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are described under the emblem of various animals, fierce and disgusting in proportion to their more remote affinity to the church of Rome. And in a dialogue between the two principal characters, the leading arguments of the controversy between the churches, at least what the poet chose to consider as such, are formally discussed.
But Dryden's plan is far from coming within the limits of a fable or parable, strictly so called; for it is strongly objected, that the poet has been unable to avoid confounding the real churches themselves with the Hind and the Panther, under which they are represented. "The hind," as Johnson observes, "at one time is afraid to drink at the common brook, because she may be worried; but, walking home with the panther, talks by the way of the Nicene fathers, and at last declares herself to be the Catholic church." And the same critic complains, "that the king is now Cæsar, and now the lion, and that the name Pan is given to the Supreme Being." "The Hind and Panther transversed, or the City and Country Mouse," which was written in ridicule of this poem, turns chiefly upon the incongruity of the emblems adopted by Dryden, and the inconsistencies into which his plan had led him.* This ri
The following justification of their plan is taken from the preface, which is believed to have been entirely the composition of Montague.
"The favourers of The Hind and Panther' will be apt to say in its defence, that the best things are capable of being turned to ridicule; that Homer has been burlesqued, and Virgil travestied, without suffering any thing in their reputation from that buffoonery; and that, in like manner, The Hind and the Panther' may be an exact poem, though it is the subject of our raillery But there is this difference, that those authors are wrested from their true sense, and this naturally falls into ridicule; there is nothing represented here as monstrous and unnatural, which is not equally so in the original.— First, as to the general design; Is it not as easy to imagine two mice bilking coachmen, and supping at the Devil, as to suppose a hind entertaining the panther at a hermit's cell, discussing the greatest mysteries of religion, and telling you her son Rodriguez writ very good Spanish? What can be more improbable and contradictory to the rules and examples of all fables, and to the very design and use of them? They were first begun, and raised to the highest perfection, in the eastern countries, where they wrote in signs, and spoke in parables, and delivered the most useful precepts in delightful stories; which, for their aptness, were entertaining to the most judicious, and led the vulgar into understanding by surprizing them with their novelty, and fixing their attention. All their fables carry a double meaning; the story is one and entire; the characters the same throughout, not broken or changed, and always conformable to the nature of the creatures they introduce. They never tell you, that the dog, which snapt at a shadow, lost his troop of horse; that would be unintelligible; a piece of flesh is proper for him to drop, and the reader will apply it to mankind: They would not say, that the daw, who was so proud of her borrowed plumes, looked very ridiculous, when Rodriguez came and took away all the book but the 17th, 24th, and 25th chapters, which
Dryden has, in this very poem, given us two examples of the more pure and correct species of fable. These, which he terms in the preface Episodes, are the tale of the Swallows seduced to defer their emigration, and that of the Pigeons, who chose a Buzzard for their king.* It is remarkable, that, as the former is by much the most complete story, so, although put in the mouth of a representative of the heretical church, it proved eventually to contain a truth sorrowful to our author, and those of the Roman Catholic persuasion: For, while the Buzzard's elevation (Bishop Burnet by name) was not attended with any peculiar evil consequences to the church of England, the short gleam of Popish prosperity was soon overcast, and the priests and their proselytes plunged in reality into all the distress of the swallows in the Panther's fable.
In conformity to our author's plan, announced in the preface, the fable is divided into Three Parts. The First is dedicated to the general description and character of the religious sects, particularly the churches of Rome and of England. And here Dryden has used the more elevated strain of heroic poetry. In the Second, the general arguments of the controversy between the two churches are agitated, for which purpose a less magnificent style of language is adopted. In the Third and last Part, from discussing the disputed points of theology, the Hind and Panther descend to consider the particulars in which their temporal interests were judged at this period to interfere with each other. And here Dryden has lowered the tone of his verse to that of common conversation. We must admit, with Johnson, that these distinctions of style are not always accurately adhered to. The First Part has familiar lines; as, for instance, the four with which it concludes: Considering her a civil well-bred beast, And more a gentlewoman than the rest,
After some common talk, what rumours ran,
Some passages are not only mean in expression, but border on profaneness; as,
The smith divine, as with a careless beat,
The Godhead took a deep considering space.
* I know not, however, but a critic might here also point out an example of that discrepancy, which is censured by Johnson, and ridiculed by Prior. The cause of dissatisfaction in the pigeon-house is, that the proprietor chuses rather to feed upon the flesh of his domestic poultry, than upon theirs; no very rational cause of mutiny on the part of the doves.
On the other hand, the Third Part has passages in a higher tone of poetry; particularly the whole character of James in the fable of the Pigeons and the Buzzard: but it is enough to fulfil the author's promise in the preface, that the parts do each in general preserve a peculiar character and style, though occasionally sliding into that of the others.
It is a main defect of the plan just detailed, that it necessarily limited the interest of the poem to that crisis of politics when it was published. A work, which the author announces as calculated to attract the favour of friends, and to animate the malevolence of enemies, is now read with cold indifference. He launched forth into a tide of controversy, which, however furious at the time, has long subsided, leaving his poem a disregarded wreck, stranded upon the shores which the surges once occupied.
