1687 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Philip Ayres, "To John Dryden, Esq.; Poet Laureate and Histriographer Royal, his honoured Friend" Ayers, Lyric Poems (1687); Saintsbury, Minor Poets of the Caroline Period (1905-21) 2:338-39.



My Muse, when heated with poetic flame,
Longs to be singing thy exalted name;
The noble task she sets before my eyes,
And prompts me to begin the enterprise;

My eager hand no sooner takes the pen,
But seiz'd with trembling, lets it fall agen:
My tim'rous heart bids stop, and whisp'ring says,
What canst thou sing that may advance his praise?

His quill's immortal, and his flights are higher
Than eye of human fancy can aspire:
A lasting fountain, from whose streams do flow
Eternal honours where his works shall go.

From him the wits their vital humour bring:
As brooks have their first currents from the Spring;
Could my unskilful pen augment his fame,
I should my own eternize with his name.

But hold, my Muse, thy theme too great decline,
Remember that the subject is divine:
His works do more than pen or tongues can say,
Each line does Beauty, Grace, and Wit display.