John Dryden – Poetry


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►→see also: ►→An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, by John Dryden
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“Lines on Milton”

Three poets, in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England, did adorn.
The first in loftiness of thought surpass’d,
The next in majesty, in both the last:
The force of Nature could no farther go;
To make a third she join’d the former two.

[These lines were printed under the engraved portrait of Milton in Jacob Tonson’s Folio Edition of Paradise Lost, 1688]

Ah, how sweet it is to love!

AH, how sweet it is to love!
Ah, how gay is young Desire!
And what pleasing pains we prove
When we first approach Love’s fire!
Pains of love be sweeter far 5
Than all other pleasures are.

Sighs which are from lovers blown
Do but gently heave the heart:
Ev’n the tears they shed alone
Cure, like trickling balm, their smart: 10
Lovers, when they lose their breath,
Bleed away in easy death.

Love and Time with reverence use,
Treat them like a parting friend;
Nor the golden gifts refuse 15
Which in youth sincere they send:
For each year their price is more,
And they less simple than before.

Love, like spring-tides full and high,
Swells in every youthful vein; 20
But each tide does less supply,
Till they quite shrink in again:
If a flow in age appear,
‘Tis but rain, and runs not clear.

Alexander’s Feast; or, the Power of Music

‘TWAS at the royal feast for Persia won
By Philip’s warlike son—
Aloft in awful state
The godlike hero sate
On his imperial throne; 5
His valiant peers were placed around,
Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound
(So should desert in arms be crown’d);
The lovely Thais by his side
Sate like a blooming Eastern bride 10
In flower of youth and beauty’s pride:—
Happy, happy, happy pair!
None but the brave
None but the brave
None but the brave deserves the fair! 15

Timotheus placed on high
Amid the tuneful quire
With flying fingers touch’d the lyre:
The trembling notes ascend the sky
And heavenly joys inspire. 20
The song began from Jove
Who left his blissful seats above
Such is the power of mighty love!
A dragon’s fiery form belied the god;
Sublime on radiant spires he rode 25
When he to fair Olympia prest,
And while he sought her snowy breast,
Then round her slender waist he curl’d,
And stamp’d an image of himself, a sovereign of the world.
—The listening crowd admire the lofty sound; 30
A present deity! they shout around:
A present deity! the vaulted roofs rebound:
With ravish’d ears
The monarch hears,
Assumes the god; 35
Affects to nod
And seems to shake the spheres.

The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
Of Bacchus ever fair and ever young:
The jolly god in triumph comes; 40
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!
Flush’d with a purple grace
He shows his honest face:
Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes!
Bacchus, ever fair and young, 45
Drinking joys did first ordain;
Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure:
Rich the treasure,
Sweet the pleasure, 50
Sweet is pleasure after pain.

Soothed with the sound, the king grew vain;
Fought all his battles o’er again,
And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain!
The master saw the madness rise, 55
His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes;
And while he Heaven and Earth defied
Changed his hand and check’d his pride.
He chose a mournful Muse
Soft pity to infuse: 60
He sung Darius great and good,
By too severe a fate
Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,
Fallen from his high estate.
And weltering in his blood; 65
Deserted at his utmost need
By those his former bounty fed;
On the bare earth exposed he lies
With not a friend to close his eyes.
—With downcast looks the joyless victor sate, 70
Revolving in his alter’d soul
The various turns of chance below;
And now and then a sigh he stole,
And tears began to flow.

The mighty master smiled to see 75
That love was in the next degree;
‘Twas but a kindred sound to move,
For pity melts the mind to love.
Softly sweet, in Lydian measures
Soon he soothed his soul to pleasures. 80
War, he sung, is toil and trouble,
Honour but an empty bubble;
Never ending, still beginning,
Fighting still, and still destroying;
If the world be worth thy winning, 85
Think, O think, it worth enjoying:
Lovely Thais sits beside thee,
Take the good the gods provide thee!
—The many rend the skies with loud applause;
So Love was crown’d, but Music won the cause. 90
The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
Gazed on the fair
Who caused his care,
And sigh’d and look’d, sigh’d and look’d,
Sigh’d and look’d, and sigh’d again: 95
At length with love and wine at once opprest
The vanquish’d victor sunk upon her breast.

Now strike the golden lyre again:
A louder yet, and yet a louder strain!
Break his bands of sleep asunder 100
And rouse him like a rattling peal of thunder.
Hark, hark! the horrid sound
Has raised up his head:
As awaked from the dead
And amazed he stares around. 105
Revenge, revenge, Timotheus cries,
See the Furies arise!
See the snakes that they rear
How they hiss in their hair,
And the sparkles that flash from their eyes! 110
Behold a ghastly band,
Each a torch in his hand!
Those are Grecian ghosts, that in battle were slain
And unburied remain
Inglorious on the plain: 115
Give the vengeance due
To the valiant crew!
Behold how they toss their torches on high,
How they point to the Persian abodes
And glittering temples of their hostile gods. 120
—The princes applaud with a furious joy:
And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
Thais led the way
To light him to his prey,
And like another Helen, fired another Troy! 125

Thus, long ago,
Ere heaving bellows learn’d to blow,
While organs yet were mute,
Timotheus, to his breathing flute
And sounding lyre 130
Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.
At last divine Cecilia came.
Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast from her sacred store
Enlarged the former narrow bounds, 135
And added length to solemn sounds,
With Nature’s mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
—Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
Or both divide the crown;
He raised a mortal to the skies, 140
She drew an angel down!

