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Great Jonson did by strength of judgment please,
Yet, doubling Fletcher's force, he wants his ease.
In differing talents both adorned their age,
One for the study, t'other for the stage.
But both to Congreve justly shall submit,
One matched in judgment, both o'ermatched in wit.
In him all beauties of this age we see,
'Etherege his courtship, Southern's purity,
The satire, wit, and strength of manly Wycherly.
All this in blooming youth you have achieved ;
Nor are your foiled contemporaries grieved.
So much the sweetness of your manners move,
We cannot envy you, because we love.
Fabius might joy in Scipio, when he saw
A beardless Consul made against the law,
And join his suffrage to the votes of Rome,
Though he with Hannibal was overcome.
Thus old Romano bowed to Raphael's fame,
And scholar to the youth he taught became.
O that your brows my laurel had sustained !
Well had I been deposed, if you had reigned :
The father had descended for the son,
For only you are lineal to the throne.
Thus, when the State one Edward did depose,
A greater Edward in his room arose :
But now, not I, but poetry is curst;
For Tom the second reigns like Tom the first. *
But let them not mistake my patron's part
Nor call his charity their own desert.
Yet this I prophesy,- Thou shalt be seen,
Though with some short parenthesis between,
High on the throne of wit, and, seated there,
Not mine --that's little-but thy laurel wear.
Thy first attempt an early promise made;
That early promise this has more than paid.
So bold, yet so judiciously you dare,
That your least praise is to be regular.
Time, place, and action may with pains be wrought,
But genius must be born, and never can be taught.
This is your portion, this your native store :
Heaven, that but once was prodigal before,
To Shakespeare gave as much; she could not give him more.
Maintain your post : that's all the same you need;
For 'tis impossible you should proceed.
* Thomas Shadwell, who had succeeded Dryden as Poet Laureat and Historiographer Royal, had died in 1692: he was succeeded as Poet Laureat by Nahum Tate, and as Historiographer by Thomas Rymer, who is here probably alluded to as “Tom the Second." Rymer, who is best known as the editor of the Fadera, had written a poor tragedy, called “Edgar” when first published in 1678, and afterwards “The English Monarch," in a new edition in 1691. This line doubtless suggested Pope's : “ Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first.".
Dunciad, i. 6.
Already I am worn with cares and age,
And just abandoning the ungrateful stage:
Unprofitably kept at Heaven's expense,
I live a rent-charge on His providence: *
But you, whom every Muse and grace adorn,
Whom I foresee to better fortune born,
Be kind to my remains; and oh, defend,
Against your judgment, your departed friend !
Let not the insulting foe my fame pursue,
But shade those laurels which descend to you :
And take for tribute what these lines express;
You merit more, nor could my love do less.
PRINCIPAL PAINTER TO HIS MAJESTY.
ONCE I beheld the fairest of her kind,
And still the sweet idea charms my mind :
True, she was dumb; for Nature gazed so long,
Pleased with her work, that she forgot her tongue,
But smiling said, “She still shall gain the prize ;
I only have transferred it to her eyes."
Such are thy pictures, Kneller, such thy skill,
That Nature seems obedient to thy will;
Comes out, and meets thy pencil in the draught,
Lives there, and wants but words to speak her thought.
At least thy pictures look a voice ; and we
Imagine sounds, cleceived to that degree,
We think 'tis somewhat more than just to see.
Shadows are but privations of the light;
Yet, when we walk, they shoot before the sight,
With us approach, retire, arise, and fall,
Nothing themselves, and yet expressing all.
Such are thy pieces, imitating life
So near, they almost conquered in the strise ;
And from their animated canvas came,
Demanding souls, and loosened from the frame.
Prometheus, were he here, would cast away
His Adam, and refuse a soul to clay,
* Dryden is very severe on Ben Jonson for using his with reference to Heaven; he calls it will grammar." (Defence of Epilogue to Conquest of Granada.) If it is an offence, Dryden frequently commits it; and in this poem line 63) she is used for Heaven.
+ This poem was first published by Dryden in the Third Part of his “ Miscellany Poems,” published in 1694, and was probably written in 1693. It may, as Scott supposes, have been addressed to Kneller as a compliment in return for his gift to Dryden of a copy of a portrait of Shakespeare painted by himself, alluded to in line 73. But, as Kneller painted Dryden several times, it is equally likely that the poem may have been addressed to the painter after the completion of one of the portraits of the poet. When this poem was reprinted in Tonson's folio volume of 1701, after Dryden's death, some passages were omitted : and the poem has been always since printed as given in Tonson's folio. The omitted passages are here restored ; there is no evidence of Dryden's having authorized their suppression, and Tonson is not to be relied on.
And either would thy noble work inspire
Or think it warm enough without his fire.
But vulgar hands may vulgar likeness raise;
This is the least attendant on thy praise :
From hence the rudiments of art began;
A coal or chalk first imitated man :
Perhaps the shadow taken on a wall
Gave outlines to the rude original;
Ere canvas yet was strained, before the grace
Of blended colours found their use and place,
Or cypress tablets first received a face.
By slow degrees the godlike art advanced ;
As man grew polished, picture was enhanced :
Greece added posture, shade, and perspective, *
And then the mimic piece began to live.
Yet perspective was lame, no distance true,
But all came forward in one common view :
No point of light was known, no bounds of art ;
When light was there, it knew not to depart,
But glaring on remoter objects played ;
Not languished and insensibly decayed.
