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But vulgar hands may vulgar likeness raise
By slow degrees the godlike art advanced ;
Rome raised not art, but barely kept alive,
* The ancients did not understand perspective; accordingly their figures represent those on an Indian paper. It seems long before it was known in England; for so late as 1634, Sir John Harrington thought it necessary to give the following explanation, in the advertisement to his translation of Orlando Furioso.
“ The use of the picture is evident;--that, having read over the book, they may read it as it were again in the very picture; and one thing is to be noted, which every one haply will not observe, namely, the perspective in every figure. For the personages of men, the shapes of horses, and such like, are made large at the bottom, and lesser upward; as, if you were to behold all the same in a plain, that which is nearest seems greatest, and the farther shews smallest, which is the chief art in picture.”
Thus, in a stupid military state,
Long time the sister arts, in iron sleep,
Thence rose the Roman, and the Lombard line;
Thy genius gives thee both ; where true design, Postures unforced, and lively colours join, Likeness is ever there; but still the best, (Like proper thoughts in lofty language drest,) Where light, to shades descending, plays, not strives, Dies by degrees, and by degrees revives. Of various parts a perfect whole is wrought; Thy pictures think, and we divine their thought.
Shakespeare, thy gift, I place before my sight ;* With awe, I ask his blessing ere I write; With reverence look on his majestic face; Proud to be less, but of his godlike race.
* This portrait was copied from one in the possession of Mr Betterton, and afterwards in that of the Chandos family. Twelve engravings were executed from this painting, which, however, the ingenious Mr Stevens, and other commentators on Shakespeare, pronounced a forgery. The copy presented by Kneller to Dryden, is in the collection of Earl Fitzwilliam, at Wentworth-house; and may claim that veneration, from having been the object of our author's respect and enthusiasm, which has been denied to its original, as a genuine portrait of Shakespeare. It is not, however, an admitted point, that the Chandos picture is a forgery: the contrary has been keenly maintained ; and Mr Malone's opinion has given weight to those who have espoused its defence.
His soul inspires me, while thy praise I write,
, When on wild nature we ingraft our skill, Yet not creating beauties at our will.
But poets are confined in narrower space, To speak the language of their native place;
The painter widely stretches his command,
Sure some propitious planet then did smile,
* Great Rome and Venice early did impart To thee the examples of their wondrous art. Those masters, then but seen, not understood, With generous emulation fired thy blood; For what in nature's dawn the child admired, The youth endeavour'd, and the man acquired.
If yet thou hast not reach'd their high degree, 'Tis only wanting to this age, not thee. Thy genius, bounded by the times, like mine, Drudges on petty draughts, nor dare design A more exalted work, and more divine. For what a song, or senseless opera, Is to the living labour of a play ; Or what a play to Virgil's work would be, Such is a single piece to history. But we, who life bestow, ourselves must live; Kings cannot reign unless their subjects give; And they, who pay the taxes, bear the rule : Thus thou, sometimes, are forced to draw a fool ;t
* He travelled very young into Italy. Dryden.
+ Mr Walpole says, that « where Sir Godfrey offered one picture to fame, he sacrificed twenty to lucre, and he met with customers of so little judgment, that they were fond of being paint
But so his follies in thy posture sink,
Else should we see your noble pencil trace
More cannot be by mortal art exprest,
ed by a man who would gladly have disowned his works the moment they were paid for. The same author gives us Sir Godfrey's apology for preferring the lucrative, though less honourable, line of portrait painting. “ Painters of history," said he, “ make the dead live, and do not begin to live themselves till they are dead. I paint the living, and they make me live.”Lord ORFORD's Lives of the Painters. See his Works, Vol. III. p. 359. Dryden seems to allude to this expression in the above lines.