A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1687

FROM harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
When nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head, 5
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
‘Arise, ye more than dead!’
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap,
And Music’s power obey. 10
From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man. 15

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound: 20
Less than a God they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell,
That spoke so sweetly, and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

The trumpet’s loud clangour 25
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger,
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum 30
Cries Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, ’tis too late to retreat!

The soft complaining flute,
In dying notes, discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers, 35
Whose dirge is whisper’d by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion, 40
For the fair, disdainful dame.

But O, what art can teach,
What human voice can reach,
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love, 45
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race;
And trees unrooted left their place,
Sequacious of the lyre; 50
But bright Cecilia rais’d the wonder higher:
When to her organ vocal breath was given,
An angel heard, and straight appear’d
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.

GRAND CHORUS.

As from the power of sacred lays 55
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator’s praise
To all the Blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour, 60
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky!

Song for St. Cecilia’s Day, 1687

FROM Harmony, from heavenly Harmony
This universal frame began:
When Nature underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay
And could not heave her head, 5
The tuneful voice was heard from high,
Arise, ye more than dead!

Then cold and hot, and moist and dry,
In order to their stations leap.
And Music’s power obey. 10
From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began:
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man. 15

What passion cannot Music raise and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell
His listening brethren stood around,
And, wondering, on their faces fell
To worship that celestial sound. 20
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

The trumpet’s loud clangor 25
Excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger
And mortal alarms.
The double double double beat
Of the thundering drum 30
Cries, “Hark! the foes come;
Charge, charge, ’tis too late to retreat!”

The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers, 35
Whose dirge is whisper’d by the warbling lute.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation,
Fury, frantic indignation,
Depth of pains, and height of passion 40
For the fair disdainful dame.

But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ’s praise?
Notes inspiring holy love, 45
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To mend the choirs above.

Orpheus could lead the savage race,
And trees unrooted left their place
Sequacious of the lyre: 50
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her Organ vocal breath was given
An Angel heard, and straight appear’d—
Mistaking earth for heaven.

Grand Chorus.

As from the power of sacred lays 55
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator’s praise
To all the blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour, 60
The trumpet shall be heard on high,
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky.

Hidden Flame

I FEED a flame within, which so torments me
That it both pains my heart, and yet contents me:
‘Tis such a pleasing smart, and I so love it,
That I had rather die than once remove it.

Yet he, for whom I grieve, shall never know it; 5
My tongue does not betray, nor my eyes show it.
Not a sigh, nor a tear, my pain discloses,
But they fall silently, like dew on roses.

Thus, to prevent my Love from being cruel,
My heart ‘s the sacrifice, as ’tis the fuel; 10
And while I suffer this to give him quiet,
My faith rewards my love, though he deny it.

On his eyes will I gaze, and there delight me;
While I conceal my love no frown can fright me.
To be more happy I dare not aspire, 15
Nor can I fall more low, mounting no higher.

Ode

To the Pious Memory of the accomplished young lady,
Mrs. Anne Killigrew, excellent in the two sister arts of Poesy and Painting

THOU youngest virgin-daughter of the skies,
Made in the last promotion of the blest;
Whose palms, new pluck’d from Paradise,
In spreading branches more sublimely rise,
Rich with immortal green above the rest: 5
Whether, adopted to some neighbouring star,
Thou roll’st above us, in thy wandering race,
Or, in procession fixt and regular,
Mov’d with the heaven’s majestic pace;
Or, call’d to more superior bliss, 10
Thou tread’st with seraphims the vast abyss:
Whatever happy region is thy place,
Cease thy celestial song a little space;
Thou wilt have time enough for hymns divine,
Since Heaven’s eternal year is thine. 15
Hear, then, a mortal Muse thy praise rehearse,
In no ignoble verse;
But such as thy own voice did practise here,
When thy first-fruits of Poesy were given,
To make thyself a welcome inmate there; 20
While yet a young probationer,
And candidate of heaven.

If by traduction came thy mind,
Our wonder is the less, to find
A soul so charming from a stock so good; 25
Thy father was transfus’d into thy blood:
So wert thou born into the tuneful strain,
An early, rich, and inexhausted vein.
But if thy pre-existing soul
Was form’d at first with myriads more, 30
It did through all the mighty poets roll
Who Greek or Latin laurels wore,
And was that Sappho last, which once it was before.
If so, then cease thy flight, O heaven-born mind!
Thou hast no dross to purge from thy rich ore: 35
Nor can thy soul a fairer mansion find,
Than was the beauteous frame she left behind:
Return, to fill or mend the quire of thy celestial kind.

