1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Thomas Brown, "A Description of Mr. D—n's Funeral" Luctus Britannici, or, the Tears of the British Muses for the Death of John Dryden (1700) 3-8.



Of Kings renown'd and Mighty Bards I write,
Some slain by Whores, and others kill'd in Fight;
Some starving liv'd, whilst others were prefer'd;
But all, when dead, are in one place inter'd.
A Fabrick stands by Antient Heroes built,
Design'd for Holy Use t' atone their Guilt;
Here sacred Urns of Majesty they keep,
Here Kings and Poets most profoundly sleep;
Here Choristers in Hymns their Voices raise,
And charm the dreadful Goblins from the Place.
Tho throng'd with Tombs, no Specter here is found,
They sing the very Devil off the Ground:
No Night-Mare dances 'mongst the ancient Tombs,
Nor sulphurous Incubus dispenses Fumes;
Nor let no subterranean Hag afright
My Muse, whilst of the FUNERAL I write.

A Bard there was, who whilome did command,
And held the Lawrel in his potent Hand;
He o'er Parnassus bore Imperial Sway,
Him all the little Tribes of Bards obey:
But Bards and Kings, how e'er approv'd and great,
Must stoop at last to the Decrees of Fate.
Fate bid him for the stroke of Death prepare,
And then mov'd him to the Lord knows where.
If to the Living we such Tributes owe,
We on the Dead must pious Rites bestow;
To our Assistance all the Wits must call,
To grace the Glory of the Funeral.
Who is the first appears unto our View,
But haughty, proud, imperious M—
Who cocks his Chin, and scarce affords a Word,
But looks as big as any Belgick Lord:
In the best Dairies fed, grown sleek and fat,
The creeping Mouse is turn'd into a Rat:
Of others Brows he licks the toilsom Sweat,
And by our Sins grows impudently great:
As chief of Wits he does himself prefer,
And with our Gold bribes ev'ry Flatterer;
But Men of Sense and Honour does despise,
And crushes such as would by Virtue rise,
Whilst each lewd Rakehel of the nauseous Town
He fils with Coin, and does with Honours crown.
The Nation's Wealth he most profusely spends,
But not on such as are the Nation's Friends;
But such as wrote our Country to inslave,
His Kindness follows even to the Grave.
He the great Bard at his own Charge inters,
And dying Vice to living Worth prefers.
Some others too in the Affair are join'd,
Alike in Morals, and alike in Mind;
But these my Muse must here forbear to name,
Scarce worthy Honour, or deserving Fame.

The Day is come, and all the Wits must meet
From Covent-Garden down to Watling-street;
They all repair to the Physicians Dome,
There lies the Corps, and there the Eagles come:
A Troop of Stationers at first appear'd,
And Jacob T—n Captain of the Guard;
Jacob the Muses Midwife, who well knows
To ease a lab'ring Muse of Pangs and Throws;
He oft has kept the Infant-Poet warm,
Oft lick'd th' unwieldy Monster into Form;
Oft do they in high Flights and Raptures swell,
Drunk with the Waters of our Jacob's Well.

Next these the Play-house Sparks do take their Turn,
With such as under Mercury are born,
As Poets, Fidlers, Cut-purses, and Whores,
Drabs of the Play-house, and of Common-shores;
Pimps, Panders, Bullies, and Eternal Beaux,
Fam'd for short Wits, long Wigs, and gaudy Clothes;
All Sons of Meter tune the Voice in praise,
From lofty Strains, to humble Ekes and Ays:
The Singing-men and Clarks who charm the Soul,
And all the Traders in fa la fa sol:
All these the Funeral Obsequies do aid,
As younger Brothers of the Rhyming Trade.

