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below; to be struck down, and to triumph,-I know not whether such trials have been ever paralleled in any nation: the resolution and successes of them never can be. Never had prince or people more mutual reason to love each other, if suffering for each other can endear affection. You have come together a pair of matchless lovers, through many difficulties; he, through a long exile, various traverses of fortune, and the interposition of many vals, who violently ravished and with-held you from him; and certainly you have had your share in sufferings. But providence has cast upon you want of trade, that you might appear bountiful to your country's necessities; and the rest of your afflictions are not more the effects of God's displeasure (frequent examples of them having been in the reign of the most excellent princes) than occasions for the manifesting of your christian and civil virtues. To you,
therefore, this Year of Wonders is justly dedicated, because you have made it so; you, who are to stand a wonder to all years and ages; and who have built yourselves an immortal monument on your own ruins. You are now a Phænix in her ashes, and, as far as humanity can approach, a great emblem of the suffering Deity; but heaven never made so much piety and virtue to leave it miserable. I have heard, indeed, of some virtuous persons who have ended unfortunately, but never of any virtuous nation : Providence is engaged too deeply, when the cause becomes so general; and I cannot imagine it has resolved that ruin of the people at home, which it has blessed abroad with such
I am therefore to conclude, that your sufferings are at an end; and that one part of
my poem has not been more an history of your destruction, than the other a prophecy of
The accomplishment of which happiness, as it is the wish of all true Englishmen, so is it by none more passionately desired, than by
The greatest of your admirers,
And most humble of your servants,
ACCOUNT OF THE ENSUING POEM,
IN A LETTER TO THE
HON, SIR ROBERT HOWARD. *
AM so many ways obliged to you, and so little able to return your favours, that, like those who owe too much, I can only live by getting farther into your debt. You have not only been careful of my fortune, which was the effect of your nobleness,
, but you have been solicitous of my reputation,
, which is that of your kindness. It is not long since I
gave you the trouble of perusing a play for me, t and now, instead of an acknowledgment, I have given you a greater, in the correction of a poem. But since you are to bear this persecution, I will at least give you the encouragement of a martyr,--you
* Sir Robert Howard was son to the Earl of Berkshire, and brother to Lady Elizabeth Dryden, our author's wife. This epistle is dated from Charlton, the seat of Lord Berkshire.
+ Probably “ The Indian Queen," which was a joint production of Dryden and Howard.
could never suffer in a nobler cause ; for I have chosen the most heroic subject, which any poet could desire. I have taken upon me to describe the motives, the beginning, progress, and successes, of a most just and necessary war; in it, the care, management, and prudence of our king; the conduct and valour of a royal admiral, and of two incomparable generals; the invincible courage of our captains and seamen; and three glorious victories, the result of all. After this, I have, in the Fire, the most deplorable, but withal the greatest, argument that can be imagined; the destruction being so swift, so sudden, so vast and miserable, as nothing can parallel in story. The former part of this poem, relating to the war, is but a due expiation for my not serving ny king and country in it. All gentlemen are almost obliged to it; and I know no reason we should give that advantage to the commonalty of England, to be foremost in brave actions, which the nobles of France would never suffer in their peasants.
I should not have written this but to a person, who has been ever forward to appear in all employments, whither his honour and generosity have called him. The latter part of my poem, which describes the Fire, I owe, first, to the piety and fatherly affection of our monarch to his suffering subjects; and, in the second place, to the courage, loyalty, and magnanimity of the city ; both which were so conspicuous, that I have wanted words to celebrate them as they deserve. I have called my poem historical, not epic, though both the actions and actors are as much heroic as any poem can contain. But, since the action is not properly one, nor that accomplished in the last successes, I have judged it too bold a title for a few stanzas, which are little more in number than a single Iliad, or the longest of the Æneids. For this
reason, (I mean not of length, but broken action, tied too severely to the laws of history) I am apt to agree with those, who rank Lucan rather among historians in verse, than Epic poets; in whose room, if I am not deceived, Silius Italicus, though a worse writer, may more justly be admitted. I have chosen to write my poem in quatrains, or stanzas of four in alternate rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble, and of greater dignity, both for the sound and number, than any other verse in use amongst us; in which I am sure I have your approbation. The learned languages have certainly a great advantage of us, in not being tied to the slavery of any rhyme; and were less constrained in the quantity of every syllable, which they might vary with spondees or dactyls, besides so many other helps of grammatical figures, for the lengthening or abbreviation of them, than the modern are in the close of that one syllable, which often confines, and more often corrupts, the sense of all the rest. But in this necessity of our rhymes, I have always found the couplet verse most easy, (though not so proper for this occasion,) for there the work is sooner at an end, every two lines concluding the labour of the poet; but in quatrains he is to carry it farther on, and not only so, but to bear along in his head the troublesome sense of four lines together. For, those, who write correctly in this kind, must needs acknowledge, that the last line of the stanza is to be considered in the composition of the first. Neither can we give ourselves the liberty of making any part of a verse for the sake of rhyme, or concluding with a word which is not current English, or using the variety of female rhymes, all which our fathers practised ; and for the female rhymes, they are still in use amongst other nations;
* The author alludes to the privilege, anciently used, of throwing an accentuation on the last syllable, of such a word as noble,