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When Dryden came into the world he found poetry in a very imperfect state; its numbers were unpolish ed, its cadences rough, and there was nothing of har. mony or mellifluence to give it a graceful flow. In this harsh, unmusical situation, Dryden found it, (for the refinements of Waller were but puerile and unsubstantial;) he polished the rough diamond, he taught it to shine, and connected beauty, elegance, ano strength, in all his poetical compositions. Though Dryden thus polished our English numbers, and thus harmonized versification, it cannot be said that he carried his art to perfection. Much was yet left un. done; his lines with all their smoothness, were often amɔling, and expletives were frequently introduced to complete his measures. It is apparent, therefore, that an additional harmony might still be given to our Rumbers, and that cadences were yet capable of more musical modulation. To effect this purpose, Mr. Pope arose, who with an ear elegantly delicate, and the advantage of the finest genius, so harmonized the English numbers, as to make them completely musical. His numbers are likewise so minutely correct, that it would be difficult to conceive how any of his lines can be altered to advantage. He has created a kind of mechanical versification ; every line is alike; and though they are sweetly musical, they want diver. sity; for he has not studied so great a variety of pauses, and where the accents may be laid gracefully The structure of his verse is the best, and a line of his is more musical than any other line can be made by placing the accents elsewhere ; but we are not quite certain whether the ear is not apt to be soon cloyed with thus uniformity of elegance, this sameness of harmony. It must be acknowledged however, that he has much improved upon Dryden in the article of versification, and in that part of poetry is greatly his su. perior. But gh this must be acknowledged, per.
haps it will not necessarily follow that his genius was therefore superior.
The grand characteristic of a poet is his inven. tion, the surest distinction of a great genius. In Mr. Pope nothing is so truly original as his Rape of the Lock, nor discovers so much invention. In this kind of mock-heroic he is without a rival in our language, for Dryden has written nothing of the kind. His other work which discovers invention, fine designing, and admirable execution, is his Dunciad; which, though built on Dryden's Mac Flecknoe, is yet so much superior, that, in satiric writing, the palm must justly be yielded to him. In Mr. Dryden's Absalom and Ahithophel, there are indeed the most poignant strokes of satire, and characters drawn with the most masterly touches ; but this poem, with all its excel lences, is much inferior to the Dunciad, though Dry den had advantages which Mr. Pope had not; for Dryden's characters are men of great eminence and figure in the state, while Pope has to expose men of obscure birth and unimportant lives, only distinguished from the herd of mankind by a glimmering of genius, which rendered the greatest part of them more emphatically contemptible. Pope's was the hardest task, and he has executed it with the greatest
As Mr. Dryden must undoubtedly have yielded to Pope in satiric writing, it is incumbent on the partisans of Dryden to name another species of composition in which the former excels so as to throw the balance again upon the side of Dryden. This species is the Lyric, in which the warmest vota. ries of Pope must certainly acknowledge that he is much inferior; as an irresistible proof of this, we need only compare Mr. Dryden's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day with Mr. Pope's, in which the disparity is so apparent that we know not if the most finished of Pope's compositions has discovered such a variety and com. mand of numbers.
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 excel. lent species, must undoubtedly be esteemed the greatest poet. Mr. Pope has very happily succeeded in many of his occasional pieces, such as Eloisa to Abe. hard, 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 pieres: many of them indeed, arc 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 dis. coveries 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 mto 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 Ilomer 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 Tlomer's liad 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 greut attempt of rendering Virgil into English, so did be perform the task under many disadvantages which Pipe, by a happier situation in life, was enabled to aloid ; 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 Drydon wero 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 bard 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 Dedica. tions 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 excel. lence, 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 cones, he comes ! bid every bard prepare The song of triumph, and attend his car.
Great Sheffeld's muse the long procession heads,
But hark! what sl, juts, what gath'ring crowds rejoice
But who are ihey that turn the sacred page ?
The chariot now the painful steep ascends,