Setting aside this original defect, the First and Last Parts of the poem, in particular, abound with passages of excellent poetry. In the former, it is worthy attention, with what ease and command of his language and subject Dryden passes from his sublime description of the immortal Hind, to brand and stigmatise the sectaries by whom she was hated and persecuted; a rare union of dignity preserved in satire, and of satire engrafted upon heroic poetry. The reader cannot, at the same time, fail to observe the felicity with which the poet has assigned prototypes to the dissenting churches, agreeing in character with that which he meant to fix upon their several congregations. The Bear, unlicked to forms, is the emblem of the Independents, who disclaimed them; * the Wolf, which hunts in herds, to the classes and synods of the Presbyterian church; the Hare, to the peaceful Quakers; the wild Boar, to the fierce and savage Anabaptists, who ra
* Butler, however, assigns the Bear-Garden as a type of my Mother Kirk; and the resemblance is thus proved by Ralpho:
Synods are mystical bear-gardens,
Where elders, deputies, church-wardens,
For prolocutor, scribe, and bear-ward,
To mischief bent as far's in them lies;
vaged Germany, the native country of that animal. With similar felicity, the "bird, who warned St Peter of his fall," is. from that circumstance, and his nocturnal vigils, afterwards assigned as the representative of the Catholic clergy. Above all, the attention is arrested by the pointed description of those dark and sullen enthusiasts, who, scarcely agreeing among themselves upon any peculiar points of doctrine, rested their claim to superior sanctity upon abominating and contemning those usual forms of reverence, by which men, in all countries since the beginning of the world, have agreed to distinguish public worship from ordinary or temporal employments. The whole of this First Part of the poem abounds with excellent poetry, rising above the tone of ordinary satire, and yet possessing all its poignancy. The difference, to those against whom it is directed, is like that of being blasted by a thunder-bolt, instead of being branded with a red-hot iron.
The First Part of "The Hind and Panther," although chiefly dedicated to general characters, contains some reasoning on the grand controversy, similar to that which occupies the Second. The author displays, with the utmost art and energy of argumentative poetry, the reasons by which he was himself guided in adopting the Roman Catholic faith. He is led into this discussion, by mentioning the heretical doctrine of the Unitarians; and insists, that the Protestant churches, which have consented to postpone human reason to faith, by acquiescing in the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, are not entitled to appeal to the authority which they have waived, for arguments against the mystery of the real presence in the eucharist. This was a favourite mode of reasoning of the Catholics at the time, as may be seen from the numerous treatises which they sent forth upon the controversy.
Hudibras denies the resemblance, and answers by an appeal to the senses
For bears and dogs on four legs go
Hudibras, Part 1. Canto S.
It is undoubtedly very fit to impose on the vulgar, but completely overshoots the mark at which it aims. For, if our yielding humble belief to one abstruse doctrine of divinity be sufficient to debar the exercise of our reason respecting another, it is obvious, that, by the same reason, the appeal to our understanding must be altogether laid aside in matters of doubtful orthodoxy. The Protestant divines, therefore, took a distinction; and, while they admitted they were obliged to surrender their human judgment in matters of divine revelation which were above their reason, they asserted the power of appealing to its guidance in those things of a finite nature which depend on the evidence of sense, and the consequent privileges of rejecting any doctrine, which, being within the sphere of human comprehension, is nevertheless repugnant to the understanding: therefore, while they received the doctrine of the Trinity as an infinite mystery, far above their reason, they contended against that of transubstantiation as capable of being tried by human faculties, and as contradicted by an appeal to them. In a subsequent passage, the author taxes the church of England with an attempt to reconcile contradictions, by admitting the real presence in the eucharist, and yet denying actual transubstantiation. Dryden boldly appeals to the positive words of scripture, and sums his doctrine thus:
The literal sense is hard to flesh and blood,
Granting, however, the obscurity or mystery of the one doctrine, it is a hard choice to be obliged to adopt, in its room, that which asserts an acknowledged impossibility.
In the Second Part, another point of the controversy is agitated; the infallibility, namely, which is claimed by the Roman church. The author appears here to have hampered himself in the toils of his own argument in a former poem. He had asserted in the "Religio Laici," that the Scriptures contained all things necessary for salvation; while he yet admitted, that those, whose bent inclined them to the study of polemical divinity, were to be guided by the expositions of the fathers, and the earlier, especially the written, traditions of the Church. There is, as has been noticed in the remarks on Religio Laici," a certain vacillation in our author's arguments concerning tradition, while yet a Protestant, which prepares us for his finally reposing his doubts in the bosom of that church, which pretends to be the sole depositary of the earlier doctrines of Christianity, and claims a right to ascertain all doubts in point of faith, by the same mode, and with the saine unerring certainty, as the original church in the days of the apostles and fathers. These doubts, with which Dryden seems to have been deeply impressed while within the pale of the Church of England,