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The brides, invaded with a rude embrace, The crew with merry shouts their anchors weigh, Shriek out for aid, confusion fills the place. Then ply their oars, and brush the buxom sea, Quick to redeem the prey their plighted lords While troops of gather'd Rhodians crowd the key. Advance, the palace gleams with shining swords. What should the people do when left alone?
But late is all defence, and succour vain; The governor and government are gone. The rape is made, the ravishers remain:
The public wealth to foreign parts convey'd; Two sturdy slaves were only sent before
Some troops disbanded, and the rest unpaid. To bear the purchas'd prize in safety to the shore. | Rhodes is the sovereign of the sea no more ; The troop retires, the lovers close the rear, Their ships unrigg'd, and spent their naval store, With forward faces not confessing fear :
They neither could defend, nor can pursue, Backward they move, but scorn' their pace to mend, But grinn'd their teeth, and cast a helpless view; Then seek the stairs, and with slow haste descend. In vain with darts a distant war they try,
Fierce Pasimond, their passage to prevent, Short, and more short, the missive weapons fly. Thrust full on Cymon's back in his descent; Mean while the ravishers their crimes enjoy, The blade return'd unbath'd, and to the handle And flying sails and sweeping oars employ: bent.
The cliffs of Rhodes in little space are lost, Stout Cymon soon remounts, and cleft in two Jove's isle they seek; nor Jove denies his coast. His rival's head with one descending blow :
In safety landed on the Candian shore, And as the next in rank Ormisda stood,
With generous wines their spirits they restore: He turn'd the point; the sword, inur'd to blood, There Cymon with his Rhodian friend resides, Bor'd his unguarded breast, which pour'd a purple Both court, and wed at once the willing brides. fiood.
A war ensues, the Cretaps own their cause, With vow'd revenge the gathering crowd pursues, Stiff to defend their hospitable laws : The ravishers turn head, the fight renews; Both parties lose by turns; and neither wins, The hall is heap'd with corps; the sprinkled gore | Till peace propounded by a truce begins. Besmears the walls, and floats the marble floor. The kindred of the slain forgive the deed, Dispers'd at length the drunken squadron flies, But a short exile must for show precede : The victors to their vessel bear the prize ; The term expird, from Candia they remove; And hear behind loud groans, and lamentable cries. ' And happy each, at home, enjoys his love.
TO THE RIGHT HON.
HESE Miscellany Poems* are by many titles yours. The first they claim from your acceptance of my promise to present them to you, before some of them were yet in being. The rest are derived from your own merit, the exactness of your judgment in poetry, and the candour of your nature; easy to forgive some trivial faults when they come accompanied with countervailing beauties. But, after all, though these are your equitable claims to a dedication from other poets, yet I must acknowledge a bribe in the case, which is your particular liking to my verses. It is a vanity common to all writers, to over-value their own productions; and it is better for me to own this failing in myself, than the world to do it for me. For what other reason bave I spent my life in so unprofitable a study? why am I grown old, in seeking so barren a reward as fame? The same parts and application, which have made me a poet, might have raised me to any honours of the gown, which are often given to men of as little learning and less honesty than myself. No government has ever been, or ever can be, wherein time-servers and blockheads will not be uppermost. The persons are only changed, but the same jugglings in state, the same hypocrisy in religion, the same self-interest and mismanagement, will remain for ever. Blood and money will be
• Prefixed to the Third Volume of Dryden's Miscellany Poems, printed in 1693.
lavished in all ages, only for the preferment of new faces, with old consciences. There is too often a jaundice in the eyes of great men; they see not those whom they raise in the same colours with other men. All whom they affect, look golden to them ; when the gilding is only in their own distempered sight. These considerations have given me a kind of contempt for those who have risen by unworthy ways. I am not ashamed to be little, when I see them so infamously great; neither do I know why the name of poet should be dishonourable to me, if I am truly one, as I hope I am ; for I will never do any thing that shall dishonour it. The notions of morality are known to all men : none can pretend ignorance of those ideas which are in-born in mankind: and if I see one thing, and practise the contrary, I must be disingenuous, not to acknowledge a clear truth, and base, to act against the light of my own conscience. For the reputation of my honesty, no man can question it, who has any of his own: for that of my poetry, it shall either stand by its own merit, or fall for want of it. Ill writers are usually the sharpest censors: for they, (as the best poet and the best patron said) when in the full perfection of decay, turn vinegar, and come again in play. Thus the corruption of a poet is the generation of a critic: I mean of a critic in the general acceptation of this age: for formerly they were quite another species of men. They were defenders of poets, and commentators on their works; to illustrate obscure beauties; to place soine passages in a better light; to redeem others from malicious interpretations; to help out an author's modesty, who is not ostentatious of his wit; and, in short, to shield him from the ill-nature of those fellows, who were then called Zoili and Momi, and now take upon themselves the venerable name of censors. But neither Zoilus, nor he who endeavoured to defame Virgil, were ever adopted into the name of critics by the ancients: what their reputation was then, we know; and their successors in this age deserve no better. auxiliary forces turned our enemies are they, who at best are but wits of the second order, and whose only credit amongst readers is what they obtained by being subservient to the fame of writers, are these become rebels of slaves, and usurpers of subjects; or, to speak in the most honourable terms of them, are they from our seconds become principals against us? does the ivy undermine the oak, which supports its weakness ? what labour would it cost them to put in a better line, than the worst of those which they expunge in a true pcet? Petronius, the greatest wit perhaps of all the Romans, yet when his envy prevailed upon his judgment to fall on Lucan, he fell himself in his attempt: he performed worse, in his Essay of the Civil War, than the author of the Pharsalia : and avoiding his errours, has made greater of his own. Julius Scaliger would needs turn down Homer, and abdicate him after the possession of three thousand years : has he succeeded in his attempt? he has indeed shown us some of those imperfections in him, which are incident to human kind: but who had not rather be that Homer than this Scaliger ? You see the same hypercritic, when he endeavours
