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the article of versification, and in that part of poetry is greatly his superior. But though this must be acknowledged, perhaps it will not necessarily follow that his genius was, therefore, superior.
The grand characteristic of a poet is his invention, the surest distinction of a great genius. In Mr. Pope nothing is so truly original as his Rape of the Lock, nor discovers so much invention. In this kind of mock-heroic he is without a rival in our language, for Dryden has written nothing of the kind. His other work which discovers invention, fine designing, and admirable execution, is his Dunciad: which, though built on Dryden's Mac Flecknoe, is yet so much superior, that, in satiric writing, the palm must justly be yielded to him. In Mr. Dryden's Absalom and Abithopel there are, indeed, the most poignant strokes of satire, and characters drawn with the most masterly touches; but this poem, with all its excellencies, is much inferior to the Dunciad, though Dryden had advantages which Mr. Pope had not; for Dryden's characters are men of great eminence and figure in the state, while Pope has to expose men of obscure birth and unimportant lives, only distinguished from the herd of mankind by a glimmering of genius, which rendered the greatest part of them more emphatically contemptible. Pope's was the hardest task, and he has executed it with the greatest suc
cess. As Mr. Dryden must undoubtedly have yielded to Pope in satiric writing, it is incumbent on the partizans of Dryden to name another species of composition in which the former excels so as to throw the balance again upon the side of Dryden. This species is the lyric, in which the warmest votaries of Pope must certainly acknowledge that he is much inferior: as an irresistible proof of this we need only compare Mr. Dryden's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day with Mr. Pope's, in which the disparity is very apparent.
It hath been generally acknowledged that the lyric is a more excellent kind of writing than the satiric, and, consequently, he who excels in the most excellent species must undoubtedly be esteemed the greatest poet. Mr. Pope has very happily succeeded in many of his occasional pieces, such as Eloisa to Abelard, his Elegy on an unfortunate young Lady, and a variety of other performances deservedly celebrated. To these may be opposed Mr. Dryden's Fables; which, though written in a very advanced age, are yet the most perfect of his works. In these fables there is, perhaps, a greater variety than in Mr. Pope's occasional pieces : many of them, indeed, are translations, but such as are original show a great extent of invention, and a large compass of genius.
There are not in Pope's works such poignant discoveries of wit, or such a general knowledge of the humours and characters of men, as in the prologues
and epilogues of Dryden, which are the best records of the whims and capricious oddities of the times in which they are written.
When these two great geniuses are considered in the light of translators, it will, indeed, be difficult to determine into whose scale the balance should be thrown. That Mr. Pope had a more arduous province in doing justice to Homer, than Dryden with regard to Virgil, is certainly true, as Homer is a more various and diffuse poet than Virgil; and it is likewise true, that Pope has even exceeded Dryden in the execution, and none will deny that Pope's Homer's lliad is a finer poem than Dryden's Æneid of Virgil, making a proper allowance for the disproportion of the original authors. But then a candid critic should reflect, that as Dryden was prior in the great attempt of rendering Virgil into English, so did he perform the task under many disadvantages which Pope, by a happier situation in life, was enabled to avoid ; and could not but improve upon Dryden's errors, though the authors translated were not the same : and it is much to be doubted if Dryden were to translate the Æneid now, with that attention which the correctness of the present age would force upon him, whether the preference would be due to Pope's Homer.
But supposing it to be yielded (as it certainly must) that the latter bard was the greatest translator, we
are now to throw into Mr. Dryden's scale all his dramatic works; which, though not the most excellent of his writings, yet, as nothing of Mr. Pope's can be opposed to them, they have an undoubted right to turn the balance greatly in favour of Mr. Dryden. When the two poets are considered as critics, the comparison will very imperfectly hold. Dryden's dedications and prefaces, besides that they are more numerous, and are the best models for courtly panegyric, show that he understood poetry as an art beyond any man that ever lived ; and he explained this art so well, that he taught his antagonists to turn the tables against himself: for he so illuminated the mind by his clear and perspicuous reasoning, that dulness itself became capable of discerning; and when at any time his performances fell short of his own ideas of excellence, his enemies tried him by rules of his own establishing; and though they owed to him the ability of judging, they seldom had candour enough to spare him.
Perhaps it may be true, that Pope's works are read with more appetite, as there is a greater evenness and correctness in them ; but in perusing the works of Dryden, the mind will take a wider range, and be more fraught with poetical ideas. We admire Dryden as the greater genius, and Pope as the most plea. sing versifier. Cibber's Lives.
I AM inclined to think that both the writers of books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations. The first seem to fancy the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand no single man is born with a right of controling the opinions of all the rest, so, on the other, the world has no title to demand that the whole care and time of any particular person should be sacrificed to its entertainment : therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal obligations, for as much fame or pleasure as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges it would be a wild notion to expect perfection in any work of man, and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted by the judgment commonly passed upon poems. A critic supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular point; and can it then be wondered at if the poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves