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JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700)

Dryden came of a good Northamptonshire family, and was educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was only eighteen when his first verses were published, but his first poem of importance was in commemoration of the death of Oliver Cromwell. Dryden's dependence as a professional writer on the party in power made his financial position insecure, hampered his genius, and ruined his reputation for consistency: his eulogy of Cromwell was followed almost immediately by poems in celebration of Charles II. The reopening of the theaters after the Restoration gave him a less equivocal opportunity for the exercise of his talents, and he led the way in the development of the new comedy (largely indebted to the French) and the heroic play with its preposterous characters and incidents and extravagant rant. After defending and perfecting the rimed couplet as a medium for tragedy, he turned to blank verse in All for Love (1678), founded upon Shakspere's Antony and Cleopatra, and generally accounted Dryden's best play. Meanwhile he had won distinction in other ways; his Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668) is remarkable both for its literary insight and its vigorous and lucid style, which had an important influence on the development of English prose. In 1670 he was appointed poet laureate and historiographer with a salary of £200, which relieved his immediate necessities, but was not enough to save him from financial difficulties. The political intrigues at the end of Charles II's reign gave occasion for the bitter satirical poem Absalom and Achitophel (1681) which in its own kind of poetry remains unsurpassed. Religio Laici (1682), a poem in defense of the Church of England, was discounted by the author's conversion to Roman Catholicism on the accession of James II, though most students of Dryden's life and writings hold that his change of view was sincere. The Hind and the Panther, a plea for the poet's newly adopted faith, appeared in 1687. The Revolution of 1688 deprived Dryden of his offices, and he was dependent for the rest of his life upon his pen. He returned to the stage with Don Sebastian (1690), one of his best tragedies, wrote excellent prologues and epilogues for the plays of other men, and worked hard at criticism and translations. After enjoying for many years the literary leadership of his time, he was buried in the Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey.

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Spain to your gift alone her Indies owes, For what the powerful takes not he bestows;


And France that did an exile's presence fear

May justly apprehend you still too near. At home the hateful names of parties cease, And factious souls are wearied into peace. The discontented now are only they 65 Whose crimes before did your just cause betray;

Of those your edicts some reclaim from sins,

But most your life and blest example wins. Oh, happy prince, whom Heaven hath taught the way

By paying vows to have more vows to pay! Oh, happy age! oh, times like those alone 71 By fate reserved for great Augustus' throne,

When the joint growth of arms and arts foreshew

The world a monarch, and that monarch you!

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Such savory deities must needs be good
As served at once for worship and for food.
By force they could not introduce these

For ten to one in former days was odds:
So fraud was used, the sacrificer's trade; 40
Fools are more hard to conquer than per-

Their busy teachers mingled with the Jews And raked for converts even the court and stews:

Which Hebrew priests the more unkindly took,

Because the fleece accompanies the flock. 45 Some thought they God's anointed meant to slay

By guns, invented since full many a day: Our author swears it not; but who can know

How far the devil and Jebusites may go? This plot, which failed for want of common

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Some by their monarch's fatal mercy grown From pardoned rebels kinsmen to the throne Were raised in power and public office high;

Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie. 65

Of these the false Achitophel was first,
A name to all succeeding ages curst:
For close designs and crooked counsels fit,
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit,
Restless, unfixed in principles and place, 70
In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace;
A fiery soul, which working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay


And o'er-informed the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleased with the danger, when the waves

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Got, while his soul did huddled notions try,
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy.
In friendship false, implacable in hate,
Resolved to ruin or to rule the state;
To compass this the triple bond he broke,
The pillars of the public safety shook,
And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke;
Then, seized with fear, yet still affecting


Usurped a patriot's all-atoning name.
So easy still it proves in factious times
With public zeal to cancel private crimes.
How safe is treason and how sacred ill,
Where none can sin against the people's

Where crowds can wink and no offense be known,


Since in another's guilt they find their own! Yet fame deserved no enemy can grudge; The statesman we abhor, but praise the


In Israel's courts ne'er sat an abbethdin With more discerning eyes or hands more clean,


Unbribed, unsought, the wretched to redress, Swift of dispatch and easy of access.

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Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity. 'Tis true she bounded by and tripped so light,

They had not time to take a steady sight;

For truth has such a face and such a mien As to be loved needs only to be seen.

The bloody Bear, an independent beast, 35 Unlicked to form, in groans her hate expressed.

Among the timorous kind the quaking Hare Professed neutrality, but would not swear. Next her the buffoon Ape, as atheists use. Mimicked all sects and had his own to

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