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Not with more grief th' afflicted swains appear,
Each rising art by just gradation moves, Toil builds on toil, and age on age improves : The Muse alone unequal dealt her rage, And grac'd with noblest pomp her earliest stage, Preserv'd thro' time, the speaking scenes impart Each changeful wish of Phædra's tortur'd heart : Or paint the curse, that mark'd the Theban's reign, A bed incestuous, and a father slain. With kind concern our pitying eyes o’erflow, Trace the sad tale, and own another's woe.
To Rome remov'd, witla wit secure to please,
Muse essay'd to raise in vain
As arts expir'd, resistless Dulness rose; Goths, priests, or Vandals,—all were Learning's foes.
* The Oedipus of Shophocles.
Till #Julius first recall'd each exil'd maid,
But heaven, still various in its works, decreed
Yet ah! so bright her morning's opening ray, In vain our Britain hoped an equal day! No second growth the western isle co’ld bear, At once exhausted with too rich a year. Too nicely Jonson knew the critic's part ; Nature in him was almost lost in art. Of softer mold the gentle Fletcher came, The next in order, as the next in name. With pleas’d attention 'midst his scenes we find Each glowing thought, that warms the female mind ; Each melting sigh, and every tender tear, The lover's wishes, and the virgin's fear,
* Julius II., the immediate predecessor of Leo. X.
His* every strain the Smiles and Graces own;
† With gradual steps, and slow, exacter France Saw Art's fair empire o'er her shores advance : By length of toil a bright perfection knew, Correctly bold, and just in all she drew. Till late Corneille, with Lucan's spirit fir'd, Breath'd the free strain, as Rome and He inspir'd : And classic judgment gain'd to sweet Racine The temperate strength of Maro's chaster line.
But wilder far the Britislrlaurel spread, And wreaths less artful crown our poet's head. Yet He alone to every scene could give Th' historian's truth, and bid the manners live. Wak'd at his call I view, with glad surprise, Majestic forms of mighty monarchs rise. There Henry's trumpets spread their loud alarms, And laurel’d Conquest waits her hero's arms.
* Their characters are thus distinguished by Mr. Dryden.
+ About the time of Shakspeare, the poet Hardy was in great repute in France. He wrote, according to Fontenelle, six hundred plays. The French poets aster him applied themselves, in general, to the correct improvement of the stage, which was almost totally disregarded by those of our own country -Jonson excepted.
| The favourite author of the elder Corneille.
Here gentler Edward claims a pitying sigh,
Where'er we turn, by fancy charm’d, we find
O more than all in powerful genius blest,
Tempus erit Turno, magno cùm optaverit emptum
O might some verse with happiest skill persuade
every line :
Methinks even now I view some free design,
But † who is he, whose brows axalted' bear
* See the tragedy of Julius Cæsar. + Coriolanus. See Mr. Spence's Dialogue on the Odyssey.