dryden's most characteristic productions. The character of Maximin, in particular, is drawn on his boldest plan, and only equalled by that of Almanzor, in the “ Conquest of Granada.” Indeed, although, in action, the latter exhibits a larger proportion of that extravagant achievement peculiar to the heroic drama, it may be questioned, whether the language of Maximin does not abound more with the flights of fancy, which hover betwixt the confines of the grand and the bombast, and which our author himself has aptly termed the Dalilahs of the theatre. Certainly, in some of those rants which occasionally burst from the emperor, our poet appears shorn of his locks; as for example,
Look to it, Gods; for you the aggressors are :
Indeed, Dryden himself acknowledged, in the Dedication to the “ Spanish Friar,” that some verses of Maximin and Almanzor cry vengeance upon him for their extravagance, and heartıly wishes them in the same fire with Statius and Chapman. But he pleads in apology, that he knew they were bad enough to please, even when he wrote them, although he is now resolved no longer to seek credit from the approbation of fools. Johnson has doubted, with apparent reason, whether this confession be sufficiently ample; and whether the poet did not really give his love to those enticing seducers of his imagination, although he contemned them in his more sober judgment. In the Prologue, he has boldly stated and justified his determination to rush forwards, and hazard the disgrace of a fall, rather than the loss of the race. Certainly a genius, which dared so greatly as that of Dryden, cannot always be expected to check its flight upon the verge of propriety; and we are often hurried along with it into the extravagant and bumbast, when we can sel
dom discover the error till a second reading of the passage. Take, for example, the often quoted account of the death of Charinus;
With a fierce haste he led our troops the way ;
Although this passage, upon examination, will be found to con tain much tumid bombast, yet, like others in the same tone, it conveys, at first, a dark impression of grandeur and sublimity, which only vanishes on a critical examination. Such passages, pronounced with due emphasis on the stage, will always meet with popular applause. They are like the fanciful shapes into whicha mist is often wreathed ; it requires a near approach, and an attentive consideration, to discover their emptiness and vanity.
On the other hand, we meet with many passages in Maximin, where the impression of sublimity becomes more deep, in proportion to the attention we bestow on them. Such is the speech of St Catharine to her mother:
Could we live always, life were worth our cost;
In the same scene occurs an instance of a different kind of beauty, less commonly found in Dryden. The tender description given by Felicia of her attachment to her child, in infancy, is exquisitely beautiful.
The introduction of magic, and of the astral spirits, who have little to do with the catastrophe, was perhaps contrived for the fashionable at all periods ; and we learn, from a passage in the dedi.