Page images
PDF
EPUB

NOTES

ON

THE HIND AND THE PANTHER.

PART III.

Note I..
And mother Hubbard, in her homely dress,
Has sharply blamed a British Lioness ;
That queen, whose feast the factious rabble keep,

Exposed obscenely naked, and asleep.-P. 197. The poet, in the beginning of this canto, anticipates the censure of those who might blame bim for introducing into his fables animals not natives of Britain, where the scene was laid. He vindicates himself by the example of Æsop and Spenser. The latter, in “ Mother Hubbard's Tale," exhibits at length the various arts by which, in his time, obscure and infamous characters rose to eminence in church and state. This is illustrated by the parable of an Ape and a Fox, who insinuate themselves into various situations, and play the knaves in all. At length,

Lo, where they spied, how, in a gloomy glade,
The Lion, sleeping, lay in secret shade;
His crown and sceptre lying him beside,

And having doft for heat his dreadful bide. The adventurers possess themselves of the royal spoils, with which the Ape is arrayed; who forthwith takes upon himself the dignity of the monarch of the beasts, and, by the counsels of the Fox, commits every species of oppression, until Jove, incensed at the disorders which his tyranny had introduced, sends Mercury to awaken the Lion from his slumber:

Arise! said Mercury, thou sluggish beast,
That here liest senseless, like the corpse deceast;
The whilst thy kingdom from thy head is rent,
And thy throne royal with dishonour blent.

The Lion rouses himself, hastens to court, and avenges himself of the usurpers.---There is no doubt, that, under this allegory, Spenser meant to represent the exorbitant power of Lord Burleigh ; and he afterwards complains, that his verse occasioned his falling into a “ mighty peer's displeasure." The Lion, therefore, whose negligence is upbraided by Mercury, was Queen Elizabeth, Dryden calls her,

The queen, whose feast the factious rabble keep; because the tumultuous pope-burnings of 1680 and 1681 were solemnized on Queen Elizabeth's night. The poet had probably, since his change of religion, laid aside much of the hereditary respect with which most Englishmen regard Queen Bess; for, in the pamphlets of the Romanists, she is branded as a known bastard, who raised this prelatic protestancy, called the church of England, as a prop to supply the weakness of her title."

Spenser's authority is only appealed to by Dryden as justifying the introduction of lions and other foreign animals into a British fable. But I observed in the introduction, that it also furnishes authority, at least example, for those aberrations from the character and attributes of his brute actors, with which the critics laxed Dryden; for nothing in “ The Hind and the Panther" can be more inconsistent with the natural quality of such animals, than the circumstance of a lion, or any other creature, going to sleep without his skin, on account of the sultry weather.

Note II.
You know my doctrine, and I need not say
I will not, but I cannot, disobey.
On this firm principle I ever stood ;
He of my sons, who fails to make it good,

By one rebellious act renounces to my blood.-P. 202, The memorable judgment and decree of the university of Oxford, passed in the Convocation 21st July, 1683, condemns, as heretical, all works which teach or infer the lawfulness of resistance

A New Test of the Church of England's Loyalty. VOL. X.

Q

to lawful governors, even when they become tyrants, or in case of persecution for religion, or infringement on the laws of the country, or, in short, in any case whatever; and after the various authorities for these and other tenets have been given and denounced as false, seditious, heretical, and impious, the decree concludes with the following injunctions :

“ Lastly, we command and strictly enjoin all and singular readers, tutors, catechists, and others, to whom the care and trust of institution of youth is committed, that they diligently instruct and ground their scholars in that most necessary doctrine, which in a manner is the badge and character of the church of England, of submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well: Teaching, that this submission and obedience is to be clear, absolute, and without exception of any state or order of men."

}

Note III.
l'our sons of latitude, that court your grace,
Though most resembling you in form and face,
Are far the worst of your pretended ruce.
And, but I blush your honesty to blot,
Pray God you prove them lawfully begot!
For in some Popish libels I have read,

