John Dryden.

The Poetical Works of John Dryden, Volume 2 With Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes online

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These ruins[10] shelter'd once his sacred head,
When he from Worcester's fatal battle fled;
Watch'd by the genius of this royal place,
And mighty visions of the Danish race.
His refuge then was for a temple shown:
But, he restored, 'tis now become a throne.


* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: 'Treatise of Stonehenge:' Charleton wrote a book proving,
against Inigo Jones, that Stonehenge was built by the Danes.]

[Footnote 7: 'Gilbert:' Dr William Gilbert, a physician both to Queen
Elizabeth and King James, and author of a treatise on the magnet.]

[Footnote 8: 'Harvey:' discoverer of the circulation of the blood.]

[Footnote 9: 'Ent:' a physician of the day.]

[Footnote 10: 'These ruins,' &c.: in the dedication of this book to
Charles II. is the following passage, which gave occasion to the last
six lines of this poem: - 'I have had the honour to hear from your
majesty's own mouth, that you were pleased to visit this monument, and
entertain yourself with the delightful view thereof, after the defeat of
your army at Worcester.']

* * * * *



EPISTLE III.

TO THE LADY CASTLEMAIN,[11] UPON HER ENCOURAGING HIS FIRST PLAY.


As seamen, shipwreck'd on some happy shore,
Discover wealth in lands unknown before;
And, what their art had labour'd long in vain,
By their misfortunes happily obtain:
So my much-envied Muse, by storms long tost,
Is thrown upon your hospitable coast,
And finds more favour by her ill success,
Than she could hope for by her happiness.
Once Cato's virtue did the gods oppose;
While they the victor, he the vanquish'd chose: 10
But you have done what Cato could not do,
To choose the vanquish'd, and restore him too.
Let others triumph still, and gain their cause
By their deserts, or by the world's applause;
Let merit crowns, and justice laurels give,
But let me happy by your pity live.
True poets empty fame and praise despise;
Fame is the trumpet, but your smile the prize.
You sit above, and see vain men below
Contend for what you only can bestow: 20
But those great actions others do by chance,
Are, like your beauty, your inheritance;
So great a soul, such sweetness join'd in one,
Could only spring from noble Grandison.[12]
You, like the stars, not by reflection bright,
Are born to your own heaven, and your own light;
Like them are good, but from a nobler cause,
From your own knowledge, not from nature's laws.
Your power you never use, but for defence,
To guard your own, or other's innocence: 30
Your foes are such as they, not you, have made,
And virtue may repel, though not invade.
Such courage did the ancient heroes show,
Who, when they might prevent, would wait the blow:
With such assurance as they meant to say,
We will o'ercome, but scorn the safest way.
What further fear of danger can there be?
Beauty, which captives all things, sets me free.
Posterity will judge by my success.
I had the Grecian poet's happiness, 40
Who, waving plots, found out a better way;
Some god descended, and preserved the play.
When first the triumphs of your sex were sung
By those old poets, beauty was but young,
And few admired the native red and white,
Till poets dress'd them up to charm the sight;
So beauty took on trust, and did engage
For sums of praises till she came to age.
But this long-growing debt to poetry
You justly, madam, have discharged to me, 50
When your applause and favour did infuse
New life to my condemn'd and dying Muse.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 11: 'Lady Castlemain' this lady was for many years a favourite
mistress of Charles II., and was afterwards created Duchess of
Cleveland.]

[Footnote 12: 'Grandison:' her father, killed at Edgehill.]

* * * * *



EPISTLE IV.

TO MR LEE, ON HIS "ALEXANDER."


