Write An Essay On The Origin And Tradition Of Drama In English Literature

Taking then a Barge which a servant of Lisideus had provided for them, they made haste to shoot the Bridge, and left behind them that great fall of waters which hindered them from hearing what they desired: after which, having disengaged themselves from many Vessels which rode at Anchor in the Thames, and almost blocked up the passage towards Greenwich, they ordered the Watermen to let fall their Oars more gently; and then every one favoring his own curiosity with a strict silence, it was not long ere they perceived the Air break about them like the noise of distant.

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The group has taken refuge on a barge during a naval battle between the English and the Dutch fleets.

The four gentlemen, Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius, and Neander (all aliases for actual Restoration critics and the last for Dryden himself), begin an ironic and witty conversation on the subject of poetry, which soon turns into a debate on the virtues of modern and ancient writers.

but, this once agreed on by both Parties, each might have recourse to it, either to prove his own advantages, or discover the failings of his Adversary.

He had no sooner said this, but all desired the favor of him to give the definition of a Play; and they were the more importunate, because neither Aristotle, nor Horace, nor any other, who writ of that Subject, had ever done it.

When his famous Poem first came out in the year, I have seen them reading it in the midst of Change-time; many so vehement they were at it, that they lost their bargain by the Candles ends: but what will you say, if he has been received amongst the great Ones?

I can assure you he is, this day, the envy of a great person, who is Lord in the Art of Quibbling; and who does not take it well, that any man should intrude so far into his Province.” “All I would wish,” replied Crites, “is, that they who love his Writings, may still admire him, and his fellow Poet: [who does not hate Bavius—ed.] is curse sufficient.” “And farther,” added Lisideius, “I believe there is no man who writes well, but would think himself very hardly dealt with, if their Admirers should praise anything of his: [For we detest praise that comes from those we detest—ed.]” “There are so few who write well in this Age,” said Crites, “that methinks any praises should be welcome; then neither rise to the dignity of the last Age, nor to any of the Ancients; and we may cry out of the Writers of this time, with more reason than Petronius of his, [If I may be permitted to say so, you were, of all, the first to lose the old eloquence]: you have debauched the true old Poetry so far, that Nature, which is the soul of it, is not in any of your Writings.” “If your quarrel,” said Eugenius, “to those who now write, be grounded only upon your reverence to Antiquity, there is no man more ready to adore those great Greeks and Romans than I am: but on the other side, I cannot think so contemptibly of the Age I live in, or so dishonorably of my own Country, as not to judge we equal the Ancients in most kinds of Poesy, and in some surpass them; neither know I any reason why I may not be as zealous for the Reputation of our Age, as we find the Ancients themselves in reference to those who lived before them.if now and then he does not offer at a Catachresis or Clevelandism, wresting and torturing a word into another meaning: In fine, if he be not one of those whom the French would call ; one that is so much a well-willer to the Satire, that he spares no man; and though he cannot strike a blow to hurt any, yet ought to be punished for the malice of the action, as our Witches are justly hanged because they think themselves so; and suffer deservedly for believing they did mischief, because they meant it.” “You have described him,” said Crites, “so exactly, that I am afraid to come after you with my other extremity of Poetry: He is one of those who having had some advantage of education and converse, knows better than the other what a Poet should be, but puts it into practice more unluckily than any man; his stile and matter are every where alike; he is the most calm, peaceable.Writer you ever read: he never disquiets your passions with the least concernment, but still leaves you in as even a temper as he found you; he is a very Leveller in Poetry, he creeps along with ten little words in every line, and helps out his Numbers with , and all the pretty Expletives he can find, till he drags them to the end of another line; while the Sense is left tired half way behind it; he doubly starves all his Verses, first for want of thought, and then of expression; his Poetry neither has wit in it, nor seems to have it; like him in Martial: [Cinna wants to seem to be a pauper; and, sure enough, he is a pauper]: He affects plainness, to cover his want of imagination: when he writes the serious way, the highest flight of his fancy is some miserable Antithesis, or seeming contradiction; and in the Comic he is still reaching at some thin conceit, the ghost of a Jest, and that too flies before him, never to be caught; these Swallows which we see before us on the Thames, are just resemblance of his wit: you may observe how near the water they stoop, how many proffers they make to dip, and yet how seldom they touch it: and when they do, ’tis but the surface: they skim over it but to catch a gnat, and then mount into the air and leave it.” “Well Gentlemen,” said Eugenius, “you may speak your pleasure of these Authors; but though I and some few more about the Town may give you a peaceable hearing, yet, assure yourselves, there are multitudes who would think you malicious and them injured: especially him who you first described; he is the very Withers of the City: they have bought more Editions of his Works than would serve to lay under all the Pies at the Lord Mayor’s Christmas.It can be read as a general defense of drama as a legitimate art form—taking up where Sir Philip Sidney’s “Defence of Poesie” left off—as well as Dryden’s own defense of his literary practices.The essay is structured as a dialogue among four friends on the river Thames.Though he died in 1700, John Dryden is usually considered a writer of the 18th rather than the 17th century.Incredibly prolific, Dryden made innovative advances in translation and aesthetic philosophy, and was the first poet to employ the neo-classical heroic couplet and quatrain in his own work.They can produce nothing so courtly writ, or which expresses so much the Conversation of a Gentleman, as Sir John Suckling; nothing so even, sweet, and flowing as Mr.Waller; nothing so Majestic, so correct as Sir John Denham; nothing so elevated, so copious, and full of spirit, as Mr.Lisideius, after some modest denials, at last confessed he had a rude Notion of it; indeed rather a Description than a Definition: but which served to guide him in his private thoughts, when he was to make a judgment of what others writ: that he conceived a Play ought to be, [that is, too broadly, according to category and purpose—as though one defined “shirt” as “a garment to keep one warm”—ed.], and so not altogether perfect; was yet well received by the rest: and after they had given order to the Water-men to turn their Barge, and row softly, that they might take the cool of the Evening in their return; Crites, being desired by the Company to begin, spoke on behalf of the Ancients, in this manner: “If Confidence presage a Victory, Eugenius, in his own opinion, has already triumphed over the Ancients; nothing seems more easy to him, than to overcome those whom it is our greatest praise to have imitated well: for we do not only build upon their foundation; but by their models.Dramatic Poesy had time enough, reckoning from Thespis (who first invented it) to Aristophanes, to be born, to grow up, and to flourish in Maturity.


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