John Dryden.

The Poetical Works of John Dryden, Volume 1 With Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes online

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This animal's below committing treason:
Shall he be hang'd who never could rebel?
That's a preferment for Achitophel.
The woman.......
Was rightly sentenced by the law to die;
But 'twas hard fate that to the gallows led
The dog that never heard the statute read. 440
Railing in other men may be a crime,
But ought to pass for mere instinct in him:
Instinct he follows, and no further knows,
For to write verse with him is to transpose.
'Twere pity treason at his door to lay,
_Who makes heaven's gate a lock to its own key_:[75]
Let him rail on, let his invective muse
Have four and twenty letters to abuse,
Which, if he jumbles to one line of sense,
Indict him of a capital offence. 450
In fireworks give him leave to vent his spite -
Those are the only serpents he can write;
The height of his ambition is, we know,
But to be master of a puppet-show;
On that one stage his works may yet appear,
And a month's harvest keeps him all the year.

Now stop your noses, readers, all and some,
For here's a tun of midnight work to come;
Og, from a treason-tavern rolling home,
Round as a globe, and liquor'd every chink, 460
Goodly and great he sails behind his link;
With all this bulk there's nothing lost in Og,
For every inch that is not fool is rogue:
A monstrous mass of foul corrupted matter,
As all the devils had spued to make the batter.
When wine has given him courage to blaspheme,
He curses God, but God before cursed him;
And if man could have reason, none has more,
That made his paunch so rich, and him so poor.
With wealth he was not trusted, for Heaven knew 470
What 'twas of old to pamper up a Jew;
To what would he on quail and pheasant swell,
That even on tripe and carrion could rebel?
But though Heaven made him poor (with reverence speaking),
He never was a poet of God's making;
The midwife laid her hand on his thick skull,
With this prophetic blessing - Be thou dull;
Drink, swear, and roar, forbear no lewd delight
Fit for thy bulk - do anything but write:
Thou art of lasting make, like thoughtless men, 480
A strong nativity - but for the pen!
Eat opium, mingle arsenic in thy drink,
Still thou mayst live, avoiding pen and ink.
I see, I see, 'tis counsel given in vain,
For treason botch'd in rhyme will be thy bane;
Rhyme is the rock on which thou art to wreck,
'Tis fatal to thy fame and to thy neck:
Why should thy metre good king David blast?
A psalm of his will surely be thy last.
Dar'st thou presume in verse to meet thy foes, 490
Thou whom the penny pamphlet foil'd in prose?
Doeg, whom God for mankind's mirth has made,
O'ertops thy talent in thy very trade;
Doeg to thee, thy paintings are so coarse,
A poet is, though he's the poet's horse.
A double noose thou on thy neck dost pull,
For writing treason, and for writing dull;
To die for faction is a common evil,
But to be hang'd for nonsense is the devil:
Hadst thou the glories of thy king express'd, 500
Thy praises had been satire at the best;
But thou in clumsy verse, unlick'd, unpointed,
Hast shamefully defied the Lord's anointed:
I will not rake the dunghill for thy crimes,
For who would read thy life that reads thy rhymes?
But of king David's foes, be this the doom,
May all be like the young man Absalom;
And, for my foes, may this their blessing be,
To talk like Doeg, and to write like thee!

Achitophel, each rank, degree, and age, 510
For various ends neglects not to engage;
The wise and rich, for purse and counsel brought,
The fools and beggars, for their number sought:
Who yet not only on the town depends,
For even in court the faction had its friends;
These thought the places they possess'd too small,
And in their hearts wish'd court and king to fall:
Whose names the muse disdaining, holds i' the dark,
Thrust in the villain herd without a mark;
With parasites and libel-spawning imps, 520
Intriguing fops, dull jesters, and worse pimps.
Disdain the rascal rabble to pursue,
Their set cabals are yet a viler crew:
See where, involved in common smoke, they sit;
Some for our mirth, some for our satire fit:
These, gloomy, thoughtful, and on mischief bent,
While those, for mere good-fellowship, frequent
The appointed club, can let sedition pass,
Sense, nonsense, anything to employ the glass;
And who believe, in their dull honest hearts, 530
The rest talk reason but to show their parts;
Who ne'er had wit or will for mischief yet,
But pleased to be reputed of a set.

