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CHAPTER XIV.

THE DRAMA.

§ 70. THE English Drama has both a history and a char acter remarkable and peculiar. Originating in the sacred plays founded on Scriptural or religious legends called variously Miracles and Mysteries, and the moral plays called Moralities, so common over Western Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, it rose almost at a single bound in Shakespeare, at the end of the sixteenth, to the loftiest heights yet reached by dramatic art, in ancient or in modern times. At first, no line of definite demarcation was recognized between Comedy and Tragedy. That was reckoned as tragic which ended unfortunately. Since the time of Shakespeare it is characteristic of the English Drama that it has chosen prose for comedy and blank verse for tragedy. The essential difference between the two in object or aim has been somewhat more fully recognized; the comic, and more especially the subordinate species of it, the proper farce, aiming to represent more definitely the eccentric, the unreason, the playful and diverting of common life; the tragic, representing the phases of human experience in the higher forms of serious rational life. It has been observed that the first English dramatists were all scholars.

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The earliest comedies appeared about the middle of the sixteenth century, preceded a little by the Interludes of John Heywood, in single acts and representing real characters. Ralph Roister Doister," by Nicholas Udall, is regarded as the first English comedy. It appeared probably a little before 1550. "Gammer Gurton's Needle," attributed to John Still, appeared about the same time; also

"Misogonus," by Thomas Rychardes. The earliest tragedy in English was that of "Gorboduc," otherwise named "Ferrex and Porrex," composed by Thomas Sackville, assisted perhaps by Thomas Norton, and represented before the Queen, January 18, 1562. Two particulars in regard to this play are noticeable. First, it was written in blank verse, and may be regarded as having fixed for the English tragedy, if not for the English epic, this poetic form. In the next place, it disregarded the unities of time and place which characterized the proper classic drama, and so drew upon it the criticism of Sir Philip Sidney, as by this defect, in his opinion, prevented from being "an exact model of all tragedies." Sidney's prediction happily has been directly reversed.

Immediate precursors of Shakespeare were, besides some of less note, Christopher Marlowe, 1562–1593, and Robert Greene, 1560-1592. Eminent among the numerous dramatists who were contemporaries of Shakespeare were Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, Philip Massinger, and John Ford. In the seventeenth century appeared also that great name in English literature, as poet, critic, and dramatist, John Dryden, 1631-1700, who wrote both tragedies and comedies; Thomas Otway, 1651-1685, who has left the two fine tragedies of "The Orphan," and "Venice Preserved;" and William Wycherley, 1640-1715, the greatest of the comic dramatists of the times. Just at the close of the century, William Congreve, 1672–1729, Sir John Vanbrugh, 1666-1727, and George Farquhar, 1678-1707, entered each upon a successful career in comedy, surpassed by none since except Oliver Goldsmith, whose comedy," She Stoops to Conquer," sustains the high reputation of this distinguished poet and essayist, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1751– 1816, eminent alike in comedy and in oratory. In tragedy, the "Douglas" of John Home, 1722–1808, the tragedies of Joanna Baillie, 1762–1851, and of James Sheridan Knowles, 1784-1862, are the most noticeable since the "Venice Preserved" of Otway.

CHAPTER XV.

POETRY.

§ 71. POETICAL composition is distributed in respect of its subject matter or idea into three general departments, according as that idea is one predominantly in the form of truth, or of sentiment, or of action. These departments are those of Didactic, Elegiac or Lyric, and Epic. Of these the epic ranks highest, and generally appears first in a literature. As a department, it includes all narrative poetry; and ranges from the tale, which is but a narration in poetic form, to the proper epic, in which not so much the mere event or sequence of incident and achieve ment, as the display of character, is designed by the poet.

The poetry of action is distributed into the epic and the dramatic; the distinction being this, that in the epic, the poet speaks; in the dramatic, the actor himself.

As the dramatic, § 70, distributes itself into the two grand departments of tragedy and comedy, so in the epic, we find the two forms of the true heroic and the mockheroic; the proper epic, which represents the truly great, and noble, and worthy in life, and the burlesque, which represents the pretentious, the ridiculous, and unworthy.

