John Dryden.

The works of John Dryden, now first collected in eighteen volumes (Volume 9) online

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Heroic Stanzas to the Memory of Oliver Cromwell, 3

Notes, 15

Astrea Redux, ...,,..., 25

Notes, 41

To his Sacred Majesty, a Panegyric on his Corona-
tion, , 53

Notes, 59

To Lord Chancellor Hyde, presented on New-
year's-day, 1662, 63

Satire on the Dutch, 71

To her Royal Highness the Duchess of York, on the

Victory gained by the Duke over the Dutch, &c. 73

Notes, 79

Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Wonders, 1666, an

Historical Poem, 81

Dedication to the Metropolis of Great

Britain, 89

An Account of Annus Mirabilis, in a Let-
ter to the Hon. Sir Robert Howard, . . 92
Notes, 158




Absalom and Achitophel, Part 1 195

To the Reader, 208

Motes on Part 1 249

Part II yi9

Notes on Part II 354

V The Medal, a Satire against Sedition, 4O7

Epistle to the Whi.-s, 417

Notes, 441







THESE verses compose the earliest of our author's political
poems, and are among the first which he wrote, of any length or
-consequence. 1 he first edition is now before me, by the favour
of my friend Richard Heber, Esq.; and, while correcting this
sheet, I received another copy from Mr Finlay, author of the
41 Vale of Ellerslie." It is of the last degree of rarity, since it has
escaped the researches even of Mr Malone. -The full title is,
" A Poem upon the Death of his late Highness Oliver, Lord Pro-
tector of England, Scotland, and Ireland ; written by Mr Uryden.
London, printed for William Wilson, and are to be sold in Well-
Yard, near Little St Bartholomew's Hospital, 1659," 4to. Upoij
comparing this rare edition with those of a later date, no material
alterations occur, excepting that the spelling is modernized, and
the title abridged.

Some of our author's biographers have deemed it necessary to
apologise for his chusing this subject, by referring to his near con-
nection with Sir Gilbert Pickering, the friend and confident of the
deceased usurper. There is, however, little reason ^o suppose,
that Dryden did any violence to bis own inclinations, to gratify
the political feelings of his kinsman and patron. He had been
bred in anti-monarchical principles, and did not probably change,
till the nation changed with him. The character of Cromwell was
in itself an inviting theme to so true a poet. The man, of whom
Clarendon ^aid, that " even his enemies could not condemn him,
without commending him at the same time," and of whose exploits
Cowley has given so animating a detail ; whom, in short, his very
enemies could not mention without wonder, if they withheld ap-
plause, afforded to those who favoured his politics many a point
f view, in which the splendour of his character might hide its


blemishes.f It is remarkable, however, that, in handling this theme,
Dryden has observed a singular and happy delicacy. The topic
of the civil war'is but slightly dwelt on ; and, although Crom-
well is extolled, his eulogist abstains from any reflections against
those, through whom he cut his way to greatness. He considers the
Protector when in his meridian height, but passes over the steps by
which he attained that elevation. It is also remarkable, that al-
though Sir Gilbert Pickering was one ot Richard Cromwell's coun-
cil, our author abstains from any compliment to that pageant of
authority j when a panegyrick upon the son was a natural topic
of consolation after mourning over the loss of his father. Sprat,
upon the same occasion, did not omit this obvious topic, but

