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Blisters with pride swelled, which through his flesh did sprout
Like rosebuds, stuck in the lily-skin about.
Each little pimple had a tear in it,
To wail the fault its rising did commit.”

It must be remembered that this was written when he was yet but a schoolboy; to a much later period belongs the poem that first attracted attention, the Heroic Stanzas written after the funeral of Oliver Cromwell. There are thirty-seven stanzas celebrating the virtues of the great Commoner, one of which reads:

“ His grandeur he derived from Heaven alone,

For he was great ere Fortune made him so;
And wars, like mists that rise against the sun,

Made him but greater seem, not greater grow.”

The sentiment in the thirty-sixth illustrates the danger of forecasting political events:

“No civil broils have since his death arose,

But faction now by habit does obey;
And wars have that respect for his repose

As winds for halcyons when they breed at sea."

The next poem, Astraea Rudux, with the sub-title of “a poem on the happy restoration and return of his sacred majesty, Charles the Second," appearing within eighteen months after the celebration of the virtues of Cromwell, is cited as an illustration of the facility with which Dryden changed allegiance when thrift would follow fawning. It is more than likely, however, that it was an easy matter for Dryden to celebrate the Restoration. He does not fit in well with the Puritan spirit, and one can readily imagine that his sympathies were with the royalists even when he was writing the eulogy of Cromwell, and that he welcomed this opportunity to give expression to his real sentiments. The poem, written in heroic couplets, has a “certain everydayness” of phrase, but frequently shows Dryden at his best, as in the line,

“When to be God's annointed was his crime.”

He again showed his willingness to receive royal recognition by writing To His Sacred Majesty upon his coronation. But the most important poem of this early period is the Annus Mirabilis, a work of 304 quatrains. Its title page declares it to be a poem dealing with the year of wonders, 1666, containing “the progress and various successes of our naval war with Holland ... and describing the fire of London.” It attracted attention at once, and added to the growing reputation of one of whom Pepys had already written in 1664 as “Dryden, the poet I knew at Cambridge.” Saintsbury considers the poem inferior to Astraea Redux. Its character and style can be seen in this quotation in which the poet represents the king praying for the relief of his people whose dwellings are in flames :

“O God," said he, “ Thou patron of my days,

Guide of my youth in exile and distress!
Who me unfriended broughtst by wondrous ways,

The kingdom of my fathers to possess :

“Be Thou my judge, with what unwearied care

I since have labored for my people's good,
To bind the bruises of a civil war

And stop the issues of their wasting blood.

"Thou who hast taught me to forgive the ill

And recompense as friends the good misled,
If mercy be a precept of Thy will,

Return that mercy on Thy servant's head.

“Or if my heedless youth has stepped astray,

Too soon forgetful of Thy gracious hand,
On me alone Thy just displeasure lay,

But take Thy judgments from this mourning land.

We all have sinned, and Thou hast laid us low

As humble earth from whence at first we came;
Like flying shades before the clouds we show,

And shrink like parchment in consuming flame.

"O pass not, Lord, an absolute decree

Or bind Thy sentence unconditional,
But in Thy sentence our remorse foresee

And in that foresight this Thy doom recall.

“Thy threatenings, Lord, as Thine Thou mayst revoke:

But if immutable and fixed they stand,
Continue still Thyself to give the stroke,

And let not foreign foes oppress Thy land.”

Dramatic Writings. — Without going into a minute division one may classify Dryden's writings as non-dramatic poems, dramas, and prose. Upon his dramatic poems he bestowed about twenty of the best years of his life, and yet when we think of Dryden we think of him as the author of Alexander's Feast and of some sensible criticism in straightforward prose. The plays are read only by the literary student or by the historian who wishes to get a first-hand impression of the manners and customs of Dryden's day. The critics have condemned the comedies for their vulgarity and the heroic plays for their bombast and rhyming couplets. Saintsbury, while acknowledging Dryden's dramatic work to be on a lower level than his purely poetical productions, champions the dramas. He thinks that both Scott and Dryden have suffered from critics who are unwilling to attribute excellence in several fields of activity.

