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The death of Charles II. was sudden and unexpected. After he had apparently completely subdued the popular party, and was preparing, as has been confidently alleged, a similar conquest over the high-flying followers of the Duke of York, in the midst of his present triumph and future projects, he was, on the morn. ing of the 20 February, 1684-5, seized with a sudden fit, which resembled an apoplexy. He was bled by one King, a chemist, who happened to be in waiting, and experienced a temporary relief. From the 2d till the 6th, he continued in a languishing stale, the Duke of York being in constant attendance on his death-bed. On the forenoon of the 6th, Charles died, to the general grief of his subjects, by whom he was personally beloved, and who had reason to fear, that his worst public measures would be followed out with more rigour by his successor,
A numerous host of rhymers stepped forward with their condolences upon this event. † Among these, we find few eminent names
+ The following Nænia, among others, occur in Mr Luttrell's Collection : " A Pindarick Ode, by Sır F. F. Knight of the Bath."
“ A Pindarick Ode on the Death of our late Sovereign, with an ancient Prophecy on his present Majesty, by Afra Bebn."
"A Poem, humbly dedicated to the Great Pattern of Piety and Virtue, Catherine, Queen Dowager, on the Death of her dear Lord and Husband, King Charles Il. By the Same. (4th April, 1685.)"
“ The Vision, a Pindarick Ode, by Edmund Arwaker, M. A."
“ The Second Part of Ditto, on the Coronatiou of James and Mary.” This anthor poured forth a similar effusion upon the death of Queen Mary.
“ A Pindarick Ode on the Death of Charles II , by J. H.”
“ Ireland's Tears to the sacred Memory of our late Dread Sovereign, King Charles II., 11th April, 1685.”
“ Pietas universitatis O.xoniensis in obitum augustissimi et desideratissimi Regis Caroli Secundi.”
besides that of Dryden. Otway, indeed, has left a poem on the subject, called “ Windsor Castle ;” and he began a pastoral, which, fortunately for his reputation, he left unfinished. + From the laureat a deeper tone of lamentation was due. But whether the sense of discharging a task, a sense so chilling always to poetical imagination, had fettered Dryden's powers, or from whatever other reason, his funeral pindaric has not been esteemed one of his happiest lyric effusions. It is devoid of any appearance of deep feeling on the part of the author himself. This is the more remarkable, as the manners of Charles were eminently calculated to attract affection, and Dryden had been admitted to a greater share of royal intercourse than is usually necessary to excite the personal attachment of a subject to a condescending monarch. But whether Dryden, as he is sometimes believed to have owned, was unapt to feel or express the more tender passions, or whether he saw the character of Charles so closely, as to discern the selfishness of his hollow courtesy, it is certain that the poet seems wonderfully little interested
Duke, and others, also invoked Melpomene on this mournful occasion : but, perhaps, the most remarkable of all these lamentations is, “ The Quaker's Elegy on the Death of Charles, late King of England, written by W. P. a sincere lover of Charles and James ; (31st March, 1685.)” « Tears wiped off, a Second Part, on the Coronation, (220 April.)” This curious dirge begins thus:
What wondrous change in waking do I find,
But Rachel knocked, to raise me from my bed,
The loss of Charles, whom she declared was dead;
+ « Windsor Castle, in a monument to our late sovereign, King Charles II.,” contains some striking passages. But, for the tenuity of the pastoral, even the taste of the age can hardly excuse the author of “ Venice Preserved.” For example:
Ye tender lambs, stray not so fast away;
in the sorrowful theme. Even when he mentions his literary intercourse with the deceased monarch, he does not suppress a murmur, that he was niggard in rewarding the muses whom he loved ; that
little was their lire, and light their gain. This absence of personal feeling on the part of the author, spreads a coldness over the whole elegy; which we regret the less, as the pensioneri monarch ill deserved a deeper lamentation. It is chiefly owing to this want of sympathy, connected with an over indulgence in conceit, a fault which immediately flows from the other, being an effort of ingenuity to supply the want of passion, that the “ Threnodia Augustalis” has been neglected. We have to lament some overstrained metaphors and similes. The sun went back ten degrees in the dial of Ahaz; a miraculous sign that Hezekiah was to live ; and this is compared to the five days during which the disease of Charles gained ground, until it was obvious that he was to die. The prayers of the people carrying heaven by storm, and almost forcing heaven to revoke his decrees, is extravagant, not to say profane. Yet, with all its faults of coldness and conceit, this poem seems rather to have been under-rated. It appears to great advantage, when compared with others on the same subject. Otway, who affects a warmer display of passion, a particular in which Dryden is said to have acknowledged his superiority, has fallen into the opposite fault, of describing the deathbed rather of a tender husband or lover, attended by his wife or mistress, than that of a king waited on by his successor. Dryden's picture of the duke's grief is much more appropriate and striking :