The blast of common censure could I fear,
Before your play my name should not appear;
For 'twill be thought, and with some colour too,
I pay the bribe I first received from you;
That mutual vouchers for our fame we stand,
And play the game into each other's hand;
And as cheap pen'orths to ourselves afford,
As Bessus[13] and the brothers of the sword.
Such libels private men may well endure,
When states and kings themselves are not secure: 10
For ill men, conscious of their inward guilt,
Think the best actions on by-ends are built.
And yet my silence had not 'scaped their spite;
Then, envy had not suffer'd me to write;
For, since I could not ignorance pretend,
Such merit I must envy or commend.
So many candidates there stand for wit,
A place at court is scarce so hard to get:
In vain they crowd each other at the door;
For even reversions are all begg'd before: 20
Desert, how known soe'er, is long delay'd;
And then, too, fools and knaves are better paid.
Yet, as some actions bear so great a name,
That courts themselves are just, for fear of shame;
So has the mighty merit of your play
Extorted praise, and forced itself away.
'Tis here as 'tis at sea; who farthest goes,
Or dares the most, makes all the rest his foes.
Yet when some virtue much outgrows the rest,
It shoots too fast and high to be express'd; 30
As his heroic worth struck envy dumb,
Who took the Dutchman, and who cut the boom.
Such praise is yours, while you the passions move,
That 'tis no longer feign'd, 'tis real love,
Where nature triumphs over wretched art;
We only warm the head, but you the heart.
Always you warm; and if the rising year,
As in hot regions, brings the sun too near,
'Tis but to make your fragrant spices blow,
Which in our cooler climates will not grow. 40
They only think you animate your theme
With too much fire, who are themselves all phlegm.
Prizes would be for lags of slowest pace,
Were cripples made the judges of the race.
Despise those drones, who praise, while they accuse
The too much vigour of your youthful Muse.
That humble style which they your virtue make,
Is in your power; you need but stoop and take.
Your beauteous images must be allow'd
By all, but some vile poets of the crowd. 50
But how should any sign-post dauber know
The worth of Titian or of Angelo?
Hard features every bungler can command;
To draw true beauty shows a master's hand.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 13: 'Bessus:' a cowardly character in Beaumont and Fletcher's
comedy of 'A King and no King.']

* * * * *



EPISTLE V.

TO THE EARL OF ROSCOMMON, ON HIS EXCELLENT ESSAY ON TRANSLATED VERSE.


Whether the fruitful Nile, or Tyrian shore,
The seeds of arts and infant science bore,
'Tis sure the noble plant, translated first,
Advanced its head in Grecian gardens nursed.
The Grecians added verse: their tuneful tongue
Made Nature first, and Nature's God their song.
Nor stopp'd translation here: for conquering Rome,
With Grecian spoils, brought Grecian numbers home;
Enrich'd by those Athenian Muses more,
Than all the vanquish'd world could yield before. 10
Till barbarous nations, and more barbarous times,
Debased the majesty of verse to rhymes:
Those rude at first; a kind of hobbling prose,
That limp'd along, and tinkled in the close.
But Italy, reviving from the trance
Of Vandal, Goth, and Monkish ignorance,
With pauses, cadence, and well-vowell'd words,
And all the graces a good ear affords,
Made rhyme an art, and Dante's polish'd page
Restored a silver, not a golden age. 20
Then Petrarch follow'd, and in him we see
What rhyme improved in all its height can be:
At best a pleasing sound, and fair barbarity.
The French pursued their steps; and Britain, last,
In manly sweetness all the rest surpass'd.
The wit of Greece, the gravity of Rome,
Appear exalted in the British loom:
The Muses' empire is restored again,
In Charles' reign, and by Roscommon's pen.
Yet modestly he does his work survey, 30
And calls a finish'd Poem an Essay;
For all the needful rules are scatter'd here;
Truth smoothly told, and pleasantly severe;
So well is art disguised, for nature to appear.
Nor need those rules to give translation light:
His own example is a flame so bright,
That he who but arrives to copy well
Unguided will advance, unknowing will excel.
Scarce his own Horace could such rules ordain,
Or his own Virgil sing a nobler strain. 40
How much in him may rising Ireland boast -
How much in gaining him has Britain lost!
Their island in revenge has ours reclaim'd;
The more instructed we, the more we still are shamed.
'Tis well for us his generous blood did flow,
Derived from British channels long ago,
That here his conquering ancestors were nursed;
And Ireland but translated England first:
By this reprisal we regain our right,
Else must the two contending nations fight; 50
A nobler quarrel for his native earth,
Than what divided Greece for Homer's birth.
To what perfection will our tongue arrive,
How will invention and translation thrive,
When authors nobly born will bear their part,
And not disdain the inglorious praise of art!
Great generals thus, descending from command,
With their own toil provoke the soldier's hand.
How will sweet Ovid's ghost be pleased to hear
His fame augmented by an English peer;[14] 60
How he embellishes his Helen's loves,
Outdoes his softness, and his sense improves;
When these translate, and teach translators too,
Nor firstling kid, nor any vulgar vow,
Should at Apollo's grateful altar stand.
Roscommon writes; to that auspicious hand,
Muse, feed the bull that spurns the yellow sand.
Roscommon, whom both court and camps commend,
True to his prince, and faithful to his friend;
Roscommon first in fields of honour known, 70
First in the peaceful triumphs of the gown;
Who both Minervas justly makes his own.
Now let the few beloved by Jove, and they
Whom infused Titan form'd of better clay,
On equal terms with ancient wit engage,
Nor mighty Homer fear, nor sacred Virgil's page:
Our English palace opens wide in state;
And without stooping they may pass the gate.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 14: 'An English peer:' the Earl of Mulgrave.]