May we presume to say, that, at thy birth,
New joy was sprung in heaven as well as here on earth? 40
For sure the milder planets did combine
On thy auspicious horoscope to shine,
And even the most malicious were in trine.
Thy brother-angels at thy birth
Strung each his lyre, and tun’d it high, 45
That all the people of the sky
Might know a poetess was born on earth;
And then, if ever, mortal ears
Had heard the music of the spheres.
And if no clust’ring swarm of bees 50
On thy sweet mouth distill’d their golden dew,
‘Twas that such vulgar miraclès
Heaven had not leisure to renew:
For all the blest fraternity of love
Solemniz’d there thy birth, and kept thy holiday above. 55

O gracious God! how far have we
Profan’d thy heavenly gift of Poesy!
Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,
Debas’d to each obscene and impious use,
Whose harmony was first ordain’d above, 60
For tongues of angels and for hymns of love!
O wretched we! why were we hurried down
This lubrique and adulterate age
(Nay, added fat pollutions of our own),
To increase the streaming ordures of the stage? 65
What can we say to excuse our second fall?
Let this thy Vestal, Heaven, atone for all!
Her Arethusian stream remains unsoil’d,
Unmixt with foreign filth, and undefil’d;
Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child. 70

Art she had none, yet wanted none,
For Nature did that want supply:
So rich in treasures of her own,
She might our boasted stores defy:
Such noble vigour did her verse adorn, 75
That it seem’d borrow’d, where ’twas only born.
Her morals, too, were in her bosom bred,
By great examples daily fed,
What in the best of books, her father’s life, she read.
And to be read herself she need not fear; 80
Each test, and every light, her Muse will bear,
Though Epictetus with his lamp were there.
Even love (for love sometimes her Muse exprest)
Was but a lambent flame which play’d about her breast,
Light as the vapours of a morning dream; 85
So cold herself, whilst she such warmth exprest,
‘Twas Cupid bathing in Diana’s stream….

Now all those charms, that blooming grace,
The well-proportion’d shape, and beauteous face,
Shall never more be seen by mortal eyes; 90
In earth the much-lamented virgin lies.
Not wit, nor piety could fate prevent;
Nor was the cruel destiny content
To finish all the murder at a blow,
To sweep at once her life and beauty too; 95
But, like a harden’d felon, took a pride
To work more mischievously slow,
And plunder’d first, and then destroy’d.
O double sacrilege on things divine,
To rob the relic, and deface the shrine! 100
But thus Orinda died:
Heaven, by the same disease, did both translate;
As equal were their souls, so equal was their fate.

Meantime, her warlike brother on the seas
His waving streamers to the winds displays, 105
And vows for his return, with vain devotion, pays.
Ah, generous youth! that wish forbear,
The winds too soon will waft thee here!
Slack all thy sails, and fear to come,
Alas, thou know’st not, thou art wreck’d at home! 110
No more shalt thou behold thy sister’s face,
Thou hast already had her last embrace.
But look aloft, and if thou kenn’st from far,
Among the Pleiads a new kindl’d star,
If any sparkles than the rest more bright, 115
‘Tis she that shines in that propitious light.

When in mid-air the golden trump shall sound,
To raise the nations under ground;
When, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
The judging God shall close the book of Fate, 120
And there the last assizes keep
For those who wake and those who sleep;
When rattling bones together fly
From the four corners of the sky;
When sinews o’er the skeletons are spread, 125
Those cloth’d with flesh, and life inspires the dead;
The sacred poets first shall hear the sound,
And foremost from the tomb shall bound,
For they are cover’d with the lightest ground;
And straight, with inborn vigour, on the wing, 130
Like mounting larks, to the new morning sing.
There thou, sweet Saint, before the quire shalt go,
As harbinger of Heaven, the way to show,
The way which thou so well hast learn’d below.

Song to a Fair Young Lady,
going out of the Town in the Spring

ASK not the cause why sullen Spring
So long delays her flowers to bear;
Why warbling birds forget to sing,
And winter storms invert the year:
Chloris is gone; and fate provides 5
To make it Spring where she resides.

Chloris is gone, the cruel fair;
She cast not back a pitying eye:
But left her lover in despair
To sigh, to languish, and to die: 10
Ah! how can those fair eyes endure
To give the wounds they will not cure?

Great God of Love, why hast thou made
A face that can all hearts command,
That all religions can invade, 15
And change the laws of every land?
Where thou hadst plac’d such power before,
Thou shouldst have made her mercy more.

When Chloris to the temple comes,
Adoring crowds before her fall; 20
She can restore the dead from tombs
And every life but mine recall.
I only am by Love design’d
To be the victim for mankind.

Alexander’s Feast

I
1 ‘T was at the royal feast, for Persia won
2 By Philip’s warlike son:
3 Aloft in awful state
4 The godlike hero sate
5 On his imperial throne;
6 His valiant peers were plac’d around;
7 Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound:
8 (So should desert in arms be crown’d.)
9 The lovely Thais, by his side,
10 Sate like a blooming Eastern bride
11 In flow’r of youth and beauty’s pride.
12 Happy, happy, happy pair!
13 None but the brave,
14 None but the brave,
15 None but the brave deserves the fair.