Rome raised not art, but barely kept alive,
And with old Greece unequally did strive :
Till Goths and Vandals, a rude northern race,
Did all the matchless monuments deface.
Then all the Muses in one ruin lie,
And rhyme began to enervate poetry.
Thus, in a stupid military state,
The pen and pencil find an equal fate.
Flat faces, such as would disgrace a screen,
Such as in Bantam's embassy were seen, t
Unraised, unrounded, were the rude delight
Of brutal nations only born to fight.
Long time the sister arts in iron sleep
A heavy sabbath did supinely keep;
At length, in Raphael's age, at once they rise,
Stretch all their limbs and open all their eyes.
Thence rose the Roman and the Lombard line ;
One coloured best, and one did best design.
Raphael's, like Homer's, was the nobler part,
But Titian's painting looked like Virgil's art.
Thy genius gives thee both ; where true design, Postures unforced, and lively colours join, Likeness is ever there ; but still the best, Like proper thoughts in lofty language drest,
Where light, to shades descending, plays, not strives,
Dies by degrees, and by degrees revives.
Of various parts a perfect whole is wrought ;
Thy pictures think, and we divine their thought.
Shakespeare, thy gift, I place before my sight ; *
With awe I ask his blessing ere I write ;
With reverence look on his majestic face ;
Proud to be less, but of his godlike race.
His soul inspires me, while thy praise I write,
And I, like Teucer, under Ajax fight;
Bids thee, through me, be bold ; with dauntless breast
Contemn the bad and emulate the best.
Like his, thy critics in the attempt are lost :
When most they rail, know then they envy most.
In vain they snarl aloof; a noisy crowd,
Like women's anger, impotent and loud.
While they their barren industry deplore,
Pass on secure, and mind the goal before.
Old as she is, my Muse shall march behind,
Bear off the blast, and intercept the wind.
Our arts are sisters, though not twins in birth,
For hymns were sung in Eden's happy earth
By the first pair, while Eve was yet a saint,+
Before she fell with pride and learned to paint.
Forgive the allusion ; 'twas not meant to bite,
But Satire will have room, where'er I write.
For oh, the painter Muse, though last in place,
Has seized the blessing first, like Jacob's race.
Apelle;' art an Alexander found,
And Raphael did with Leo's gold abound,
But Homer was with barren laurel crowned.
Thou hadst thy Charles a while, and so had I,
But pass we that unpleasing image by.
Rich in thyself, and of thyself divine,
All pilgrims come and offer at thy shrine.
A graceful truth thy pencil can command ;
The fair themselves go mended from thy hand.
Likeness appears in every lineament;
But likeness in thy work is eloquent.
Though Nature there her true resemblance bears,
A nobler beauty in thy piece appears.
So warm thy work, so glows the generous frame,
Flesh looks less living in the lovely dame.
Thou paintst as we describe, improving still,
When on wild nature we engrait our skill,
Yet not creating beauties at our will.
* " Shakespeare's picture drawn by Sir Godfrey Kneller and given to the author." This was a copy by Kneller of the Chandos portrait of Shakespeare. This copy is now in Earl Fitzwilliain's possession.
† Lines 91-94 omitted, and For, the first word of line 95, changed to But, in Tonson's folio, 1701, and in all subsequent editions.
Some other hand perhaps may reach a face ; *
But none like thee a finished figure place :
None of this age, for that's enough for thee,
The first of these inferior times to be;
Not to contend with heroes' memory.
Due honours to those mighty names we grant,
But shrubs may live beneath the lofty plant ;
Sons may succeed their greater parents gone ;
Such is thy lot, and such I wish my own.
But poets are confined in narrower space,
To speak the language of their native place;
The painter widely stretches his command ;
Thy pencil speaks the tongue of every land.
From hence, my friend, all climates are your own,
Nor can you forfeit, for you hold of none.
All nations all immunities will give
To make you theirs, where'er you please to live;
And not seven cities, but the world, would strive.
Sure some propitious planet then did smile
When first you were conducted to this isle;
Our Genius brought you here, to enlarge our fame;
For your good stars are everywhere the same.
Thy matchless hand, of every region free,
Adopts our climate, not our climate thee.
Great Rome and Venice early did impart
To thee the examples of their wondrous art. †
Those masters, then but seen, not understood,
With generous emulation fired thy blood;
For what in nature's dawn the child admired,
The youth endeavoured, and the man acquired.
If yet thou hast not reached their high degree,
'Tis only wanting to this age, not thee.
Thy genius, bounded by the times, like mine,
Drudges on petty draughts, nor dare design
A more exalted work, and more divine.
For what a song or senseless opera
Is to the living labour of a play,
Or what a play to Virgil's work would be,
Such is a single piece to history.
But we, who life bestow, ourselves must live :
Kings cannot reign unless their subjects give ;
And they who pay the taxes bear the rule :
Thus thou sometimes art forced to draw a fool;
But so his follies in thy posture sink,
The senseless idiot seems at last to think.
Good Heaven ! that sots and knaves should be so vain, 160
To wish their vile resemblance may remain,
And stand recorded at their own request,
To future days, a libel or a jest !
* Lines 115-123 omitted in Tonson's folio, 1701, and in all subsequent editions, + “He travelled very young into Italy."