t " What can be more extraordinary, than that a person of mean birth, no
fortune, no eminent qualities of body, which have sometimes, or of mind,
which have often, raised men to the highest dignities, should have the cou-
rage to fit tempi, . and the happiness to succeed in, so improbable a design, as
the destruction of one of the most ancient, and most solirl founded monarchies
upon the earth ? That he should have the power, or bpldness, to pul his
prince and master to an open and infamous death ? To banish that numerous
and strongly allied family ? To do all this under the name and wages ot a
parliament ? To trample upon them, too, as he pleased, and spurn them out
of doors when he grew weary of them ? To raise up a new and unheard-of
monster out of their ashes ? To stifle that in the very iniancy, and set up him-
self above all things that ever were called sovereign in England ? To oppress
all his enemies by arms, and all his friends afterwards by artifice ?-To serve
all parties patiently for a while, and to command them victoriously at last ?
To over-run each corner of the three nations, and overcome with equal faci-
lity both the riches of the south and ihe poverty of the north ? To be feared
and courted by all foreign princes, and adopted a brother to the gods of the
earth ? To call together parliaments with a word ot his pen, and scatter them
again with the breath of his mouth ? To be humbly and daily petitioned,
that he would please to be hired, at the rate of two millions a year, to be the
master of those who had hired him before to be their servant ? To have the
estates and lives of three kingdoms as much at his disposal, as was the little
inheritance of his father, and to be as noble and liberal in the spending of
them ? And, lastly, (for there is no end of all the particulars of his glory,)
to bequeath all this with one word to his posterity ? To die with peace at
home, and triumph abroad P To be buried among kings, and with more than
regal solemnity ? And to leave a name behind him, not to be extinguished
but with the whole world, which as it is now too little for his praises, so
might have been too for his conquests, if the short line ol his human life could
have been stretched out to the extent of his immortal designs ? " -COWLEY'S
Works, Vol. II. p. 585.

Perhaps the facetious Tom Brown has hit upon the true reason of Dryden's
choice of a subject, when he makes him say, " that he had 110 particular kind-
ness for the person of Oliver ; but that it was much the same with the poets
as with the Jews a hero cannot start up in any quarter ot the world, be his
quarrel right or wrong, but both are apt to think him the Mfssias, and pre-
sently pitch upon him as the fittest person to deliver the melve tribes and
Ihe nine muses out of captivity." Reasons of Mr Bayes' changing his religion.


launched forth into prophecies, to which the event did very little
credit, f

Notwithstanding these symptoms of caution and moderation^
the subject ot this first public t'ssay of our author's poetical ta-
lente was repeatedly urged against him during the political contro-
versies in which, through the reigns of Charles II. and his brother,
he was constantly engaged. One offendi-d antagoni-t carried his
malice so far, as actually to reprint an edition of the Elegy, with
a dull postscript, in which he makes Dr^den acknowledge his al-
leged apostacy. J

t Nor only didst thou for thy age provide,

But for the years to come beside ;
Our after times, and late posterity,

Shall pay unto thy fame as much as we ;
They too are made by thee.
When Fate did call thee to a higher throne,

And when thy mortal work was done ;
When Heaven did say it, and thou must be gone,,

Thou him to bear thy burden chose,
Who might, it any could, make us forget thy loss.
Nor hadst thou him designed,
Had he not been,

Not only to thy blood, but virtue, kin ;
Not only heir unto thy throne, but mind :
'Tis he shall perfect all thy cares,
And with a finer thread weave out thy loom.
So one did bring the chosen people from

Their slavery and fears;
Led them through their pathless road,

Guided himself by God;

H'ad brought us to the borders, but a second hand
Did settle and secure them in the promised land.

Verses to the happy Memory of the late Lord Protector,

t This edition occurs in the Luttrell Collection, and the title runs thus :
" An Elegy on the Usurper O. C. by the Author of ' Absalom and Achito-
phelj* published to show the loyalty and integrity of the Poet."


The printing of these rhimes afflicts me more
Than all the drubs I in Rose- Alley bore ;
This shows my nauseous, mercenary pen.
Would praise the vilest and the worst of men.
A rogue like Hodge am I, the world well know it ;
Hodge was his fiddler, and I, John, his poet.
This may prevent the pay for which I write ;
For I for pay against my conscience fight.