But in the sacred annals of our plot,
Industrious Arod never be forgot:
The labours of this midnight-magistrate,
May vie with Corah's to preserve the state.
In search of arms, he fail'd not to lay hold
On war's most powerful, dangerous weapon - gold.
And last, to take from Jebusites all odds, 540
Their altars pillaged, stole their very gods;
Oft would he cry, when treasure he surprised,
'Tis Baalish gold in David's coin disguised;
Which to his house with richer relics came,
While lumber idols only fed the flame:
For our wise rabble ne'er took pains to inquire,
What 'twas he burnt, so 't made a rousing fire.
With which our elder was enrich'd no more
Than false Gehazi with the Syrian's store;
So poor, that when our choosing-tribes were met, 550
Even for his stinking votes he ran in debt;
For meat the wicked, and, as authors think,
The saints he choused for his electing drink;
Thus every shift and subtle method past,
And all to be no Zaken at the last.

Now, raised on Tyre's sad ruins, Pharaoh's pride
Soar'd high, his legions threatening far and wide;
As when a battering storm engender'd high,
By winds upheld, hangs hovering in the sky,
Is gazed upon by every trembling swain - 560
This for his vineyard fears, and that, his grain;
For blooming plants, and flowers new opening these,
For lambs yean'd lately, and far-labouring bees:
To guard his stock each to the gods does call,
Uncertain where the fire-charged clouds will fall:
Even so the doubtful nations watch his arms,
With terror each expecting his alarms.
Where, Judah! where was now thy lion's roar?
Thou only couldst the captive lands restore;
But thou, with inbred broils and faction press'd, 570
From Egypt needst a guardian with the rest.
Thy prince from Sanhedrims no trust allow'd,
Too much the representers of the crowd,
Who for their own defence give no supply,
But what the crown's prerogatives must buy:
As if their monarch's rights to violate
More needful were, than to preserve the state!
From present dangers they divert their care,
And all their fears are of the royal heir;
Whom now the reigning malice of his foes 580
Unjudged would sentence, and e'er crown'd depose.
Religion the pretence, but their decree
To bar his reign, whate'er his faith shall be!
By Sanhedrims and clamorous crowds thus press'd,
What passions rent the righteous David's breast!
Who knows not how to oppose or to comply -
Unjust to grant, or dangerous to deny!
How near, in this dark juncture, Israel's fate,
Whose peace one sole expedient could create,
Which yet the extremest virtue did require, 590
Even of that prince whose downfall they conspire!
His absence David does with tears advise,
To appease their rage. Undaunted he complies.
Thus he, who, prodigal of blood and ease,
A royal life exposed to winds and seas,
At once contending with the waves and fire,
And heading danger in the wars of Tyre,
Inglorious now forsakes his native sand,
And like an exile quits the promised land!
Our monarch scarce from pressing tears refrains, 600
And painfully his royal state maintains,
Who now, embracing on the extremest shore,
Almost revokes what he enjoin'd before:
Concludes at last more trust to be allow'd
To storms and seas than to the raging crowd!
Forbear, rash muse! the parting scene to draw,
With silence charm'd as deep as theirs that saw!
Not only our attending nobles weep,
But hardy sailors swell with tears the deep!
The tide restrain'd her course, and more amazed, 610
The twin-stars on the royal brothers gazed:
While this sole fear -
Does trouble to our suffering hero bring,
Lest next the popular rage oppress the king!
Thus parting, each for the other's danger grieved,
The shore the king, and seas the prince received.
Go, injured hero! while propitious gales,
Soft as thy consort's breath, inspire thy sails;
Well may she trust her beauties on a flood,
Where thy triumphant fleets so oft have rode! 620
Safe on thy breast reclined, her rest be deep,
Rock'd like a Nereid by the waves asleep;
While happiest dreams her fancy entertain,
And to Elysian fields convert the main!
Go, injured hero! while the shores of Tyre
At thy approach so silent shall admire,
Who on thy thunder still their thoughts employ,
And greet thy landing with a trembling joy!

