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folly was born and bred in them, and something of the Elkanah will be visible.”
This is Dryden's general declamation; I will not withhold from the reader a particular remark. Having gone through the first act, he says: “To conclude this act with the most rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet:
“To flatt'ring lightning our feign'd smiles conform,
Which, back'd with thunder, do but gild a storm. “Conform a smile to lightning, make a smile imitate lightning, and, flattering lightning: lightning, sure, is a threatening thing. And this lightning must gild a storm. Now, if I must conform my smiles to light ning, then my smiles must gild a storm too: to gild with smiles, is a new invention of gilding. And gild a storm by being backed with thunder. Thunder is part of the storm; so one part of the storm must help to gild another part, and help by backing; as if a man would gild a thing the better for being backed, or having a load upon his back. So that here is gilding by conforming, smiling, lightning, backing, and thundering. The whole is as if I should say thus: I will make my counterfeit smiles look like a flattering stonehorse, which, being backed with a trooper, does but gild the battle. I am mistaken, if nonsense is not here pretty thick sown. Sure the poet writ these two lines aboard some smack in a storm, and, being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of clotted nonsense at once.
Here is, perhaps, a sufficient specimen; but as the pamphlet, though Dryden's, has never been thought
worthy of republication, and is not easily to be found, it may gratify curiosity to quote it more largely:
“Whene'er she bleeds,
Than the infection that attends that breath. “ That attends that breath. The poet is at breath again; breath can never scape him; and here he brings in a breath that must be infectious with pronouncing a sentence; and this sentence is not to be pronounced till the condemned party bleeds; that is, she must be executed first, and sentenced after; and the pronouncing of this sentence will be infectious; that is, others will catch the disease of that sentence, and this infecting of others will torment a man's self. The whole is thus: when she bleeds, thou needest no greater hell or torment to thyself, than infecting of others by pronouncing a sentence upon her. What hodge-podge does he make here! Never was Dutch grout such clogging, thick, indigestible stuff. But this is but a taste to stay the stomach; we shall have a more plentiful mess presently. “Now to dish up the poet's broth, that I promised;
“For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd,
Their breasts encircle, till their passions be
“If this be not a very liberal mess, I will refer myself to the stomach of any moderate guest. And a rare mess it is, far excelling any Westminster whitebroth. It is a kind of giblet porridge, made of the giblets of a couple of young geese, stodged full of meteors, orbs, spheres, track, hideous draughts, dark characters, white forms, and radiant lights; designed not only to please appetite, and indulge luxury, but it is also physical, being an approved medicine to purge choler: for it is propounded by Morena, as a receipt to cure their fathers of their cholerick humours; and, were it written in characters as barbarous as the words, might very well pass for a doctor's bill. To conclude: it is porridge, 'tis a receipt, 'tis a pig with a pudding in the belly, 'tis I know not what: for, certainly, never any one that pretended to write sense, had the impudence before to put such stuff as this into the mouths of those that were to speak it before an audience, whom he did not take to be all fools; and, after that, to print it too, and expose it to the examination of the world. But let us see what we can make of this stuff :
“For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd
“Here he tells us what it is to be dead; it is to have our freed souls set free. Now, if to have a soul set
free, is to be dead; then to have a freed soul set free, is to have a dead man die.
“Then gentle, as a happy lover's sigh“They two like one sigh, and that one sigh like two wandering meteors,
“Shall fly through the air“That is, they shall mount above like falling stars, or else they shall skip like two Jacks with lanterns, or Will with a wisp, and Madge with a candle.
"And in their airy walk steal into their cruel fathers' breasts, like subtle guests. So that their fathers' breasts must be in an airy walk, an airy walk of a flier. And there they will read their souls, and track the spheres of their passions. That is, these walking fliers, Jack with a lantern, &c. will put on his spectacles, and fall a reading souls, and put on his pumps and fall a tracking of spheres; so that he will read and run, walk and fly, at the same time! Oh! Nimble Jack! Then he will see, how revenge here, how ambition there- The birds will hop about. And then view the dark characters of sieges, ruins, murders, blood, and wars, in their orbs: track the characters to their forms! Oh! rare sport for Jack! Never was place so full of game as these breasts! You cannot stir, but flush a sphere, start a character, or unkennel an orb!”
Settle's is said to have been the first play embellished with sculptures; those ornaments seem to have given poor Dryden great disturbance. He tries, however, to ease his pain by venting his malice in a parody:
“The poet has not only been so impudent to expose all this stuff, but so arrogant to defend it with an epistle; like a saucy booth-keeper, that, when he had put a cheat upon the people, would wrangle and fight with any that would not like it, or would offer to discover it; for which arrogance our poet receives this correction; and, to jerk him a little the sharper, I will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own words transnonsense sense, that, by my stuff, people may judge the better what his is:
“Great boy, thy tragedy and sculptures done,
As men in whispers send loud noise to heaven. “ Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle: and now we are come from aboard his dancing,