5 Sir Roger L'Estrange, whose skill in music is said to have amused CrcKi-
.well, who had some turn that wnv.


Of the poetical merits of the Elegy, we have elsewhere spoken
more fully. The manly and solemn march of the stanza gave
promise of that acute poetical ear, which afterwards enabled Dry-
den to harmonize our versification. The ideas, though otten tar-
fetched, and sometimes ambiguously expressed, indicate the strength,
and vigour of his mind. They give obvious tokens of a regenera-
tion of taste ; for though, in many instances, the conceits are ve-
ry extravagant, yet they are, in general, much more moderate
than those in the Elegy upon Lord Hastings, whose whole soul
was rendered a celestial sphere, by the virtues which were stuck in
it; and his body little less brilliantly ornamented by the pustules
of small pox, which were first rose-buds, and then stars. The
symptoms of emerging from the false taste and impertinent witti-
cisms of Donne and Cowley, were probably more owing to our
author's natural feeling of what were the proper attributes of poe-
try, than to any change in the taste of the age. Sprat, who also
solemnizes the deceaser of Cromwell, runs absolutely riot in pinda-
rics, and furnishes as excellent an instance of useless labour, and
wit rendered ridiculous by misapplication, as can be found in Cow-
ley himself. Cromwell's elevation is compared to the raising up
of the brazen serpent, in the Pentateuch ; the classic meta-
morphosis of Ajax's blood into the hyacinth f furnishes a si-
mile for the supposed revival of letters through the blo-.d spilled
by Cromwell ; his sword is preferred to the flaming brand of the

I must confess, so infamous a knave
Can do no service, though the humblest slave :
Villains I praise, and patriots accuse; "}

My railing and my fawning talents use ;
Just as they pay, I natter or abuse
But 1 to men in power a am still.
To rub on any honest face they will.

Thus on I'll go ; for libels I declare ; "1

Best friends no more than worst ol foes I'll spare ;
And all this I can do, because I dare. 3

He who writes on, and cudgels can defy,
And, kuowing he'll be beaten, still writes on, am I.
London, printed jor J. Smith, 1681. J. IX

Thou, as once trie healing serpent rose.
Was lifted up, not for thyself, but as.

t When Ajax died, the purple blood,
That from his gaping wound had flowed.

Turned into letters ; every leaf

Had on it wrote his epitaph :
So from that crimson flood,
Which thou bj iate ot times wert led

Unwillingly to shed,
Letters and learning rose, and arts renewed/


cherub, because it had made a paradise, which the other only guard*
ed ; finally, the Protector's temper grew milder in the progress of
his warfare, as his armour, being made of steel, grew smoother by
use. I It must be allowed, that there are, in Dryden's poem,
many, and greatly too many, epigrammatic turns ; each is, how-
ever, briefly winded up in its own stanza ; while the structure
of Sprat's poem enabled him to hunt down his conceits through
all the doubling and winding of his long pindaric strophe. Dryden,
for example, says, that Cromwell strewed the island with victo-

Thick as the galaxy with stars is sown.

Sprat spins out nearly the same idea, in the following extraordi-
nary manner :

Others' great actions are

But thinly scattered, here and there ;

At best, but all one single star ;

But thine the milky way ;

All one continued light oi undistinguished day;
They thronged so close, that nought else could be seen,
Scarce any common sky did come between.

By turning the reader's attention to this comparison betwixt the
poems of Sprat and Dryden, I mean to shew, that our author was
already weaning himself from that franticly witty stile of compo-
sition, which the most ingenious of his contemporaries continued
to practise and admire; although he did not at once abandon it,
but retrenched his quaint conceits before he finally discarded

The poem of Waller on Cromwell's death, excepting one un-
happy and celebrated instance of the bathos, f is the best of his
compositions; and, separately considered, must be allowed to be
superior to that of Dryden, by whom he was soon after so far
distanced in the poetical career.

j Like steel, when it much work hath past,

That which was rough does shine at last ;
Thy arms, by being ol'tener used, did smoother grow.

t Beneath the tropics is our language spoke,
And part of Flanders has received our joke*






now 'tis time ; for their officious haste,
Who would before have borne him to the sky f
Like eager Romans, ere all rites were past,
Did let too soon the sacred eagle fly.*


Though our best notes are treason to his fame,
Joined with the loud applause of public voice;

Since heaven, what praise we offer to his name,
Hath rendered too authentic by its choice.


Though in his praise no arts can liberal be,

Since they, whose muses have the highest flown,

Add not to his immortal memory,

But do an act of friendship to their own :

* Note I.



Yet 'tis our duty, and our interest too,

Such monuments as we can build to raise ;
Lest all the world prevent whatVe should do,
And claim a title in him by their praise.


How shall I then begin, or where conclude,

To draw a fame so truly circular ?
For in a round, what order can be shewed,

Where all the parts so equal perfect are ?