CHORUS

16 Happy, happy, happy pair!
17 None but the brave,
18 None but the brave,
19 None but the brave deserves the fair.

II
20 Timotheus, plac’d on high
21 Amid the tuneful choir,
22 With flying fingers touch’d the lyre:
23 The trembling notes ascend the sky,
24 And heav’nly joys inspire.
25 The song began from Jove,
26 Who left his blissful seats above,
27 (Such is the pow’r of mighty love.)
28 A dragon’s fiery form belied the god:
29 Sublime on radiant spires he rode,
30 When he to fair Olympia press’d;
31 And while he sought her snowy breast:
32 Then, round her slender waist he curl’d,
33 And stamp’d an image of himself, a sov’reign of the world.
34 The list’ning crowd admire the lofty sound,
35 “A present deity,” they shout around:
36 “A present deity,” the vaulted roofs rebound.
37 With ravish’d ears
38 The monarch hears,
39 Assumes the god,
40 Affects to nod,
41 And seems to shake the spheres.

CHORUS

42 With ravish’d ears
43 The monarch hears,
44 Assumes the god,
45 Affects to nod,
46 And seems to shake the spheres.

III
47 The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
48 Of Bacchus ever fair and ever young:
49 The jolly god in triumph comes;
50 Sound the trumpets; beat the drums;
51 Flush’d with a purple grace
52 He shews his honest face:
53 Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes.
54 Bacchus, ever fair and young
55 Drinking joys did first ordain;
56 Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
57 Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure;
58 Rich the treasure,
59 Sweet the pleasure,
60 Sweet is pleasure after pain.

CHORUS

61 Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
62 Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure;
63 Rich the treasure,
64 Sweet the pleasure,
65 Sweet is pleasure after pain.

IV
66 Sooth’d with the sound, the king grew vain;
67 Fought all his battles o’er again;
68 And thrice he routed all his foes; and thrice he slew the slain.
69 The master saw the madness rise,
70 His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes;
71 And, while he heav’n and earth defied,
72 Chang’d his hand, and check’d his pride.
73 He chose a mournful Muse,
74 Soft pity to infuse;
75 He sung Darius great and good,
76 By too severe a fate,
77 Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,
78 Fallen from his high estate,
79 And welt’ring in his blood;
80 Deserted, at his utmost need
81 By those his former bounty fed;
82 On the bare earth expos’d he lies,
83 With not a friend to close his eyes.
84 With downcast looks the joyless victor sate,
85 Revolving in his alter’d soul
86 The various turns of chance below;
87 And, now and then, a sigh he stole,
88 And tears began to flow.

CHORUS

89 Revolving in his alter’d soul
90 The various turns of chance below;
91 And, now and then, a sigh he stole,
92 And tears began to flow.

V
93 The mighty master smil’d to see
94 That love was in the next degree;
95 ‘T was but a kindred sound to move,
96 For pity melts the mind to love.
97 Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
98 Soon he sooth’d his soul to pleasures.
99 “War,” he sung, “is toil and trouble;
100 Honour, but an empty bubble.
101 Never ending, still beginning,
102 Fighting still, and still destroying:
103 If the world be worth thy winning,
104 Think, O think it worth enjoying.
105 Lovely Thais sits beside thee,
106 Take the good the gods provide thee.”
107 The many rend the skies with loud applause;
108 So Love was crown’d, but Music won the cause.
109 The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
110 Gaz’d on the fair
111 Who caus’d his care,
112 And sigh’d and look’d, sigh’d and look’d,
113 Sigh’d and look’d, and sigh’d again:
114 At length, with love and wine at once oppress’d,
115 The vanquish’d victor sunk upon her breast.

CHORUS

116 The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
117 Gaz’d on the fair
118 Who caus’d his care,
119 And sigh’d and look’d, sigh’d and look’d,
120 Sigh’d and look’d, and sigh’d again:
121 At length, with love and wine at once oppress’d,
122 The vanquish’d victor sunk upon her breast.

VI
123 Now strike the golden lyre again:
124 A louder yet, and yet a louder strain.
125 Break his bands of sleep asunder,
126 And rouse him, like a rattling peal of thunder.
127 Hark, hark, the horrid sound
128 Has rais’d up his head:
129 As wak’d from the dead,
130 And amaz’d, he stares around.
131 “Revenge, revenge!” Timotheus cries,
132 “See the Furies arise!
133 See the snakes that they rear,
134 How they hiss in their hair,
135 And the sparkles that flash from their eyes!
136 Behold a ghastly band,
137 Each a torch in his hand!
138 Those are Grecian ghosts, that in battle were slain,
139 And unburied remain
140 Inglorious on the plain:
141 Give the vengeance due
142 To the valiant crew.
143 Behold how they toss their torches on high,
144 How they point to the Persian abodes,
145 And glitt’ring temples of their hostile gods!”
146 The princes applaud, with a furious joy;
147 And the king seiz’d a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
148 Thais led the way,
149 To light him to his prey,
150 And, like another Helen, fir’d another Troy.

CHORUS

151 And the king seiz’d a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
152 Thais led the way,
153 To light him to his prey,
154 And, like another Helen, fir’d another Troy.

VII
155 Thus long ago,
156 Ere heaving bellows learn’d to blow,
157 While organs yet were mute;
158 Timotheus, to his breathing flute,
159 And sounding lyre,
160 Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire.
161 At last, divine Cecilia came,
162 Inventress of the vocal frame;
163 The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,
164 Enlarg’d the former narrow bounds,
165 And added length to solemn sounds,
166 With nature’s mother wit, and arts unknown before.
167 Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
168 Or both divide the crown:
169 He rais’d a mortal to the skies;
170 She drew an angel down.