to mend the beginning of Claudian, (a faulty poet, and living in a barbarous age) yet how short he comes of him, and substitutes such verses of his own as deserve the ferula. What a censure has he made of Lucan, that he rather seems to bark than sing? would any but a dog have made so snarling a comparison? one would have thought he had learned Latin, as late as they tell us he did Greek. Yet he came off, with a pace tua, by your good leave, Lucan; he called him not by those outrageous names, of fool, booby, and blockbead: he had somewhat more of good-manners than his successors, as he had much more knowledge. We have two sorts of those gentlemen in our nation: some of them, proceeding with a seeming moderation and pretence of respect to the dramatic writers of the last age, only scorn and vilify the present poets, to set up their predecessors. But this is only in appearance; for their real design is nothing less than to do honour to any man, besides themselves. Horace took notice of such men in his age: Non ingeniis favet ille, sepultis ; nostra sed impugnat; nos nostraque lividus odit. It is not with an ultimate intention to pay reverence to the manes of Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Ben Jonson, that they commend their writings, but to throw dirt on the writers of this age: their declaration is one thing, and their practice is another. By a seeming veneration to our fathers, they would thrust out us, their lawful issue, and govern us themselves, under a specious pretence of reformation. If they could compass their intent, what would wit and learning get by such a change? if we are bad poets, they are worse ;
and when any of their woeful pieces come abroad, the difference is so great betwixt them and good writers, that there need no criticisms on our part to decide it. When they describe the writers of this age, they draw such monstrous figures of them, as resemble none of us :' our pretended pictures are so unlike, that it is evident we never sate to them; they are all grotesque, the products of their wild imaginations, things out of nature, so far from being copied from us, that they resemble nothing that ever was, or ever can be. But there is another sort of insects more venomous than the former. Those who manifestly aim at the destruction of our poetical church and state ; who allow nothing to their countrymen, either of this or of the former age. These attack the living by raking up the ashes of the dead; well knowing, that if they can subvert their original title to the stage, we, who claim under them, must fall of course. Peace be to the venerable shades of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson: none of the living will presume to have any competition with them: as they were our predecessors, so they were our masters. We trail our plays under them; but (as at the funerals of a Turkish emperor) our ensigns are furled or dragged upon the ground, in honour to the dead'; so we may lawfully advance our own, afterwards, to show that we succeed : if less in dignity, yet on the same foot and title, which we think too we can maintain against the insolence of our own janizaries. If I am the man, as I have reason to believe, who am seemingly courted, and secretly undermined ; I think I shall be able to defend myself,
when I am openly attacked ; and to show besides, that the Greek writers only gave us the rudiments of a stage which they never finished: that many of the tragedies in the former age amongst us were without comparison beyond those of Sophocles and Euripides. But, at present, I have neither the leisure nor the means for such an undertaking. It is ill going to law for an estate, with him who is in possession of it, and enjoys the present profits, to feed his cause. But the quantum mutatus may be remembered in due time. In the mean while, I leave the world to judge, who gave the provocation.
This, my lord, is, I confess, a long digression from Miscellany Poems to Modern Tragedies: but I have the ordinary excuse of an injured man, who will be telling his tale unseasonably to his betters; though, at the same time, I am certain, you are so good a friend, as to take a concern in all things wbich belong to one who so truly honours you. And besides, being yourself a critic of the genuine sort, who have read the best authors in their own languages, who perfectly distinguish of their several merits, and in general prefer them to the moderns; yet, I know, you judge for the English tragedies against the Greek and Latin, as well as against the French, Italian, and Spanish, of these latter ages. Indeed there is a vast difference betwixt arguing like Perault in behalf of the French poets against Homer and Virgil, and betwixt giving the English poets their undoubted due of excelling Æschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles. For if we, or our greater fathers, have not yet brought the drama to an absolute perfection, yet at least we have carried it much farther than those ancient Greeks; who, beginning from a Chorus, could never totally exclude it, as we have done, who find it an unprofitable incumbrance, without any necessity of entertaining it amongst us, and without the possibility of establishing it here, unless it were supported by a public charge. Neither can we accept of those lay-bishops, as some call them, who, under pretence of reforming the stage, would intrude themselves upon us as our superiors, being indeed incompetent judges of what is manners, what religion, and least of all, what is poetry and good sense. I can tell them in behalf of all my fellows, that when they come to exercise a jurisdiction over us, they shall have the stage to themselves, as they have the laurel. As little can I grant, that the French dramatic writers excel the English: our authors as far surpass them in genius, as our soldiers excel theirs in courage: it is true, in conduct they surpass us either way: yet that proceeds not so much from their greater knowledge, as from the difference of tastes in the two nations. They content themselves with a thin design, without episodes, and managed by few persons. Our audience will not be pleased but with variety of accidents, an underplot, and many actors. They follow the ancients too servilely, in the mechanic rules, and we assume too much licence to ourselves, in keeping them only in view, at too great a distance. But if our audience had their tastes, our poets could more easily comply with them, than the French writers could come up