1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Henry Hall, "To the Memory of John Dryden, Esq." Luctus Britannici, or, the Tears of the British Muses for the Death of John Dryden (1700) 16-20.



Greece had a Homer; Rome a Virgil lost,
And well Britannia do's her Dryden Boast:
And still shall Boast the Beauties of the Dead,
And with the freshest Bays adorn his Head.
The Sacred Wreath, that long so well was worn,
Shall now no more be from His Temples torn;
No more of slighted Merit we complain,
Now Tom the Second, may securely Reign.
Hail Mighty Bard, that ha'st for half an Age,
Reign'd Lord of Wit, and Monarch of the Stage!

Hail mighty Bard, that ha'st for half an Age,
Reign'd Lord of Wit, and Monarch of the Stage!
Who can compare, or match such mighty Force?
That cou'd so swift set out, and yet keep on the Course!
We oft have Poets seen, that well cou'd please,
Out-live their Wit, as some their Prophecies.
Thus Learned Cr—ch, sung Horace to his Cost;
Thus Paradice was in re-gaining lost.

Where shall I first endeavour to commend?
The Task is hard, but harder where to end.
The perfect'st Poem that the Age can show,
To Your inimitable Pen we owe:
Though some dispute the Prize, yet sure there's none
That can compare with beautious Absolon:
The Thought so just, Your Turns so Ravishing,
As void of blemish, as the Youth, you sing.

Although the Panther be but half Divine,
Yet for one Fault, a thousand Beauties shine.
'Twou'd have have had more, and been allow'd more Wit,
Had it less Partially been Read, or Writ.
Mac Flekno still will in thy Verse be known,
When he shall be forgotten in his own.
Thus, though of Maevius, nothing now survives,
The Sot, Lampoon'd in Virgil, ever Lives.

Hail happy Bard, that doubly dost excell!
At once to Write so much, and Write so well!
Age, that in others doth the Sense decay,
And with the Man the Poet wears away,
Made mighty Thee but more Correct and scarce
Thy Face it Furrow'd, but it fill'd thy Verse;
And what in Memory it pass'd away,
It did much more in juster Judgment pay:
Thus when the Sun dart's up its Western Rays,
Though not so warm, it cast's a brighter blaze:
In ev'ry Line, the fire of Youth we see;
Nor is thy latest Work, unworthy Thee.
New-Cloath'd by You, how Chaucer we esteem;
When You've new Polish'd it, how bright the Jem!
And lo, the Sacred Shade for thee make's room,
Though Souls so like, should take but up one Tomb.

Oh! had You liv'd to give us all Your Sire,
And shew'd th' Unlearned World the Grecian Fire,
Homer, who do's all Mortal Men excel,
The first that wrote, and last that wrote so well,
You had the Bard from Chapman's Chains let free,
As Virgil You redeem'd from Ogilby.

Long ha's He been with two Translations Curst,
Both bad, but the Philosopher's the worst:
Both have Burlesq'd Him with assiduous Toil,
And Greek, as well as Hebrew, Sternholt's Spoil.

All own You had enough of Fame before,
And only by Your Death cou'd purchase more.
To value You aright, an Age we want,
(Age that improve's both Poetry and Paint)
Then will thy Name to Verse a Sanction give,
And DRYDEN will as long as Numbers, live.

Thus, when at Statues of an Attick Hand,
With long Delight, Mankind admiring stand;
And on the Mould, and on the shining Mass,
With Ardour, and with Adoration gaze,
So soft the Marble, and lo smooth the Brass.
But while they're wondring who so well Design'd,
If on the bulging Base, they Phidias find,
Though from the Name, it no new Worth receive's.
The Noble Piece, a vaster Value give's.

Hail mighty Master of thy Mother Tongue,
More smooth than Waller or than Denham strong!
Pompous in Praise, in Satyr as Severe,
As Cowly Witty, as Roscommon, Clear.
What secret Magick lye's in ev'ry Verse,
That does so move the Mind so please the Ears!.
That Tuneful Turn, that Charming Mystery,
You shew'd to none but Noble Normanby;
Or it to any other Bard 'tis known,
'Tis to to engaging Garth, and Addison,
The fittest now to fill thy Vacant Throne.

Let us look back, and Noble Numbers trace
Directly up from Ours, to Chaucer's days;
Chaucer, the first of Bards in Tune that Sung,
And to a better bent reduc'd the stubborn Tongue.

Spencer upon his Master much Refin'd,
He Colour'd sweetly, though he ill Design'd;
Too mean the Model for so vast a Mind.
Thus while he try's to make his Stanza's Chime,
Good Christian Thoughts turn Renegade to Rhime.

'Twas Fairfax first the sounding Couplet taught,
His Diction Noble, and sublime his Thought;
From whose fair Copy, well our Waller wrote;
But what he wanted Life or Pow'r to do,
Is happily at last atchiev'd by You.
And as what Virgil, and what Horace sung,
Is still the Standard of the Latin Tongue,
So will Thy Works to long Posterity,
The Touch-stone of our British Poesy be.
Thus, when Old Rome had reach'd her utmost height,
She quickly bent beneath th' unwieldy Weight.
Thus towring Tides, that can no farther flow,
Must to their Father Ocean bacward go.