His grandeur he derived from heaven alone ;

For he was great, ere fortune made him so :
And wars, like mists that rise against the sun,

Made him but greater seem, not greater grow.


No borrowed bays his temples did adorn,
But to our crown he did fresh jewels bring ;

Nor was his virtue poisoned soon as born,
With the too early thoughts of being king\


Fortune, (that easy mistress to the young,
But to her ancient servants coy and hard,)

Him at that age her favourites ranked among,
When she her best-loved Pompey did discard.*


He, private, marked the faults of others' sway,
And set as sea-marks for himself to shun ;

Not like rash monarchs, who their youth betray
By acts their age too late would wish undone.

* Note If.



And yet dominion was not his design ;

We owe that blessing, not to him, but heaven,
Which to fair acts*unsought rewards did join ;

Rewards, that less to him, than us, were given,


Our former chiefs, like sticklers of the war,

First sought to inflame the parties, then to poise :

The quarrel loved, but did the cause abhor ;
And did not strike to hurt, but make a noise f *


War, our consumption, was their gainful trade ;

We inward bled, whilst they prolonged our pain ;
He fought to end our fighting, and essayed

To staunch the blood, by breathing of the vein.f


Swift and resistless through the land he past,
Like that bold Greek, who did the East subdue;

And made to battles such heroic haste,
As if on wings of victory he flew.


He fought, secure of fortune as of fame,

Till by new maps the island might be shewn ;

Of conquests, which he strewed where'er he came,
Thick as the galaxy with stars is sown. J


His palms, though under weights they did not stand,
Still thrived ; || no winter could his laurels fade :

Heaven, in his portrait, shewed a workman's hand,-
And drew it perfect, yet without a shade.

* Note III. f Note IV. J Note V; || Note VI.



Peace was the prize of all his toil and care,

Which war had banished, and did now restore :

Bolognia's walls thus mounted in the air,
To seat themselves more surely than before.*


Her safety rescued Ireland to him owes ; f
And treacherous Scotland, to no interest true,

Yet blest that fate which did his arms dispose.
Her land to civilize, as to subdue. J


Nor was he like those stars which only shine,
When to pale mariners they storms portend;

He had his calmer influence, and his mien
Did love and majesty together blend.


'Tis true, his countenance did imprint an awe,
And naturally all souls to his did bow ;

As wands of divination downward draw,
And point to beds where sovereign gold doth grow.j[


When past all offerings to Feretrian Jove,

He Mars deposed, and arms to gowns made yield ;

Successful councils did him soon approve,
As fit for close intrigues, as open field.

* Note VII. f Note VIII. J Note IX. || Note X.

To which deity the Romans usually sacrificed before march'
ing to war, according to an ancient institution of Romulus.




To suppliant Holland he vouchsafed a peace,
Our once bold rival of the British main ;

Now tamely glad her unjust claim to cease.
And buy our friendship with her idol, gain.*


Fame of the asserted sea, through Europe blown,
Made France and !>pain ambitious of his love ;

Each knew that side must conquer he would own,
And for him fiercely, as for empire, strove.


No sooner was the Frenchman's cause embraced,
Than the light Monsieur the grave Don out-
weighed : t

His fortune turned the scale where'er 'twas cast,
Though Indian mines were in the other laid.


When absent, yet we conquered in his right;

For, though some meaner artist's skill were shown,
In mingling colours, or in placing light,

Yet still the fair.designment was his own.


For, from all tempers he could service draw;

The worth of each, with its alloy, he knew ;
And, as the confident of Nature, saw

How she complexions did divide and brew. J


Or he their single virtues did survey,
By intuition, in his own large breast ;

Where all the rich ideas of them lay,

That were the rule and measure to the rest.

* Note XI. f Note XII. $ Note XIII.



When such heroic virtue heaven sets out,
The stars, like commons, sullenly obey ;

Because it drains them when it comes about,
And therefore is a tax they seldom pay.*


From this high spring our foreign conquests flow,
Which yet more glorious triumphs do portend;

Since their commencement to his arms they owe,
If springs as high as fountains may ascend.

xxix. : .

