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the Duke of York each with a copy of his freedom, A.D. 1674:’—
The Londoners Gent
Whilst their churches are unbuilt,
O, ye addlebrained cits l
Beyond sea he began,
He ne'er knew, not he,
How to serve or be free,
Throughout Lombard Street,
Though oft bound to the peace,
- e - e * *
His word or his oath
Then, London, rejoice
And what little thing
Like ants at a straw,
Is it a box of pills
The very first head
And Winers turn again, turn again:
A hot pulse of scorn and indignant feeling often beats under Marvell's raillery, as may be perceived from these verses; and the generality of his pasquinades are much more caustic and scourging, as well as in every way more daring and unscrupulous.
OTHER MINOR POETS.
Of the other minor poets of this date we can only mention the names of a few of the most distinguished. Sir Charles Sedley is the Suckling of the time of Charles II., with less impulsiveness and more insinuation, but a kindred gaiety and sprightliness of fancy, and an answering liveliness and at the same time courtly ease and elegance of diction. King Charles, a good judge of such matters, was accustomed to say that Sedley's style, either in writing or discourse, would be the standard of the English tongue; and his contemporary, the Duke of Buckingham (Williers), used to call his exquisite art of expression Sedley's Witchcraft. Sedley's genius early ripened and bore fruit; he was born only two or three years before the breaking out of the Civil War; and he was in high reputation as a poet and a wit within six or seven years after the Restoration. He survived both the Revolution and the century, dying in the year 1701. Sedley's fellow debauchee, the celebrated Earl of Rochester (Wilmot)—although the brutal grossness of the greater part of his verse has deservedly made it and its author infamous—was perhaps a still greater genius.
There is immense strength and pregnancy of expression in some of the best of his compositions, careless and unfinished as they are. Rochester had not completed his thirty-third year when he died, in July 1680. Of the poetical productions of the other court wits of Charles's reign the principal are, the Duke of Buckingham's satirical comedy of The Rehearsal, which was very effective when first produced, and still enjoys a great reputation, though it would probably be thought but a heavy joke now by most readers not carried away by the prejudice in its favour; the Earl of Roscommon's very common-place Essay on Translated Verse; and the Earl of Dorset's lively and well-known song, “To all you ladies now on land,” written at sea the night before the engagement with the Dutch on the 3rd of June, 1665, or rather professing to have been then written, for the asserted poetic tranquillity of the noble author in expectation of the morrow's fight has been disputed. The Marquis of Halifax and Lord Godolphin were also writers of verse at this date; but neither of them has left anything worth remembering. Among the minor poets of the time, however, we ought not to forget Charles Cotton, best known for his humorous, though somewhat coarse, travesties of Virgil and Lucian, and for his continuation of Izaak Walton's Treatise on Angling, and his fine idiomatic translation of Montaigne's Essays, but also the author of some short original pieces in verse, of much fancy and liveliness. One entitled an “Ode to Winter,’ in particular, has been highly praised by Wordsworth.* We need scarcely mention Sir William Davenant's long and languid heroic poem of Gondibert, though Hobbes, * See Preface to Lyrical Ballads, 1815.
equally eminent in poetry and the mathematics, has declared that he “never yet saw poem that had so much shape of art, health of morality, and vigour and beauty of expression;” and has prophesied that, were it not for the mutability of modern tongues, “it would last as long as either the Æneid or Iliad.” The English of the reign of Charles II. is not yet obsolete, nor likely to become so; Homer and Virgil are also still read and admired; but men have forgotten Gondibert, almost as much as they have Hobbes's own Iliad and Odyssey.
By far the most illustrious name among the English poets of the latter half of the seventeenth century—if we exclude Milton as belonging properly to the preceding age—is that of John Dryden. Born in 1632, Dryden produced his first known composition in verse in 1649, his lines on the death of Lord Hastings, a young nobleman of great promise, who was suddenly cut off by smallpox, on the eve of his intended marriage, in that year. This earliest of Dryden's poems is in the most ambitious style of the school of Donne and Cowley: Donne himself, indeed, has scarcely penned anything quite so extravagant as one passage, in which the fancy of the young poet runs riot among the phenomena of the loathsome disease to which Lord Hastings had fallen a victim:— So many spots, like maeves on Venus' soil, One jewel set off with so many a foil: Blisters with pride swell'd, which through's flesh did
* Answer to Davenant's Preface to Gondibert