The Wolf hus been too busy in your bed.-P. 202. During the latter years of the reign of Charles the Second, the dissensions of the state began to creep into the church. By far the greater part of the clergy, influenced by the ancient union of church and king, were steady in their adherence to the court interest. But a party began to appear, who were distinguished from their brethren by the name of Moderate Divines, which they assumed to themselves, and by that of Latitudinarians, which the high churchmen conferred upon them. The chief amongst these were Tillotson, Stillingflect, and Burnet. They distinguished themselves by a less violent ardour for the ceremonies, and even the government, of the church; for all those particulars, in short, by which she is distinguished from other Protestant congregations. Stillingsleet carried these condescensions so far, as to admit in his tract, called Irenicum, that, although the original church was settled in a constitution of bishops, priests, and deacons, yet as the apostles made no positive law upon this subject, it remained free to every Christian congregation to alter or to retain that form of church government. In conformity with this opinion, lie, in conjunction with Tillotson and others, laid a plan for an accommodation with the Presbyterians, in 1668 ; and, in order to this comprehension, he was willing to have made such sacrifices in the point of ordination, &c. that the House of Commons took the alarm, and passed a vote, prohibiting even the introduction of a bill for such a purpose. As, on the one hand, the tenets of the moderate clergy approximated those of the Calvinists ; so, on the other, their antipathy and opposition to the church of Rome was more deeply rooted, in proportion to the slighter value which they attached to the particulars in which that of England resembled her. It flowed naturally from this indulgence to the Dissenters, and detestation of the Romanists, that several of the moderate clergy participated deeply in the terrors excited by the Roman Catholic plot, and looked with a favourable eye on the bill which proposed to exclude the Duke of York from the throne as a professor of that obnoxious religion. Being thus, as it were, an opposition party, it cannot be supposed that the low church divines united cordially with their high-flying brethren in renouncing the right of resisting oppression, or in professing passive obedience to the royal will. They were of opinion, that there was a mutual compact between the king and subject, and that acts of tyranny, on the part of the former, absolved the latter from his allegiance. This was particularly inculcated by the reverend Samuel Johnson (See Vol. IX. p. 369.) in “ Julian the Apostate," and other writings which were condemned by the Oxford decree. As the dangers attending the church, from the measures of King James, became more obvious, and the alternative of resistance or destruction became an approaching crisis, the low church party acquired numbers and strength from those who thought it better at once to hold and assert the lawfulness of opposition to tyranny, than to make professions of obedience beyond the power of human endurance to make good.

This party was of course deeply hated by the Catholics, and hence the severity with which they are treated by Dryden, who objects to them as the illegitimate offspring of the Panther by the Wolf, and traces to their Presbyterian origin their indifference to the fasts and ascetic observances of the more rigid high-churchmen, and their covert disposition to resist regal domination. Their adherence to the English communion he ascribes only to the lucre of gain, and.endeavours, if possible, to draw an odious distinction between them and the rest of the church. Stillingflect, whom this motive could not escape, had already complained of Dryden's designing any particular class of the clergy by a party name. “From the common people, we come to church-men, to see how he uses them. And he hath soon found out a faction among them, whom he charges with juggling designs : but romantic beroes must be allowed to make armies of a field of thistles, and to encounter wind. mills for giants. He would fain be the instrument to divide our clergy, and to fill them with suspicions of one another. And to this end he talks of men of latitudinarian stamp : for it goes a great way towards the making divisions, to be able to fasten a name of distinction among brethren; this being to create jealousies of each other. But there is nothing should make them more careful to avoid such names of distinction, than to observe how ready their common enemies are to make use of them, to create animosities by them; which hath made this worthy gentleman to start this different character of churchmen among us; as though there were any who were not true to the principles of the church of England, as by law established: If he knows them, he is better acquainted with them than the answerer is; for he professes to know none such. But who then are these men of the latitudinarian stamp ? To speak in his own language, they are a sort of ergoteerers, who are for a concedo rather than a nego. And now, I hope, they are all well explained; or, in other words of his, they are, saith he, for drawing the nonconformists to their party, i.e. they are for having no nonconformists. And is this their crime ? But they would take the headship of the church out of the king's hands : How is that possible? They would (by his own description) be glad to see differences lessened, and all that agree in the same doctrine to be one entire body. But this is that which their enemies fear, and this politician bath too much discovered ; for then such a party would be wanting, which might be played upon the church of England, or be brought to join with others against it. But how this should touch the king's supremacy, I cannot imagine. As for his desiring loyal subjects to consider this matter, I hope they will, and the more for his desiring it; and assure themselves, that they have no cause to apprehend any juggling designs of their brethren ; who, I hope, will always show themselves to be loyal subjects, and dutiful sons of the church of England.”—Vindication of the Answer to some late Papers, p. 104.

Note IV.
Think you, your new French proselytes are come
To starve abroad, because they started at home?
Mark with what management their tribes divide,
Some stick to you, and some to t’other side,

That many churches may for many mouths provide. P. 203. The Huguenot clergy, who took refuge in England after the recal of the edict of Nantes, did not all adhere to the same Protestant communion. There had been long in London what was called the Walloon church, exclusively dedicated to this sort of worship,

« PreviousContinue »