GRAND CHORUS

171 At last, divine Cecilia came,
172 Inventress of the vocal frame;
173 The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,
174 Enlarg’d the former narrow bounds,
175 And added length to solemn sounds,
176 With nature’s mother wit, and arts unknown before.
177 Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
178 Or both divide the crown:
179 He rais’d a mortal to the skies;
180 She drew an angel down.

Notes

1] In 1683 a musical society was formed in London for performing annually on November 22nd, a composition in honour of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Dryden had already written a poem (A Song for St. Cecilia’sDay) for the 1687 festival. Alexander’s Feast was written for the festival in 1697, and set to music by Jeremiah Clarke. The poet represents Alexander the Great, after his defeat of Darius in 331 B.C., celebrating the victory by a banquet, at which the famous flute-player, Timotheus, entertains the guests with music.

9] Thais: a famous Greek courtesan, mistress of Alexander.

25] The references in this stanza are to the story that Alexander, when he visited the shrine of Jupiter Ammon in Egypt, was informed that he was a son of the god.

29] spires: coils; cf. “spiral.”

52] honest: handsome, as Latin honestus.

97] Lydian measures: the Greeks speak of three different modes in their music: Dorian, Lydian, and Phrygian; the Lydian was suited to tender themes.

Calm was the even, and clear was the sky

1 Calm was the even, and clear was the sky,
2 And the new budding flowers did spring,
3 When all alone went Amyntas and I
4 To hear the sweet nightingale sing;
5 I sate, and he laid him down by me;
6 But scarcely his breath he could draw;
7 For when with a fear, he began to draw near,
8 He was dash’d with A ha ha ha ha!

9 He blush’d to himself, and lay still for a while,
10 And his modesty curb’d his desire;
11 But straight I convinc’d all his fear with a smile,
12 Which added new flames to his fire.
13 O Silvia, said he, you are cruel,
14 To keep your poor lover in awe;
15 Then once more he press’d with his hand to my breast,
16 But was dash’d with A ha ha ha ha!

17 I knew ’twas his passion that caus’d all his fear;
18 And therefore I pitied his case:
19 I whisper’d him softly, there’s nobody near,
20 And laid my cheek close to his face:
21 But as he grew bolder and bolder,
22 A shepherd came by us and saw;
23 And just as our bliss we began with a kiss,
24 He laugh’d out with A ha ha ha ha!

Notes

1] From Act II, scene i.

Fair Iris I Love and Hourly I Die

1 Fair Iris I love and hourly I die,
2 But not for a lip nor a languishing eye:
3 She’s fickle and false, and there I agree;
4 For I am as false and as fickle as she:
5 We neither believe what either can say;
6 And, neither believing, we neither betray.

7 ‘Tis civil to swear and say things, of course;
8 We mean not the taking for better or worse.
9 When present we love, when absent agree;
10 I think not of Iris, nor Iris of me:
11 The legend of love no couple can find
12 So easy to part, or so equally join’d

From Troilus and Cressida

1 Can life be a blessing,
2 Or worth the possessing,
3 Can life be a blessing if love were away?
4 Ah no! though our love all night keep us waking,
5 And though he torment us with cares all the day,
6 Yet he sweetens, he sweetens our pains in the taking,
7 There’s an hour at the last, there’s an hour to repay.

8 In ev’ry possessing,
9 The ravishing blessing,
10 In ev’ry possessing the fruit of our pain,
11 Poor lovers forget long ages of anguish,
12 Whate’er they have suffer’d and done to obtain;
13 ‘Tis a pleasure, a pleasure to sigh and to languish,
14 When we hope, when we hope to be happy again.

Notes

1] The original music is by Thomas Farmer. The musical setting first appeared in Choice Ayres and Songs, 1681. There is a later setting by John Eccles.

Your Hay it is Mow’d, and Your Corn is Reaped

COMUS
1 Your hay it is mow’d, and your corn is reap’d;
2 Your barns will be full, and your hovels heap’d:
3 Come, my boys, come;
4 Come, my boys, come;
5 And merrily roar out Harvest Home.

CHORUS
6 Come, my boys, come;
7 Come, my boys, come;
8 And merrily roar out Harvest Home.

MAN
9 We ha’ cheated the parson, we’ll cheat him agen,
10 For why should a blockhead ha’ one in ten?
11 One in ten,
12 One in ten,
13 For why should a blockhead ha’ one in ten?

14 For prating so long like a book-learn’d sot,
15 Till pudding and dumplin burn to pot,
16 Burn to pot,
17 Burn to pot,
18 Till pudding and dumplin burn to pot.

CHORUS
19 Burn to pot,
20 Burn to pot,
21 Till pudding and dumplin burn to pot.
22 We’ll toss off our ale till we canno’ stand,
23 And Hoigh for the honour of Old England:
24 Old England,
25 Old England,
26 And Hoigh for the honour of Old England.

CHORUS
27 Old England,
28 Old England,
29 And Hoigh for the honour of Old England.

Notes

1] The harvest song from King Arthur, Act IV, scene i.

8] one in ten: the reference is to tithes, a tax of ten per cent on the products of the land for the support of the established church.