* * * * *



EPISTLE VI.

TO THE DUCHESS OF YORK, ON HER RETURN FROM SCOTLAND IN THE YEAR 1682.


When factious rage to cruel exile drove
The queen of beauty,[15] and the court of love,
The Muses droop'd, with their forsaken arts,
And the sad Cupids broke their useless darts:
Our fruitful plains to wilds and deserts turn'd
Like Eden's face, when banish'd man it mourn'd,
Love was no more, when loyalty was gone,
The great supporter of his awful throne.
Love could no longer after beauty stay,
But wander'd northward to the verge of day, 10
As if the sun and he had lost their way.
But now the illustrious nymph, return'd again,
Brings every grace triumphant in her train.
The wondering Nereids, though they raised no storm,
Foreflow'd her passage, to behold her form:
Some cried, A Venus; some, A Thetis, pass'd;
But this was not so fair, nor that so chaste.
Far from her sight flew Faction, Strife, and Pride;
And Envy did but look on her, and died.
Whate'er we suffer'd from our sullen fate, 20
Her sight is purchased at an easy rate.
Three gloomy years against this day were set,
But this one mighty sum has clear'd the debt:
Like Joseph's dream, but with a better doom,
The famine past, the plenty still to come.
For her the weeping heavens become serene;
For her the ground is clad in cheerful green:
For her the nightingales are taught to sing,
And Nature has for her delay'd the spring.
The Muse resumes her long-forgotten lays; 30
And Love, restored his ancient realm surveys,
Recalls our beauties, and revives our plays;
His waste dominions peoples once again,
And from her presence dates his second reign.
But awful charms on her fair forehead sit,
Dispensing what she never will admit:
Pleasing, yet cold, like Cynthia's silver beam,
The people's wonder, and the poet's theme.
Distemper'd Zeal, Sedition, canker'd Hate,
No more shall vex the Church, and tear the State: 40
No more shall Faction civil discords move,
Or only discords of too tender love:
Discord, like that of music's various parts;
Discord, that makes the harmony of hearts;
Discord, that only this dispute shall bring,
Who best should love the Duke, and serve the King.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 15: 'Queen of beauty:' Mary D'Este, the beautiful second wife
of the Duke of York; she had been banished to Scotland.]

* * * * *



EPISTLE VII.

A LETTER TO SIR GEORGE ETHEREGE.[16]