The tuneful Rabble now together come,
They fill with dolesome Sighs the sable Room;
Some groan'd, some sob'd, and some I think there wept,
And some got drunk, loll'd down, and snoar'd and slept.
Around the Corps in State they wildly press;
In Notes unequal, like Pindarick Verse,
Each one does his sad Sentiments express.
The Player says, My Friends, we are undone,
See here the Muses blest and darling Son,
Is from us to the blest Elizium gone.
What other Poet for us will engage
To be the Prop of the declining Stage?
All other Poets are not worth a Louse,
There fell the Prop of our once glorious House:
But now from us by Fate untimely torn,
Leaves the dull Stage a Desart and forlorn.
A dismal Sadness in each Face appears;
And such as could not speak, burst into Tears;
His Death, alas! affected ev'ry Body,
And fetcht deep Sighs and Tears from ev'ry Noddy;
It much affected every tuneful Ringer,
But most of all the jolly Ballad-singer,
Who now at a Street's Corner must no more
A Play-house Song in equal Numbers roar:
Nay, I am told, when he his last Gasp groan'd,
The Bel-rope trembl'd, and the Organ ton'd:
And as great things affect a little thing,
This was the Death of many a Fiddle-string.
No Chronicles I read of do relate
Such a sad Hurrican in Church and State.
The charming Songsters at our great St. Pauls
Cou'd scarce sing Pray'rs to save their very Souls;
The Boys were dumb, the Singing-men were wounded,
All the whole Choir disabl'd and confounded;
And when the Prayers were ended, alas then
The Clark could hardly sob out an Amen.
No a Crowdero at a Bawdy-house,
Who us'd in racy Liquors to carouse,
But with sad haste unto the Burial ran,
Forgets his Tipple, and neglects his Can.
With Tag-Rag, Bob-Tail was the Room full fill'd,
You'd think another Babel to be built;
Not more Confusion at St. Batt's fam'd Fair,
Or at Guild-Hall at choice of a Lord Mayor.
But stay my Muse, the learned G—th appears,
He sighing comes, and is half drown'd in Tears;
The famous G—th whom learned Poets call
Knight of the Order of the Urinal.
He of Apollo learnt his wondrous Skill,
He taught him how to sing and how to kill;
For all he sends unto the darksom Grave,
He honours also with an Epitaph.
He entertain'd the Audience with Oration,
Tho very new, yet something out of fashion:
But 'cause the Hearers were with Learning blest,
He said it in the Language of the Beast:
But so pronounc'd, the Sound and Sense agrees,
A Country Mouse talks better in a Cheese,
Or Jack-at-a pinch, where reeling he repairs
To neighb'ring Church to mumble o'er his Pray'rs.
The Sense and Wit they say was very good,
Tho neither seen, felt, heard, nor understood.
Thus we must all, as common Rumour saith,
Believe the Doctor by implicit Faith.

Next him the Sons of Musick pass along,
And murder Horace in confounding Song;
Whose Monument, more durable than Brass,
Is now defac'd by every chanting Ass.
No Man at Tyburn, doom'd to take a swinging,
Would stay to hear such miserable Singing,
Where all the Beasts of Musick try their Throats,
And different Species use their different Notes:
Here the Ox bellows, there the Satyr howls;
The Puppies whine, and the bold Mastiff growls;
The Magpys chatter, and the Night-Owls screek;
The old Pigs grunt, and all the young ones squeek:
Yet all together make melodious Songs,
As Bumpkin Trols to rusty pair of Tongs:

Now, now time is come, the Parson says,
And for their Exeunt to the Grave he prays:
The Way is long, and Folk the Streets are clogging,
Therefore my Friends away, come let's be jogging.

Assist me thou who, clad in Sun-beam Weeds,
Driv'st round the Orb each Day with fiery Steeds;
Who neither art with Heat nor Cold opprest,
Art never weary, tho thou tak'st no rest:
Assist me to describe the Cavalcade,
What mighty Figure thro the Streets they made.

Before the Herse the mourning Hautboys go,
And screech a dismal sound of Grief and Wo;
More dismal Notes from Bogtrotters may fall,
More dismal Plaints at Irish Funeral.
But no such Flood of Tears e'er stopt or Tide
Since Charles the Martyr and the Monarch dy'd.
The Decency and Order first describe,
Without regard to either Sex or Tribe.
The sable Coaches lead the dismal Van,
But by their sides I think few footmen ran,
Nor needed these, the Rabble fill the Streets,
And Mob with Mob in great Disorder meets.
See next the Coaches how they are accouter'd
Both in the inside, eke and on the outward.
One pocky Spark, one sound as any Roach,
One Poet and two Fidlers in a Coach;
The Play-house Drab, that beats the Beggars Bush,
And Bawdy talks, would make an old Whore blush,
By every Bully kiss'd, good truth, but such is
Now her good Fate to ride with Mrs. Duchess.
Was e'er Immortal Poet thus buffoon'd?
In a long Line of Coaches thus lampoon'd?
A Man with Gout and Stone quite wearied,
Would rather live than thus be buried.
What greater Plague can Heav'n on Man bestow,
Who must with Knaves on Life's dull Journey go?
And when on t' other Shoar he's landed safe,
A Crowd so nauseous, so profusely lewd,
With all the Vices of the Times endu'd,
That Cowley's Marble wept to see the Throng,
Old Chaucer laugh'd at their unpolish'd Song,
And Spencer thought he once again had seen
The Imps attending of his Fairy Queen.