The Hind and the Panther: Part I

(excerpt)

1 A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang’d,
2 Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang’d;
3 Without unspotted, innocent within,
4 She fear’d no danger, for she knew no sin.
5 Yet had she oft been chas’d with horns and hounds
6 And Scythian shafts; and many winged wounds
7 Aim’d at her heart; was often forc’d to fly,
8 And doom’d to death, though fated not to die.

9 Not so her young; for their unequal line
10 Was hero’s make, half human, half divine.
11 Their earthly mold obnoxious was to fate,
12 Th’ immortal part assum’d immortal state.
13 Of these a slaughter’d army lay in blood,
14 Extended o’er the Caledonian wood,
15 Their native walk; whose vocal blood arose,
16 And cried for pardon on their perjur’d foes.
17 Their fate was fruitful, and the sanguine seed,
18 Endued with souls, increas’d the sacred breed.
19 So captive Israel multiplied in chains,
20 A numerous exile, and enjoy’d her pains.
21 With grief and gladness mix’d, their mother view’d
22 Her martyr’d offspring, and their race renew’d;
23 Their corps to perish, but their kind to last,
24 So much the deathless plant the dying fruit surpass’d.

25 Panting and pensive now she rang’d alone,
26 And wander’d in the kingdoms, once her own.
27 The common hunt, tho’ from their rage restrain’d
28 By sov’reign pow’r, her company disdain’d;
29 Grinn’d as they pass’d, and with a glaring eye
30 Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
31 ‘T is true, she bounded by, and tripp’d so light,
32 They had not time to take a steady sight,
33 For Truth has such a face and such a mien,
34 As to be lov’d needs only to be seen.

35 The bloody Bear, an Independent beast,
36 Unlick’d to form, in groans her hate express’d.
37 Among the timorous kind the Quaking Hare
38 Profess’d neutrality, but would not swear.
39 Next her the buffoon Ape, as atheists use,
40 Mimick’d all sects, and had his own to choose:
41 Still when the Lion look’d, his knees he bent,
42 And paid at church a courtier’s compliment.

43 The bristled Baptist Boar, impure as he,
44 (But whiten’d with the foam of sanctity,)
45 With fat pollutions fill’d the sacred place,
46 And mountains levell’d in his furious race:
47 So first rebellion founded was in grace.
48 But since the mighty ravage which he made
49 In German forests had his guilt betray’d,
50 With broken tusks, and with a borrow’d name,
51 He shunn’d the vengeance, and conceal’d the shame;
52 So lurk’d in sects unseen. With greater guile
53 False Reynard fed on consecrated spoil:
54 The graceless beast by Athanasius first
55 Was chas’d from Nice; then, by Socinus nurs’d,
56 His impious race their blasphemy renew’d,
57 And nature’s King through nature’s optics view’d.
58 Revers’d, they view’d him lessen’d to their eye,
59 Nor in an infant could a God descry:
60 New swarming sects to this obliquely tend,
61 Hence they began, and here they all will end.

62 What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
63 If private reason hold the public scale?
64 But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
65 For erring judgments an unerring guide!
66 Thy throne is darkness in th’ abyss of light,
67 A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
68 O teach me to believe Thee thus conceal’d,
69 And search no farther than Thyself reveal’d;
70 But her alone for my director take,
71 Whom Thou hast promis’d never to forsake!
72 My thoughtless youth was wing’d with vain desires,
73 My manhood, long misled by wand’ring fires,
74 Follow’d false lights; and when their glimpse was gone,
75 My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
76 Such was I, such by nature still I am,
77 Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame.
78 Good life be now my task: my doubts are done:
79 (What more could fright my faith, than Three in One?)
80 Can I believe eternal God could lie
81 Disguis’d in mortal mould and infancy?
82 That the great Maker of the world could die?
83 And after that trust my imperfect sense
84 Which calls in question his omnipotence?
85 Can I my reason to my faith compel,
86 And shall my sight, and touch, and taste rebel?
87 Superior faculties are set aside,
88 Shall their subservient organs be my guide?
89 Then let the moon usurp the rule of day,
90 And winking tapers show the sun his way;
91 For what my senses can themselves perceive,
92 I need no revelation to believe.

327 The Panther, sure the noblest, next the Hind,
328 And fairest creature of the spotted kind;
329 Oh, could her inborn stains be wash’d away,
330 She were too good to be a beast of prey!
331 How can I praise, or blame, and not offend,
332 Or how divide the frailty from the friend!
333 Her faults and virtues lie so mix’d that she
334 Nor wholly stands condemn’d, nor wholly free.
335 Then, like her injur’d Lion, let me speak;
336 He cannot bend her, and he would not break.
337 Unkind already, and estrang’d in part,
338 The Wolf begins to share her wand’ring heart.
339 Though’ unpolluted yet with actual ill,
340 She half commits, who sins but in her will.
341 If, as our dreaming Platonists report,
342 There could be spirits of a middle sort,
343 Too black for heav’n, and yet too white for hell,
344 Who just dropp’d halfway down, nor lower fell;
345 So pois’d, so gently she descends from high,
346 It seems a soft dismission from the sky.