On heroes thus the prophet's fate is thrown,
Admired by every nation but their own; 630
Yet while our factious Jews his worth deny,
Their aching conscience gives their tongue the lie.
Even in the worst of men the noblest parts
Confess him, and he triumphs in their hearts,
Whom to his king the best respects commend
Of subject, soldier, kinsman, prince, and friend;
All sacred names of most divine esteem,
And to perfection all sustain'd by him;
Wise, just, and constant, courtly without art,
Swift to discern and to reward desert; 640
No hour of his in fruitless ease destroy'd,
But on the noblest subjects still employ'd:
Whose steady soul ne'er learn'd to separate
Between his monarch's interest and the state;
But heaps those blessings on the royal head,
Which he well knows must be on subjects shed.

On what pretence could then the vulgar rage
Against his worth and native rights engage?
Religious fears their argument are made -
Religious fears his sacred rights invade! 650
Of future superstition they complain,
And Jebusitic worship in his reign:
With such alarms his foes the crowd deceive,
With dangers fright, which not themselves believe.

Since nothing can our sacred rites remove,
Whate'er the faith of the successor prove:
Our Jews their ark shall undisturb'd retain,
At least while their religion is their gain,
Who know by old experience Baal's commands
Not only claim'd their conscience, but their lands; 660
They grudge God's tithes, how therefore shall they yield
An idol full possession of the field?
Grant such a prince enthroned, we must confess
The people's sufferings than that monarch's less,
Who must to hard conditions still be bound,
And for his quiet with the crowd compound;
Or should his thoughts to tyranny incline,
Where are the means to compass the design?
Our crown's revenues are too short a store,
And jealous Sanhedrims would give no more. 670

As vain our fears of Egypt's potent aid,
Not so has Pharaoh learn'd ambition's trade,
Nor ever with such measures can comply,
As shock the common rules of policy;
None dread like him the growth of Israel's king,
And he alone sufficient aids can bring;
Who knows that prince to Egypt can give law,
That on our stubborn tribes his yoke could draw:
At such profound expense he has not stood,
Nor dyed for this his hands so deep in blood; 680
Would ne'er through wrong and right his progress take,
Grudge his own rest, and keep the world awake,
To fix a lawless prince on Judah's throne,
First to invade our rights, and then his own;
His dear-gain'd conquests cheaply to despoil,
And reap the harvest of his crimes and toil.
We grant his wealth vast as our ocean's sand,
And curse its fatal influence on our land,
Which our bribed Jews so numerously partake,
That even an host his pensioners would make. 690
From these deceivers our divisions spring,
Our weakness, and the growth of Egypt's king;
These, with pretended friendship to the state,
Our crowds' suspicion of their prince create;
Both pleased and frighten'd with the specious cry,
To guard their sacred rites and property.
To ruin thus the chosen flock are sold,
While wolves are ta'en for guardians of the fold;
Seduced by these, we groundlessly complain,
And loathe the manna of a gentle reign: 700
Thus our forefathers' crooked paths are trod -
We trust our prince no more than they their God.
But all in vain our reasoning prophets preach,
To those whom sad experience ne'er could teach,
Who can commence new broils in bleeding scars,
And fresh remembrance of intestine wars;
When the same household mortal foes did yield,
And brothers stain'd with brothers' blood the field;
When sons' cursed steel the fathers' gore did stain,
And mothers mourn'd for sons by fathers slain! 710
When thick as Egypt's locusts on the sand,
Our tribes lay slaughter'd through the promised land,
Whose few survivors with worse fate remain,
To drag the bondage of a tyrant's reign:
Which scene of woes, unknowing we renew,
And madly, even those ills we fear, pursue;
While Pharaoh laughs at our domestic broils,
And safely crowds his tents with nations' spoils.
Yet our fierce Sanhedrim, in restless rage,
Against our absent hero still engage, 720
And chiefly urge, such did their frenzy prove,
The only suit their prince forbids to move,
Which, till obtain'd, they cease affairs of state,
And real dangers waive for groundless hate.
Long David's patience waits relief to bring,
With all the indulgence of a lawful king,
Expecting still the troubled waves would cease,
But found the raging billows still increase.
The crowd, whose insolence forbearance swells,
While he forgives too far, almost rebels. 730
At last his deep resentments silence broke,
The imperial palace shook, while thus he spoke -