He made us freemen of the continent,

Whom nature did like captives treat before ;

To nobler preys the English lion sent,

And taught him first in Belgian walks to roar.*}*


That old unquestioned pirate of the land,

Proud Rome, with dread the fate of Dunkirk heard;

And, trembling, wished behind more Alps to stand,
Although an Alexander were her guard. J


By his command we boldly crossed the line,
And bravely fought where southern stars arise ;

We traced the far-fetched gold unto the mine,
And that, which bribed our fathers, made our prize.

* The author seems to allude to the old proverb, " Sapiens do-
minabitur astris." The influence of the stars yielded reluctantly
to Cromwell's heroic virtues, as the commons submit sullenly to
be taxed.

f Note XIV. J Note XV. Note XVI.



Such was our prince ; yet owned a soul above
The highest acts it could produce to show :

Thus, poor mechanic arts in public move,
Whilst the deep secrets beyond practice go.


Nor died he when his ebbing fame went less,
But when fresh laurels courted him to live :

He seemed but to prevent some new success,
As if above what triumphs earth could give.


His latest victories still thickest came,
As near the centre motion doth increase ;

Till he, pressed down by his own weighty name,
Did, like the vestal, under spoils decease. *


But first the ocean as a tribute sent
The giant prince of all her watry herd ;

And the isle, when her protecting Genius went^
Upon his obsequies loud sighs conferred.!


No civil broils have since his death arose,
But faction now by habit does obey ;

And wars have that respect for his repose,

As winds for halcyons when they breed at sea.


His ashes in a peaceful urn shall rest;
His name a great example stands, to show,

How strangely high endeavours may be blessed,
Where piety and valour jointly go.

Note XVII. f Note XVIII. J Note XIX.




Note I.

And now 'tis time ; for their officious haste,
Who would before have borne him to the sky }

Like eager Romans, ere all rites were past,
Did let too soon the sacred eagle fly.

St. I. p. 8.

Cromwell's disease, a fever and tertian ague, was accompanied
by fits of swooning, which occasioned, more than once, a prema-
ture report of his death. It was probably this circumstance, which
made some of his fanatical chaplains doubt the tact, after it had
actually taken place. " Say not he is dead," exclaimed one of them,
like Omar over the corpse of Mahomet; " for, if ever the Lord
heard my prayers, he has assured me of the life of the Protector."
The two last lines of the stanza allude to the Roman custom of
letting an eagle fly from the funeral pile of a deceased emperor,
which represented his spirit soaring to the regions of bliss, or his
guardian genius convoying it thither. It is described at length
in the fourth book of Herodian, who says, that, after this cere-
mony of consecration, the deceased emperor was enrolled among
the Roman deities.

Note II,
fortune, (that easy mistress to the young,

But to her ancient servants coy and hard,}
Him at that age her favourites ranked among,
When she her best-loved Poinpey did discard.

St. VIII. p. 9.

Cromwell was upwards of forty before he made any remarkable
figure; and Pompey, when he had attained the same period of
life, was deserted by the good fortune which had accompanied
his more early career.


Note III.

Our former chiefs, like sticklers of the -war,

tirst sought to in/tame the parties, then to poise :

The quarrel loved, but did the cause abhor ;
And did not strike to hurt, but make a noise.

St. XI. p. 10.

Essex, Manchester, Sir William Waller, and the earlier generals
of the Parliament, were all of the Presbyterian party, who, though
they had drawn the sword against the king, had no will to throw
away the scabbard. They were disposed so to carry on the war,
that, neither party being too much weakened, a sound and ho-
nourable peace might have been accomplished on equal terms.
But the Independants flew at higher game ; and, as the more vio-
lent party usually prevail during times of civil discord, they attain-
ed their object. Cromwell openly accused the Earl of Manchester
of having refused to put an end to the war, after the last battle at
Newbury, when a single charge upon the King's rear might have dis-
sipated his army for ever. " I offered," he averred; " to perform
the work with my own brigade of horse ; let Manchester and the
rest look on, if they th- ught fit: but he obstinately refused to per-
mit the attempt, alleging, that, it the king's army was beaten, he
would find another; but if that of the Parliament was overthrown,
there would be an end of their cause, and they would be all pu-

Online LibraryJohn DrydenThe works of John Dryden, now first collected in eighteen volumes (Volume 9) → online text (page 1 of 36)