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In this paper I am going to deal with Dryden and his essay Preface to the Fables.

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Introduction

JOHN DRYDEN The epoch associated in England with the name of Augustan or Classical was an age of dominant intellectualism, a hard and sterile period. Dryden and Pope were the two prominent literary figures who lived during this age and carried out innovations in the field of literature. In this paper I am going to deal with Dryden and his essay Preface to the Fables. Samuel Johnson in his Lives of the Poets says Dryden's " contemporaries, however they reverenced his genius, left his life unwritten; and nothing therefore can be known beyond what casual mention and uncertain tradition have supplied". Thus much details about Dryden's life is not known except he was born on August 9, 1631, at Aldwincle near Oundle, as the son of Erasmus Dryden of Tichmersh . Johnson further says that " Dryden may be properly considered as The Father of English Criticism, as the writer who first taught us to determine upon the merits of composition". Even great critics from Santisbury to T.S. Eliot acknowledged this. Though Dryden tried his hand in other forms of literature like poetry and drama and equally excelled in them, he is best known for his political satire and literary criticism. Energy and driving force, the English virtues are indeed, a general merit of the verse of Pope and Dryden says Sri Aurobindo in his The future of Poetry.The poetry of Dryden is vigorous and forceful. ...read more.

Middle

Thus his work "began to swell into a little volume.He then took up some marvellous works like The Hunting of the Boar , Cinyras and Myrrha and Baucius and Philemon. Dryden feels proud to note that his translated versions of the works match the original ones in their beauty. He also says that translating with precision "is not the talent of every poet". Dryden recognizes George Sandys as the best translator of the Elizabethan Age. While translating the tales of Ovid, Dryden was suddenly reminded of Chaucer who resembled the Roman poet in many ways. Dryden with the intention of honouring his native country decided to give his readers a modern version of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. When the works of both Ovid and Chaucer are presented to the reader in their modern outlook the reader will be able to carry out the right assessment. Boccacio came to his mind when Dryden was translating Chaucer. Dryden says Boccacio and Chaucer also resembled each other. Boccaio like Chaucer wrote novels in prose and works in verse .He invented the Octave Rhyme just like Chaucer who invented the Rhyme Royal. Both of them refined their mother tongues. All these things led him to include Chaucer and Boccacio in his major work. Dryden has also included some of his original composition and he requests the reader to make the correct judgement of his work whether equal or inferior to the rest. ...read more.

Conclusion

Neither Chaucer nor Ovid was original in their writings. They borrowed materials form their predecessors. However Dryden says Chaucer was not without originality. His characters Baucius and Philemon and pilgrims of the Canterbury Tales are above ground and truly Chaucer's own invention. Dryden calls Chaucer the father of English poetry out of veneration. As to the crude and primitive language of Chaucer is concerned, Dryden asserts that perfection can not be expected from a pioneer. The greatest merit of Chaucer's art is restrain .Dryden also presents some of the basic facts about Chaucer's life in this essay. Chaucer has clearly picturized the fourteenth century England in his Canterbury Tales. Realism is the essence of his work.Chaucer gives prime importance to the nature and external features of his characters.Chaucer's characters are varied in their manners and humours.They belong to different strata. Even the low characters like the Reeve , the Miller are appealing in their own way. Dryden finally proclaims "here is God's plenty'apropos Chaucerian works. Dryden then says there has been considerable opposition against him for translating Chaucer.Dryden classifies his opposers into two groups. The first group look upon Chaucer as a " dry old fashioned wit" unworthy of translation. Dryden asserts that the brilliance of Chaucer has diminished due to the passage of time and requires polishing. The second group are those who object translation out of veneration for the classic. Dryden stresses the necessity of translation lest ancient writers should be totally neglected due to the unintelligibility of their language. ...read more.

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