How to define John Dryden is a million-dollar question even in modern times. The first Poet Laureate of England is perhaps the sole pioneer who possessed all delicacies of English literature. His style itself speaks about his success.
Most people know Dryden as a famous English poet. However, his excellence as a translator, playwright, and literary critic appears matchless even in the current arena of literature. Today’s readers identify him as an author knowing every property of English.
His English proficiency and commanding understanding of ‘metre’ made him what he was in the past and what he is today. Although, some critics still recognize him as “an animated writer.”
But, in reality, his works remained a constant delight to most of his contemporaries. One big reason was that nearly all his writings emerged ceaselessly fresh. Dryden’s new poems always appeared as unfolding garden-fresh cadences.
Some analysts believe that John Dryden’s inventing power was limited. Moreover, he was an excellent, resolute adaptor as well as translator. There is no denying his works indeed reveal that he adapted Milton, Molière, and Shakespeare. In addition, he translated from some eminent classical poets.
However, his mastery in possessing all delicacies of English literature is undeniable. It played a significant role in producing Chaucer with a modern look.
The most significant beauty of the English poet is he always arrived as a maverick who chose his words independently to pen his text. He never exhibited wisdom. Instead, his craving to please himself and the readers enticed everyone. Even the current readers can feel this true artistic nature in his words.
The best part is a big chunk of his translations, for sure, seem original works. One such example is “Ode on Fortune (III.29)” by Horace. John Dryden’s version of this poem first proved that a genuine author could create his mark of originality even by paving the way for translation. His words, “I have taken some pains to make it my masterpiece in English.” have proved this truth.
Dryden’s achievements lay in his poetic diction. The poet belonged to that specific age that preferred verse as the fittest innate medium for scattering culture and for political polemics. And this is a big reason why he chose to shape his poetry emerged as if related to satire and appeared fit for intellectual discussion.
The eminent English author proved that even poetry could be a natural medium for establishing communication, whether satirical, cultural, intellectual, or political. And because of his skillful owning of delicacies of English literature that had tightened the verse’s sinews and simultaneously built a robust and supple idiom. Nevertheless, some people think that this style of approach could reduce the greatness of poetic beauty to some extent. They further believe that it was a reason why John Dryden’s poetical works adapted a look near to prose.
Nonetheless, living in the age of verse and admiring the beauty of poetry is natural. It is undeniable that almost all eminent writers of the past era or contemporaries of Dryden also embrace this quality. And John Dryden was one of those authors whose minds got shaped with constant admiration and approbation for the excellent poetry.
In truth, it was the outcome of such robust appreciation that found expression in his poems, odes, and translations. His later ornamentation of diction was an outcome as well. The inclusion of a component of Spenserian archaism, adornment, and elaboration in Dryden’s later verse was the result of the said ornamentation of diction.
It is undeniable that Dryden’s phrases lack some finer Spenserian tone, especially when tried emerging in the shape of a couplet. But, despite that minor lacking, those phrases keep their genuine freedom in the essential lyrical measures. This specialty provides John Dryden a place in the popular neo-classical tradition.
It is no more a hidden secret that Dryden’s candidness and potential with the delicacies of English literature remained as the model for several succeeding writers. And this, even today, unveils his profound influence in prose and verse.