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A Note on Sir William Alexander and Edmund Waller


Alexander's eight couplets on Prince Charles's return from Spain are strikingly close in style to Waller's poem on Charles's escape from drowning off Santander. Either Alexander was a remarkable trend-spotter as well as gifted literary imitator, or he anticipated Waller's refinements of the pentameter couplet and graceful turning of antithesis and mythological conceits, which Dryden praised and assimilated to his literary manner. The latter alternative need not mean that Waller imitated Alexander, only that the Scots, beginning with James's Reuelis and Cautelis and followed by Ayton, Alexander and Mackenzie, were helping to tread a path that became the thoroughfare of English Augustan verse.

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