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and more of the same sort; and last,—
Death, come end me,
To befriend me;
Love and Damon are no more.
Then there is "The Beautiful Lady of the May," a song which is said to refer to the exile of James II. and his queen; but even here we look in vain for a single touch of sincerity; it is made to order, and the usual materials are compounded with more or less of skill-nymphs and shepherds, Phyllis and Pan and Syrinx, laurels and myrtles, sheephooks, Love and the Graces. "A Song
to a Fair Young Lady going out of Town in the Spring" is one of the best of the minor pieces; it begins
Ask not the cause, why sullen Spring
So long delays her flowers to bear;
And Winter's storms invert the year;
To make it spring where she resides.
But even this is merely a string of conceits and palpable exaggerations, albeit prettily expressed. Other songs follow in which Chloe and Amyntas, and similar Arcadian couples figure, complaining, sighing, crying, repenting, complying, kissing, and dying, ad nauseum. The best verse in these is the following :—
The worst is:
Your face for conquest was designed,
Love's my petition,
I'll die, I'll die,
So give up my game.
Could a more wretched or impotent ending be conceived?
"The Secular Masque," written but a little time before Dryden's death, and the "Song of a Scholar and his Mistress, who, being Crossed by their Friends, fell Mad for one another, and now first Meet in Bedlam," are both of them the merest rant.
We come now to the better pieces. "The Song for Cecilia's Day," which was written for the musical festival of St. Cecilia, held in London, November 22nd, 1687, is, after all, no very great matter. We think Mr. Palgrave's good taste would have led him to reject it for the "Elegy on Mrs. Killigrew," if the length of this latter had not precluded its quotation as an entire poem. The well-known lines—
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began;
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man,—
are attractive at first sight; but, if we examine them, we find that, while they are admirable enough in sound, they are, at any rate, not overloaded with meaning. Of the "Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music," written again for the St. Cecilia's Festival in 1697, ten years later, and when Dryden was sixty-six, we wish to speak only in commendation. It is not a lyric at all, in our sense of the word, but a descriptive poem in lyrical form. Take it, however, from its own standpoint, and nothing could be finer. Dryden knew that in this piece he had gone beyond himself. He said, "No one has ever composed, or ever will compose, a finer ode." According to one account, he sat up the whole of one night and finished it at a sitting. Another story is, that it gave him great trouble, and that he was occupied for a fortnight composing and correcting it. Probably both these stories are true: he finished it in a sense-finished his first draft, that is, at a sitting, and then occupied the longer period in working it up to the perfect condition in which it comes to us. In any case, he got forty pounds for it. Taine says it is, "An admirable trumpetblast in which metre and sound impress upon the nerves the emotions of the mind, a masterpiece of rapture and of art, which Victor Hugo alone has come up to." This is true enough; only the "emotion" and the "rapture" were not in the mind of
Dryden, though his words are skilful in describing them, and, perhaps, are potent to arouse them in the minds of others. The pictures in this poem are vivid and complete; the music is perfect, if not subtle; and the language is clear, nervous, and sometimes felicitous.
We turn in the last place to the "Ode in Memory of Mrs. Anne Killigrew." This lady had, in her day, a reputation both as a poet and a painter. She was the daughter of Dr. Henry Killigrew, a prebendary of Westminster, and died in her twenty-fifth year. The opening lines are worthy of Milton:
Thou youngest virgin-daughter of the skies,
Rich with immortal green above the rest :
Thou treadst with seraphims the vast abyss:
Whatever happy region be thy place,
Cease thy celestial song a little space;
Thou wilt have time enough for hymns divine,
Since heaven's eternal year is thine.
In this poem occurs the passage magnificently repentant, in which he acknowledges the prostitution of his muse. He had said the same thing in prose :—
I shall say the less of Mr. Collier, because in many things he has taxed me justly; and I have pleaded guilty to all thoughts and expressions of mine which can be truly argued obscenity, profaneness, or immorality, and retract them. If he be my enemy, let him triumph; if he be my friend, as I have given him no personal occasion to be otherwise, he will be glad of my repentance.
The passage referred to is the following:
Oh gracious God! how far have we
Oh wretched we! why were we hurried down
(Nay, added fat pollutions of our own)
To increase the steaming ordures of the stage?
Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child.
The first six lines of this passage are the very perfection of style, and show that if Dryden had not a great imagination, or the overmastering force of emotion, he had clearness, concentration, vigour of language, and the classic art in the highest degree.
A TRIP TO LEWIS.
BY ARTHUR O'NEILL.
[Read March 4, 1878.]
HE author, explaining that he joined the "Clansman” at Oban, made the opening portion of his paper consist of a general description of the incidents of the voyage and the character of the coast scenery between the Sound of Mull and Portree in the Isle of Skye. The steamer arrives at Portree at night, and halts for some hours, proceeding usually in the grey dawn upon her northern journey. The essayist then proceeded :—
Along the coast of Skye the range of the Totternish is broken into caverns, hollowed by impetuous cascades, and here and there the high escarpment rises sheer out of the sea. The striking pro
minence of the Storr Rock stands above the swelling outline of the hills, and recalls pleasant memories of former wanderings across those very mountains and on the further-off Quairaing. The long island of Raasay and picturesque South Rona constitute the other shore of the long strip of beautifully blue sea through which we are steaming, and the coast of both is so near as to make every object-the sheep upon Raasay or the eagle soaring over the heights of Totternish-alike distinct. It is of little interest to describe the voyage round by the north-west of Skye; to speak of Dunvegan Bay and its ruined castle; to tell of the run ashore in the early morning air, while the crew were gathering the annual wool crop. This in time is all over, and we steer in the teeth of the wind, due west across the lesser Minch to the little-known island of North Uist. That part of North Uist which lies around Loch Maddy is, I think, the most remarkable district I ever saw. When you have passed between the singular rocks which are