Horror in all his pomp was there,
+ We shall here insert the last meeting of the royal brothers, as described in“ Windsor Castle,” which the reader may contrast with the same theme in the “ Threnodia :"
Here, painter, if thou can'st, thy art improve,
The joy of the people upon the fallacious prospect of the king'e recovery,
is also a striking picture :
Men met each other with erected look;
And long inveterate foes saluted as they past. There are many other fine passages in the “ Threnodia;" though the general effect is less impressive than might have been expected. The description in the thirteenth stanza, for example, of the effects on poetry and literature produced by the Restoration, and that of the return of liberty,
Without whose charms even peace would be
But a dull quiet slavery, are both striking.– The character of Charles; his wit, parts, and powers of conversation; his gentle manners, and tirioness of disposition, which, like a well-wrought blade, kept, even u yieldmg, the native toughness of the steel,--are all themes of panevyric, which, though perhaps exaggerated, are well-chosen, and exquisitely brought out. It is indeed a peculiar attribute of Dryden's praise, that it is always appropriate ; while the gross adulation of his contemporaries gave indiscriminately the same broad features to all their subjects, and thereby very often converted their intended panegyric into satire, not the less bitter because undesigned. Drvden, for instance, in this whole poem has never once mentioned the queen; sensible that the gaiety of Charles' life, and his frequent amours, rendered her conjugal grief, which some of the elegia-ts chose to describe in terms approaching to blaspheiny, an apocry. phal, as well as a delicate theme. † He knew, that praise, to do honour t, the giver and receiver, must either have a real foundation in desert, or at least what, by the skiltul management of the poet, may be easily represented as such,
+ Perhaps the most extraordinary instance of fattery, wrought up to in piety, occurs in Mrs Behn's address to the queen on the death of her husband :
Methinks I see you like the queen of heaven,
Having discussed the melancholy part of his subject, the poet, according to the approved custum in such cases, finds cause for rejoicing in the succession of James, as he had muurned over the death of his predecessor. From his firmness of character, and supposed military talents, the poet prophesies a warlike and victorious reign: a sad instance how seldom the poetic and prophetic character, so often claimed, are united in the same individual! for James, as is well known, far from conquering foreign kingdoms, did not draw the sword even to defend his own. But
different events were expected, and augured, by the shoal of versifiers, who now rushed forwards to gratulate his accession. *
The pindaric measure, in which the “ Threnodia Augustalis” is written, contains nothing pleasing to modern ears. The rhymes are occasionally so far disjoined, that, like a fashionable married couple, they have nothing of union but the name. The inequalities of the verse are also violent, and remind us of ascending a broken and unequal stair-case. But the age had been accustomed to this rythm, which, however improperly, was considered as a genuine imitation of the style of Pindar. It must also be owned, that wherever, for a little way, Dryden uses a more regular measure, he displays all his usual command of harmony. The thirteenth stanza, tor example, is as happily distinguished by melody et rhynie, as we have already observed it is eminent in be uty of poetry.
The Latin title of this poem, like that of the Religio Laici, savours somewhat of affectation ; and has been laxed by Johnson as not strictly classical, a mure unpardonable fault. +
These are even more numerous than the Elepiasts on Charles's death. In the Luttrell Collection there are the following rare pieces.
“ Panegyris Jacobi serenissimi, &c. regi ipso die inaugurationis."
“ A Panegyrick on Do. by Peter Ker:" with whose rapturous invitation to the ships to strand themselves for joy, we shall conclude the list:
Let subjects sing, bells ring, and cannons roar;
And every ship come dancing to the shore. + Dryden, perhaps, recollected the poem of Fitzpayne Fisher on Cromwell's death, entitled, Threnodia Triumphalis in obitum serenissimi Nostri Principis Oliveri, Angliæ Scotia Hiberniæ cum dominationibus ubicunque jacenti