The earliest forms of English poetry were narrative, and, as adapted to music or not, are known as minstrelsy and metrical romance, the minstrelsy preceding. The famous "Canterbury Tales" followed the metrical romance; and down through the entire progress of our literature the lower epic, that is, the proper narrative, presenting the sequence of historic events as governing, rather than the heroic

character, has been a favorite and much cultivated form of poetic composition. It is worthy of notice that poetic genius has in recent times returned with very marked preference to this kind of composition. Eminent in this department of our literature, after Chaucer, are George Crabbe, 1754-1832; Samuel Rogers, 1762-1855; the Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg, 1772-1835. Here are also to be found contributions from many of our best poets, especially of the later age, as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Moore, Scott, Byron, Tennyson, and Longfellow.

Of the higher epic, the "Paradise Lost" is the one poem in our literature which challenges rivalry with the greatest epics of the world's history.

In the mock-heroic or burlesque, the "Hudibras of Samuel Butler, 1612–1680, stands by itself like the "Paradise Lost," without a rival.

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§ 72. The English elegiac or lyric, the poetry in which feeling rules as the governing form of the idea, has, like the lower epic, its two forms, as adapted to music or not, - the lyric and the proper elegiac. Of the lyric, there are the varieties of the ode and the song, and the sacred lyric, embracing the psalm and the hymn. To the proper elegiac, or that in which the musical element is not made controlling, belongs, as a variety, the sonnet, which is determined by the form, not by the governing idea. 'See § 56.

In elegiac poetry, the English muse has ever delighted; to enumerate her choice creations here would be to catalogue our poets. The sonnet received a prominent culture in the earlier stage of our literature; and Shakespeare, Milton, Coleridge, have left the traces of their genius in this humbler form of poem. The "Elegy in a Country Church-Yard," by Thomas Gray, 1716-1771, is one of the most finished poems in our literature. Among the odes — a name, however, here misapplied if implying musical adaptation, are "Alexander's Feast," by John Dryden, and the "Ode on the Passions," by William Collins, 1720–1756

particularly to be noticed. In sacred lyric the name of Isaac Watts, 1674-1748, stands preeminent. Beautiful compositions we have in this department from Cowper, John Newton, Doddridge, Wesley, Montgomery, Heber, and many others of scarcely inferior merit.

§ 73. The poetry in which the governing form of idea is truth, has a wide range in English literature. It embraces the varieties more familiarly but vaguely designated descriptive, pastoral, and satirical, as well as that more strictly denominated didactic. As in the poetry of sentiment, the boundaries here are ill-defined; and the same poem may with a certain correctness be indifferently styled either descriptive or pastoral, satirical or didactic. Alexander Pope, 1688-1744, stands among the highest and among the earliest also of English didactic poets. He wrote his famous Essay on Man" and his "Moral Essays" in verse and in rhyme for one reason, as he tells us, because he could express himself " more shortly in verse than in prose." His "Essay on Criticism" also belongs to this class. Contemporary with Pope, was Edward Young, 1681– 1765, author of the "Night Thoughts," a poem which more properly belongs here perhaps than elsewhere. Here belongs also "The Seasons" of James Thomson, 17001748, imperishable as our literature. Mark Akenside, 1721-1770, at the age of twenty-three, wrote a fine didactic poem entitled "The Pleasures of the Imagination," which he robbed of somewhat of its warmth and inspiration by a revision in after-life. To this period belongs "The Traveller" and "The Deserted Village" of Oliver Goldsmith, 1728-1774, distinguished alike as essayist, novelist, dramatist, and poet. Later on, the favorite domestic poet, William Cowper, 1731-1800, appears a genius unsurpassed in this poetic field, as author of the "Task." His "John Gilpin " ranks him equally among the best in humorous poetry and his poem "On the Receipt of his Mother's Picture," in elegiac verse. Of our more recent poetry no small part

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