“Scott's poems as poems are far inferior to his novels as novels; Dryden's plays are far inferior as plays to his satires and fables as poems. But both the poems of Scott and the plays of Dryden are a great deal better than the average critic admits.”

The Wild Gallant, the first of his comedies, appeared in 1663, four years before the writing of the Annus Mirabilis. The play was a failure, but later Lady Castlemaine, a favorite of Charles II, gave it her approval and Dryden made alterations in the hope of making it successful, but even its most ardent apologist cannot call it a good play. This was followed by the Rival Ladies, a play based upon a Spanish model. Although Pepys called it "A very innocent and most pretty witty play,” modern opinion

charges it with the fatal gift of dulness. The Indian Emperor, a heroic play, shows an advance in art and popularity. When Pepys saw the play he records in his diary that "he took no great content in it,” partly because of the poor acting, but a later critic, Sir Walter Scott, considers it "a model of the heroic drama.”

The other principal comedies are: The Maiden Queen, Sir Martin Mar-All, The Enchanted Island, An Evening's Love, and Marriage a la Mode; the principal heroic plays are Tyrannic Love, or the Royal Martyr, Alamanzor and Almahide, or the Conquest of Granada, and Aurengzebe; the two most important tragedies are All for Love, and Don Sebastian.

All for Love. — Let us take one of his plays, a tragedy, using it as a type. It is one of the best, if not the best, of his dramas. When published in 1678 as All for Love; or, The World Well Lost, its title page stated that it was written in imitation of Shakspere's style. Before we come to the play itself we have an elaborate dedication to “The Right Honourable Thomas, Earl of Danby." This gentleman was “Lord High Treasurer of England, one of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, and Knight of the Most Noble Order of The Garter.” Dryden is but following the custom of a time when literature begged for favor by attaching itself to the patronage of a nobleman. The subject matter of the dedication is political rather than literary. In view of the frequent charge that Dryden himself easily changed faith and party, it is interesting to read this in the dedication:

“He who has often changed his party, and always has made his interest the rule of it, gives little evidence of his sincerity for the public good; it is manifest he changes but for himself, and takes the people for tools to work his fortune.”

After the dedication, which covers about eight pages, we have a preface of about a dozen pages and then a prologue in

As the dedication discusses politics, the preface discusses literature, the drama especially. “All reasonable men have long


since concluded, that the hero of a poem ought not to be a character of perfect virtue, for then he could not, without injustice, be made unhappy, not yet altogether wicked, because he could not then be pitied.” Discussing his own play he writes:

“The fabric of the play is regular enough, as to the inferior parts of it; and the unities of time, place, and action, more exactly observed, than perhaps the English theatre requires. Particularly the action is so much one, that it is the only of the kind without episode, or underplot; every scene in the tragedy conducing to the main design, and every act concluding with a turn of it.”

In this estimate Dryden is in agreement with later criticism.

In the prologue of a page in length we have lines like these:

'What flocks of critics hover here today,
As vultures wait on armies for their prey,
All gaping for the carcass of a play!”

In referring to his discarding the rhyming couplet

“He fights this day unarmed — without his rhyme;
And brings a tale which often has been told;
As sad as Dido's; and almost as old.

Let those find fault whose wit's so very small,
They've need to show that they can think at all;
Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls must dive below.
Fops may have leave to level all they can;
As pigmies would be glad to lop a man.
Half-wits are fleas; so little and so light,
We scarce could know they live, but that they bite."

In learning that Dryden had written a play upon the same theme as Shakspere's, one would naturally suppose that the result was a failure. But such is not the case. All for Love lacks the epic grandeur, the variety, the massiveness of Shakspere's drama, but it has a dignity and intensity all its own. In his edition of the plays of Dryden, Walter Scott comments upon the simplicity and concentration of the plot of All for Love:

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