Notes

1] First published in 1687, being licensed for the press on April 11th. The poem is a defense of the Roman Catholic faith, which Dryden had embraced shortly after the accession of the Catholic James II to the throne on February 6, 1685. In spite of an early policy of intolerance towards Dissenters, James was forced (in order to benefit Catholics) to issue, on April 4, 1687, a Declaration of Indulgence, suspending by royal prerogative the Test Act and all penal laws against both Catholics and Dissenters. The Declaration of Indulgence was issued just one week before The Hind and the Panther was licensed for the press, and it is apparent in the poem that Dryden was unprepared for such a change of policy. His prose Preface praises toleration and adopts a much less hostile tone to the dissenting sects, and is clearly an attempt to adapt himself to James’ more tolerant policy. (For a discussion of Dryden’s conversion to Catholicism see Bredvold, The Best of Dryden, 552-3). The poem is divided into three parts; the first describes, under the guise of different beasts, the various religious sects, particularly the Church of Rome and the Church of England; the second part is occupied with the arguments between these two churches; and the third contains a satirical discussion of temporal and political matters. The beast fable as an instrument of satire had already been used in England by Chaucer and Spenser.
Hind. The Roman Catholic Church.

6] Scythian shafts. The ancient Scythians used poisoned arrows.

14] Caledonian. Usually applied to Scotland, but here probably refers to the whole of Great Britain.

35] bloody Bear.
The Independents, who rejected the authority of the Papacy, the Church of England, and the Presbyterian church.

37] Quaking Hare. The Quakers, who refused to take oaths of any kind.

39] buffoon Ape. The Free-thinkers, or atheists.

41] Lion. The King of England.

43] Baptist Boar. The Anabaptists.

49] German. The Anabaptists originated in Germany.

53] false Reynard. The Unitarians.

54-57] The Arian heresy, which denied the equality of the three persons of the Trinity, was opposed by Athanasius and condemned at the Council of Nice (Nicaea, Asia Minor) in 325; in the 16th century the heresy was again taken up by Socinus. Dryden here names the Unitarians direct descendants of the Arians.

327] Panther. The Church of England.

338] Wolf. The Presbyterians.

341-44] Cf. Paradise Lost, III, 460-2, and Augustine’s City of God, VIII, xiv-xxii, where Augustine refutes the opinion of the Platonist Apuleius that there are intelligent spirits inhabiting the air, more powerful than men, but neither definitely angelic nor demonic.

To my Honor’d Friend, Dr. Charleton

On His Learned And Useful Works; And More Particularly This Of Stonehenge, By Him Restor’d To The True Founders

(excerpt)

1 The longest tyranny that ever sway’d
2 Was that wherein our ancestors betray’d
3 Their free-born reason to the Stagirite,
4 And made his torch their universal light.
5 So truth, while only one supplied the state,
6 Grew scarce, and dear, and yet sophisticate;
7 Until ‘t was bought, like emp’ric wares, or charms,
8 Hard words seal’d up with Aristotle’s arms.
9 Columbus was the first that shook his throne,
10 And found a temp’rate in a torrid zone:
11 The fev’rish air fann’d by a cooling breeze,
12 The fruitful vales set round with shady trees;
13 And guiltless men, who danc’d away their time,
14 Fresh as their groves, and happy as their clime.
15 Had we still paid that homage to a name,
16 Which only God and Nature justly claim,
17 The western seas had been our utmost bound,
18 Where poets still might dream the sun was drown’d:
19 And all the stars that shine in southern skies
20 Had been admir’d by none but savage eyes.

21 Among th’ asserters of free reason’s claim,
22 Th’ English are not the least in worth, or fame.
23 The world to Bacon does not only owe
24 Its present knowledge, but its future too.
25 Gilbert shall live, till loadstones cease to draw,
26 Or British fleets the boundless ocean awe.
27 And noble Boyle, not less in nature seen,
28 Than his great brother read in states and men.
29 The circling streams, once thought but pools, of blood
30 (Whether life’s fuel or the body’s food),
31 From dark oblivion Harvey’s name shall save;
32 While Ent keeps all the honour that he gave.

Notes

1] First published in 1663 as a prefatory poem in Dr. Walter Charleton’s Chorea Gigantum, a book on Stonehenge; an early expression of Dryden’s enthusiasm for natural science.

3] Stagirite. Aristotle, so named from his birthplace Stagira. The reaction against scholasticism resulted in the depreciation of Aristotle, whose authority scholasticism constantly invoked.

6] sophisticate. Not pure or genuine; specious.

7] emp’ric. An empiric is one who relies solely on observation and experiment; in the 17th century this connoted charlatanism and quackery, especially in medicine.

25] Gilbert. William Gilbert (1540-1603), whose treatise on the magnet (1600) was of great importance in 17th-century science.

27] Boyle. The Hon. Robert Boyle (1627-91), distinguished for his experimental researches in physics and chemistry and one of the founders of the Royal Society.

28] his great brother. Roger Boyle, afterwards Earl of Orrery, statesman and dramatist.

31] Harvey’s. William Harvey (1578-1657), discoverer of the circulation of the blood.

32] Ent. Dr. George Ent, at whose request Harvey’s last treatise was published in 1651.

Marriage a-la-Mode

1 Why should a foolish marriage vow,
2 Which long ago was made,
3 Oblige us to each other now
4 When passion is decay’d?
5 We lov’d, and we lov’d, as long as we could,
6 Till our love was lov’d out in us both:
7 But our marriage is dead, when the pleasure is fled:
8 ‘Twas pleasure first made it an oath.

