« PrécédentContinuer »
full effect of sublime obscurity. Dryden has undoubtedly reaped considerable advantage from religion in the present poem. It must, however, be owned, that the effect of these passages is much injured by the frequent allusion to the deities of classical mythology; and that Dryden has ranked the gods and goddesses of an cient Rome with the saints of her modern church, in the same indiscriminate order in which they are classed in the Pantheon. We have the Giants' War immediately preceding the miracle wrought on the Shunamite's son; and the serpents of the infant Hercules are classed in the very sentence with the dragons of the Apocalypse. On one occasion he has stooped yet lower, and condescended to pun upon the child's being born on Trinity Sunday, as promising at least a trine of infant princes.
Still, however, the strain of the poem is, upon the whole, grave and exalted. Besides the general tone of "Britannia Rediviva," there are many passages in it deserving the reader's attention. The address to the queen, beginning, "But you, propitious queen," has all the smoothness with which Dryden could vary the masculine character of his general poetry, when he addressed the female sex, and forms a marked contrast to the more majes tic tone of the rest of the piece. It may indeed be said of Dryden, as he himself says of Virgil, that though he is smooth where smoothness is required, yet he is so far from affecting that general character, that he seems rather to disdain it.
The original edition of the "Britannia Rediviva" is in quarto, printed, as usual, for Tonson, with a motto from the first book of the Georgics, which is now restored. The concluding lines refer to the death of so many Catholics by the perjured evidences of Oates and Bedlow:
satis jampridem sanguine nostro Laomedontea luimus perjuria Troja.
The word perjuria, as well as Puerum, in the preceding passage, are marked by a difference of type; a mode of soliciting the attention of the reader to a pointed remark or inuendo, which was first used in Charles II.'s time, and seems to have been introduced by L'Estrange, who carried it to a most extravagant degree, chequering his Observators with all manner of characters, from the Roman to the Anglo-Saxon.
Just on the day, when the high-mounted sun
Last solemn Sabbath † saw the church attend, The Paraclete in fiery pomp descend; But when his wonderous octave * rolled again, He brought a royal infant in his train : So great a blessing to so good a king, None but the Eternal Comforter could bring. Or did the mighty Trinity conspire, As once in council to create our sire? It seems as if they sent the new-born guest, To wait on the procession of their feast; And on their sacred anniverse decreed To stamp their image on the promised seed. Three realms united, and on one bestowed, An emblem of their mystic union showed; The Mighty Trine the triple empire shared, As every person would have one to guard. Hail, son of prayers! by holy violence Drawn down from heaven; but long be banished
And late to thy paternal skies retire !
To mend our crimes, whole ages would require;
The sacred cradle to your charge receive,
Trinity Sunday, the octave of Whitsunday.
‡ Note I.
Our wants exact at least that moderate stay;
Thus, when Alcides raised his infant cry,
O still repining at your present state, Grudging yourselves the benefits of fate; Look up, and read in characters of light A blessing sent you in your own despite ! The manna falls, yet that celestial bread, Like Jews, you munch, and murmur while you feed. May not your fortune be, like theirs, exiled, Yet forty years to wander in the wild! Or, if it be, may Moses live at least,
To lead you to the verge of promised rest!
+ Alluding only to the commonwealth party here, and in other parts of the poem. DRYDEN.-See Note II.
Rev. xii. v. 4.
Already has he lifted high the sign, Which crowned the conquering arms of Constantine. *
The moon grows pale at that presaging sight,
* The Cross.
+ The Crescent, which the Turks bear for their arms. DRYDEN. Note III.
The Pope, in the time of Constantine the Great; alluding to the present Pope. DRYDEN.-See Note IV.
§ King James II.
¶ Bill of Exclusion,
The Lemmon Ore, on which the vessel of King James was lost in his return from Scotland. The crew perished, and he himself escaped with difficulty. See Vol. IX. p. 401.