Then Justice wait, and Rigour take her time,
For lo! our mercy is become our crime:
While halting Punishment her stroke delays,
Our sovereign right, Heaven's sacred trust, decays!
For whose support even subjects' interest calls,
Woe to that kingdom where the monarch falls!
That prince who yields the least of regal sway,
So far his people's freedom does betray. 740
Right lives by law, and law subsists by power;
Disarm the shepherd, wolves the flock devour.
Hard lot of empire o'er a stubborn race,
Which Heaven itself in vain has tried with grace!
When will our reason's long-charm'd eyes unclose,
And Israel judge between her friends and foes?
When shall we see expired deceivers' sway,
And credit what our God and monarchs say?
Dissembled patriots, bribed with Egypt's gold,
Even Sanhedrims in blind obedience hold; 750
Those patriots falsehood in their actions see,
And judge by the pernicious fruit the tree.
If aught for which so loudly they declaim,
Religion, laws, and freedom, were their aim,
Our senates in due methods they had led,
To avoid those mischiefs which they seem'd to dread:
But first, e'er yet they propp'd the sinking state,
To impeach and charge, as urged by private hate,
Proves that they ne'er believed the fears they press'd,
But barbarously destroy'd the nation's rest! 760
Oh! whither will ungovern'd senates drive,
And to what bounds licentious votes arrive?
When their injustice we are press'd to share,
The monarch urged to exclude the lawful heir;
Are princes thus distinguish'd from the crowd,
And this the privilege of royal blood?
But grant we should confirm the wrongs they press,
His sufferings yet were than the people's less;
Condemn'd for life the murdering sword to wield,
And on their heirs entail a bloody field. 770
Thus madly their own freedom they betray,
And for the oppression which they fear make way;
Succession fix'd by Heaven, the kingdom's bar,
Which once dissolved, admits the flood of war;
Waste, rapine, spoil, without the assault begin,
And our mad tribes supplant the fence within.
Since then their good they will not understand,
'Tis time to take the monarch's power in hand;
Authority and force to join with skill,
And save the lunatics against their will. 780
The same rough means that 'suage the crowd, appease
Our senates raging with the crowd's disease.
Henceforth unbiass'd measures let them draw
From no false gloss, but genuine text of law;
Nor urge those crimes upon religion's score,
Themselves so much in Jebusites abhor.
Whom laws convict, and only they, shall bleed,
Nor pharisees by pharisees be freed.
Impartial justice from our throne shall shower,
All shall have right, and we our sovereign power. 790

He said, the attendants heard with awful joy,
And glad presages their fix'd thoughts employ;
From Hebron now the suffering heir return'd,
A realm that long with civil discord mourn'd;
Till his approach, like some arriving God,
Composed and heal'd the place of his abode;
The deluge check'd that to Judea spread,
And stopp'd sedition at the fountain's head.
Thus, in forgiving, David's paths he drives,
And, chased from Israel, Israel's peace contrives. 800
The field confess'd his power in arms before,
And seas proclaim'd his triumphs to the shore;
As nobly has his sway in Hebron shown,
How fit to inherit godlike David's throne.
Through Sion's streets his glad arrival's spread,
And conscious faction shrinks her snaky head;
His train their sufferings think o'erpaid to see
The crowd's applause with virtue once agree.
Success charms all, but zeal for worth distress'd,
A virtue proper to the brave and best; 810
'Mongst whom was Jothran - Jothran always bent
To serve the crown, and loyal by descent;
Whose constancy so firm, and conduct just,
Deserved at once two royal masters' trust;
Who Tyre's proud arms had manfully withstood
On seas, and gather'd laurels from the flood;
Of learning yet no portion was denied,
Friend to the Muses and the Muses' pride.
Nor can Benaiah's worth forgotten lie,
Of steady soul when public storms were high; 820
Whose conduct, while the Moor fierce onsets made,
Secured at once our honour and our trade.
Such were the chiefs who most his sufferings mourn'd,
And view'd with silent joy the prince return'd;
While those that sought his absence to betray,
Press first their nauseous false respects to pay;
Him still the officious hypocrites molest,
And with malicious duty break his rest.