To you who live in chill degree,
As map informs, of fifty-three,
And do not much for cold atone,
By bringing thither fifty-one,
Methinks all climes should be alike,
From tropic e'en to pole arctique;
Since you have such a constitution
As nowhere suffers diminution.
You can be old in grave debate,
And young in love-affairs of state; 10
And both to wives and husbands show
The vigour of a plenipo.
Like mighty missioner you come
"Ad Partes Infidelium."
A work of wondrous merit sure,
So far to go, so much t' endure;
And all to preach to German dame,
Where sound of Cupid never came.
Less had you done, had you been sent
As far as Drake or Pinto went, 20
For cloves or nutmegs to the line-a,
Or even for oranges to China.
That had indeed been charity;
Where love-sick ladies helpless lie,
Chapt, and for want of liquor dry.
But you have made your zeal appear
Within the circle of the Bear.
What region of the earth's so dull
That is not of your labours full?
Triptolemus (so sung the Nine) 30
Strew'd plenty from his cart divine,
But spite of all these fable-makers,
He never sow'd on Almain acres:
No; that was left by Fate's decree,
To be perform'd and sung by thee.
Thou break'st through forms with as much ease
As the French king through articles.
In grand affairs thy days are spent,
In waging weighty compliment,
With such as monarchs represent. 40
They, whom such vast fatigues attend,
Want some soft minutes to unbend,
To show the world that now and then
Great ministers are mortal men.
Then Rhenish rammers walk the round;
In bumpers every king is crown'd;
Besides three holy mitred Hectors,
And the whole college of Electors,
No health of potentate is sunk,
That pays to make his envoy drunk. 50
These Dutch delights I mention'd last
Suit not, I know, your English taste:
For wine to leave a whore or play
Was ne'er your Excellency's way.
Nor need this title give offence,
For here you were your Excellence,
For gaming, writing, speaking, keeping,
His Excellence for all but sleeping.
Now if you tope in form, and treat,
'Tis the sour sauce to the sweet meat, 60
The fine you pay for being great.
Nay, here's a harder imposition,
Which is indeed the court's petition,
That setting worldly pomp aside,
Which poet has at font denied,
You would be pleased in humble way
To write a trifle call'd a play.
This truly is a degradation,
But would oblige the crown and nation
Next to your wise negotiation. 70
If you pretend, as well you may,
Your high degree, your friends will say,
The Duke St Aignon made a play.
If Gallic wit convince you scarce,
His Grace of Bucks has made a farce,
And you, whose comic wit is terse all,
Can hardly fall below rehearsal.
Then finish what you have began;
But scribble faster, if you can:
For yet no George, to our discerning, 80
Has writ without a ten years' warning.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 16: Written to Etherege, then at Ratisbon, in reply to one
from Sir George to the Earl of Middleton, at the Earl's request.]

* * * * *



EPISTLE VIII.

TO MR SOUTHERNE, ON HIS COMEDY CALLED "THE WIVES' EXCUSE."


Sure there's a fate in plays, and 'tis in vain
To write, while these malignant planets reign.
Some very foolish influence rules the pit,
Not always kind to sense, or just to wit:
And whilst it lasts, let buffoonry succeed
To make us laugh; for never was more need.
Farce, in itself, is of a nasty scent;
But the gain smells not of the excrement.
The Spanish nymph, a wit and beauty too,
With all her charms, bore but a single show: 10
But let a monster Muscovite appear,
He draws a crowded audience round the year.
May be thou hast not pleased the box and pit;
Yet those who blame thy tale applaud thy wit:
So Terence plotted, but so Terence writ.
Like his thy thoughts are true, thy language clean
Even lewdness is made moral in thy scene.
The hearers may for want of Nokes repine;
But rest secure, the readers will be thine.
Nor was thy labour'd drama damn'd or hiss'd, 20
But with a kind civility dismiss'd;
With such good manners, as the Wife[17] did use,
Who, not accepting, did but just refuse.
There was a glance at parting; such a look,
As bids thee not give o'er, for one rebuke.
But if thou wouldst be seen, as well as read,
Copy one living author, and one dead:
The standard of thy style let Etherege be;
For wit, the immortal spring of Wycherly:
Learn, after both, to draw some just design, 30
And the next age will learn to copy thine.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 17: 'Wife:' the wife in the play, Mrs Friendall.]

* * * * *



EPISTLE IX.

TO HENRY HIGDEN,[18] ESQ., ON HIS TRANSLATION OF THE TENTH SATIRE OF
JUVENAL.


The Grecian wits, who Satire first began,
Were pleasant Pasquins on the life of man;
At mighty villains, who the state oppress'd,
They durst not rail, perhaps; they lash'd, at least,
And turn'd them out of office with a jest.
No fool could peep abroad, but ready stand
The drolls to clap a bauble in his hand.
Wise legislators never yet could draw
A fop within the reach of common law;
For posture, dress, grimace, and affectation, 10
Though foes to sense, are harmless to the nation.
Our last redress is dint of verse to try,
And Satire is our Court of Chancery.
This way took Horace to reform an age,
Not bad enough to need an author's rage:
But yours,[19] who lived in more degenerate times,
Was forced to fasten deep, and worry crimes.
Yet you, my friend, have temper'd him so well,
You make him smile in spite of all his zeal:
An art peculiar to yourself alone, 20
To join the virtues of two styles in one.