9 If I have pleasures for a friend,
10 And farther love in store,
11 What wrong has he whose joys did end,
12 And who could give no more?
13 ‘Tis a madness that he should be jealous of me,
14 Or that I should bar him of another:
15 For all we can gain is to give our selves pain,
16 When neither can hinder the other.

Notes

1] The poem was set to music by Robert Smith, and was first published with the original music in Choice Songs and Ayres for One Voyce, 1673.

The Secular Masque

Enter JANUS
JANUS
1 Chronos, Chronos, mend thy pace,
2 An hundred times the rolling sun
3 Around the radiant belt has run
4 In his revolving race.
5 Behold, behold, the goal in sight,
6 Spread thy fans, and wing thy flight.

Enter CHRONOS, with a scythe in his hand, and a great globe on his back, which he sets down at his entrance
CHRONOS
7 Weary, weary of my weight,
8 Let me, let me drop my freight,
9 And leave the world behind.
10 I could not bear
11 Another year
12 The load of human-kind.

Enter MOMUS Laughing
MOMUS
13 Ha! ha! ha! Ha! ha! ha! well hast thou done,
14 To lay down thy pack,
15 And lighten thy back.
16 The world was a fool, e’er since it begun,
17 And since neither Janus, nor Chronos, nor I,
18 Can hinder the crimes,
19 Or mend the bad times,
20 ‘Tis better to laugh than to cry.

CHORUS OF ALL THREE
21 ‘Tis better to laugh than to cry

JANUS
22 Since Momus comes to laugh below,
23 Old Time begin the show,
24 That he may see, in every scene,
25 What changes in this age have been,

CHRONOS
26 Then Goddess of the silver bow begin.

Horns, or hunting-music within
DIANA
27 With horns and with hounds I waken the day,
28 And hie to my woodland walks away;
29 I tuck up my robe, and am buskin’d soon,
30 And tie to my forehead a waxing moon.
31 I course the fleet stag, unkennel the fox,
32 And chase the wild goats o’er summits of rocks,
33 With shouting and hooting we pierce thro’ the sky;
34 And Echo turns hunter, and doubles the cry.

CHORUS OF ALL
35 With shouting and hooting, we pierce through the sky,
36 And Echo turns hunter, and doubles the cry.

JANUS
37 Then our age was in its prime,

CHRONOS
38 Free from rage,

DIANA
39 –And free from crime.

MOMUS
40 A very merry, dancing, drinking,
41 Laughing, quaffing, and unthinking time.

CHORUS OF ALL
42 Then our age was in its prime,
43 Free from rage, and free from crime,
44 A very merry, dancing, drinking,
45 Laughing, quaffing, and unthinking time.

Dance of Diana’s attendants
MARS
46 Inspire the vocal brass, inspire;
47 The world is past its infant age:
48 Arms and honour,
49 Arms and honour,
50 Set the martial mind on fire,
51 And kindle manly rage.
52 Mars has look’d the sky to red;
53 And peace, the lazy good, is fled.
54 Plenty, peace, and pleasure fly;
55 The sprightly green
56 In woodland-walks, no more is seen;
57 The sprightly green, has drunk the Tyrian dye.

CHORUS OF ALL
58 Plenty, peace, |&|c.

MARS
59 Sound the trumpet, beat the drum,
60 Through all the world around;
61 Sound a reveille, sound, sound,
62 The warrior god is come.

CHORUS OF ALL
63 Sound the trumpet, |&|c.

MOMUS
64 Thy sword within the scabbard keep,
65 And let mankind agree;
66 Better the world were fast asleep,
67 Than kept awake by thee.
68 The fools are only thinner,
69 With all our cost and care;
70 But neither side a winner,
71 For things are as they were.

CHORUS OF ALL
72 The fools are only, |&|c.

Enter VENUS
VENUS
73 Calms appear, when storms are past;
74 Love will have his hour at last:
75 Nature is my kindly care;
76 Mars destroys, and I repair;
77 Take me, take me, while you may,
78 Venus comes not ev’ry day.

CHORUS OF ALL
79 Take her, take her, |&|c.

CHRONOS
80 The world was then so light,
81 I scarcely felt the weight;
82 Joy rul’d the day, and love the night.
83 But since the Queen of Pleasure left the ground,
84 I faint, I lag,
85 And feebly drag
86 The pond’rous Orb around.
87 All, all of a piece throughout;

pointing {}} to Diana {}}
MOMUS,
88 Thy chase had a beast in view;

to Mars
89 Thy wars brought nothing about;

to Venus
90 Thy lovers were all untrue.

JANUS
91 ‘Tis well an old age is out,
92 And time to begin a new.

CHORUS OF ALL
93 All, all of a piece throughout;
94 Thy chase had a beast in view;
95 Thy wars brought nothing about;
96 Thy lovers were all untrue.
97 ‘Tis well an old age is out,
98 And time to begin a new.

Dance of huntsmen, nymphs, warriors, and lovers.

Notes

1] This was Dryden’s first work and was published in the month before his death. It was written to be performed as an afterpiece to an adaptation of John Fletcher’s The Pilgrim. The “secular” of the title alludes to the date (the end of the century) and also to the theme.

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