While real transports thus his friends employ,
And foes are loud in their dissembled joy, 830
His triumphs, so resounded far and near,
Miss'd not his young ambitious rival's ear;
And as when joyful hunters' clamorous train,
Some slumbering lion wakes in Moab's plain,
Who oft had forced the bold assailants yield,
And scatter'd his pursuers through the field,
Disdaining, furls his mane and tears the ground,
His eyes inflaming all the desert round,
With roar of seas directs his chasers' way,
Provokes from far, and dares them to the fray: 840
Such rage storm'd now in Absalom's fierce breast,
Such indignation his fired eyes confess'd.
Where now was the instructor of his pride?
Slept the old pilot in so rough a tide,
Whose wiles had from the happy shore betray'd,
And thus on shelves the credulous youth convey'd?
In deep revolving thoughts he weighs his state,
Secure of craft, nor doubts to baffle fate;
At least, if his storm'd bark must go adrift,
To balk his charge, and for himself to shift, 850
In which his dexterous wit had oft been shown,
And in the wreck of kingdoms saved his own.
But now, with more than common danger press'd,
Of various resolutions stands possess'd,
Perceives the crowd's unstable zeal decay
Lest their recanting chief the cause betray,
Who on a father's grace his hopes may ground,
And for his pardon with their heads compound.
Him therefore, e'er his fortune slip her time.
The statesman plots to engage in some bold crime 860
Past pardon - whether to attempt his bed,
Or threat with open arms the royal head,
Or other daring method, and unjust,
That may confirm him in the people's trust.
But failing thus to ensnare him, nor secure
How long his foil'd ambition may endure,
Plots next to lay him by as past his date,
And try some new pretender's luckier fate;
Whose hopes with equal toil he would pursue,
Nor care what claimer's crown'd, except the true. 870
Wake, Absalom! approaching ruin shun,
And see, O see, for whom thou art undone!
How are thy honours and thy fame betray'd,
The property of desperate villains made!
Lost power and conscious fears their crimes create,
And guilt in them was little less than fate;
But why shouldst thou, from every grievance free,
Forsake thy vineyards for their stormy sea?
For thee did Canaan's milk and honey flow,
Love dress'd thy bowers, and laurels sought thy brow; 880
Preferment, wealth, and power thy vassals were,
And of a monarch all things but the care.
Oh! should our crimes again that curse draw down,
And rebel-arms once more attempt the crown,
Sure ruin waits unhappy Absalom,
Alike by conquest or defeat undone.
Who could relentless see such youth and charms
Expire with wretched fate in impious arms?
A prince so form'd, with earth's and Heaven's applause,
To triumph o'er crown'd heads in David's cause: 890
Or grant him victor, still his hopes must fail,
Who, conquering, would not for himself prevail;
The faction whom he trusts for future sway,
Him and the public would alike betray;
Amongst themselves divide the captive state,
And found their hydra-empire in his fate!
Thus having beat the clouds with painful flight,
The pitied youth, with sceptres in his sight
(So have their cruel politics decreed),
Must by that crew, that made him guilty, bleed! 900
For, could their pride brook any prince's sway,
Whom but mild David would they choose to obey?
Who once at such a gentle reign repine,
The fall of monarchy itself design:
From hate to that their reformations spring,
And David not their grievance, but the king.
Seized now with panic fear the faction lies,
Lest this clear truth strike Absalom's charm'd eyes,
Lest he perceive, from long enchantment free,
What all beside the flatter'd youth must see: 910
But whate'er doubts his troubled bosom swell,
Fair carriage still became Achitophel,
Who now an envious festival installs,
And to survey their strength the faction calls, -
Which fraud, religious worship too must gild.
But oh! how weakly does sedition build!
For lo! the royal mandate issues forth,
Dashing at once their treason, zeal, and mirth!
So have I seen disastrous chance invade,
Where careful emmets had their forage laid, 920
Whether fierce Vulcan's rage the furzy plain
Had seized, engender'd by some careless swain;
Or swelling Neptune lawless inroads made,
And to their cell of store his flood convey'd;
The commonwealth broke up, distracted go,
And in wild haste their loaded mates o'erthrow:
Even so our scatter'd guests confusedly meet,
With boil'd, baked, roast, all justling in the street;
Dejecting all, and ruefully dismay'd,
For shekel without treat or treason paid. 930
Sedition's dark eclipse now fainter shows,

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Online LibraryJohn DrydenThe Poetical Works of John Dryden, Volume 1 With Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes → online text (page 12 of 24)