Oh! were your author's principle received,
Half of the labouring world would be relieved:
For not to wish is not to be deceived.
Revenge would into charity be changed,
Because it costs too dear to be revenged:
It costs our quiet and content of mind,
And when 'tis compass'd leaves a sting behind.
Suppose I had the better end o' the staff,
Why should I help the ill-natured world to laugh? 30
'Tis all alike to them, who get the day;
They love the spite and mischief of the fray.
No; I have cured myself of that disease;
Nor will I be provoked, but when I please:
But let me half that cure to you restore;
You gave the salve, I laid it to the sore.

Our kind relief against a rainy day,
Beyond a tavern, or a tedious play,
We take your book, and laugh our spleen away.
If all your tribe, too studious of debate, 40
Would cease false hopes and titles to create,
Led by the rare example you begun,
Clients would fail, and lawyers be undone.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 18: 'Higden:' author of a bad comedy, which was condemned.]

[Footnote 19: 'Yours:' Juvenal, the tenth satire of whom Higden had
translated.]

* * * * *



EPISTLE X.

TO MY DEAR FRIEND MR CONGREVE, ON HIS COMEDY CALLED "THE DOUBLE-DEALER."


Well, then, the promised hour is come at last,
The present age of wit obscures the past:
Strong were our sires, and as they fought they writ,
Conquering with force of arms, and dint of wit:
Theirs was the giant race, before the flood;
And thus, when Charles return'd, our empire stood.
Like Janus he the stubborn soil manured,
With rules of husbandry the rankness cured;
Tamed us to manners, when the stage was rude;
And boisterous English wit with art endued. 10
Our age was cultivated thus at length;
But what we gain'd in skill we lost in strength.
Our builders were with want of genius cursed;
The second temple was not like the first:
Till you, the best Vitruvius, come at length;
Our beauties equal, but excel our strength.
Firm Doric pillars found your solid base:
The fair Corinthian crowns the higher space:
Thus all below is strength, and all above is grace.
In easy dialogue is Fletcher's praise; 20
He moved the mind, but had not power to raise.
Great Jonson did by strength of judgment please;
Yet, doubling Fletcher's force, he wants his ease.
In differing talents both adorn'd their age;
One for the study, the other for the stage.
But both to Congreve justly shall submit -
One match'd in judgment, both o'ermatch'd in wit.
In him all beauties of this age we see,
Etherege's courtship, Southerne's purity,
The satire, wit, and strength of manly Wycherly. 30
All this in blooming youth you have achieved:
Nor are your foil'd contemporaries grieved.
So much the sweetness of your manners move,
We cannot envy you, because we love.
Fabius might joy in Scipio, when he saw
A beardless consul made against the law,
And join his suffrage to the votes of Rome;
Though he with Hannibal was overcome.
Thus old Romano bow'd to Raphael's fame,
And scholar to the youth he taught became. 40

O that your brows my laurel had sustain'd!
Well had I been deposed, if you had reign'd:
The father had descended for the son;
For only you are lineal to the throne.
Thus, when the state one Edward did depose,
A greater Edward in his room arose:
But now, not I, but poetry is cursed;
For Tom the second reigns like Tom the first.
But let them not mistake my patron's part,
Nor call his charity their own desert. 50
Yet this I prophesy: Thou shalt be seen
(Though with some short parenthesis between)
High on the throne of wit, and, seated there,
Not mine, that's little, but thy laurel wear.
Thy first attempt an early promise made;
That early promise this has more than paid.
So bold, yet so judiciously you dare,
That your least praise is to be regular.
Time, place, and action, may with pains be wrought;
But genius must be born, and never can be taught, 60
This is your portion; this your native store;
Heaven, that but once was prodigal before,
To Shakspeare gave as much; she could not give him more.

Maintain your post: that's all the fame you need;
For 'tis impossible you should proceed.
Already I am worn with cares and age,
And just abandoning the ungrateful stage:
Unprofitably kept at Heaven's expense,
I live a rent-charge on his providence:



Online LibraryJohn DrydenThe Poetical Works of John Dryden, Volume 2 With Life, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes → online text (page 3 of 25)