1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

A Young Lady, "To the Memory of the truly honoured John Dryden, Esq." Luctus Britannici, or, the Tears of the British Muses for the Death of John Dryden (1700) 13-15.



Disconsolate Britannia Mourning sate,
Sighs told her Loss, and Tears Neander's Fate:
Each recollected Line, renew'd Her Care,
And ev'ry Thought Inhanc'd her vast Despair.
Thus Gen'rous Grief, long struggl'd in Her Breast,
But want of Language, Passion's Voice supprest:
At last, spring-tides of Sorrow Silence broke,
And, in an Agony, these words she spoke;

Ye Pow'rs above, that Rule this Earthly Stage;
Ye Sacred Numens of the present Age,
What has Britannia done, to meet your Hate?
Why is she punish'd in Neander's Fate?
Could none but He, have made your Anger known?
Could nothing less than He, your Wrath atone?
He, whom Apollo's sacred Self Inspir'd;
Envy'd by many, but by most Admir'd:
Who gave us Virgil in our Native Tongue;
And Absalom's Misfortunes so Divinely Sung.

DRYDEN! on whom each Science did attend,
The greatest Genius, and the greatest Friend;
Who Juvenal and Persius overcame;
He taught them English, yet preserv'd their Flame.
With Worlds of Words He did our Speech Refine,
And Manly strength with Modern softness join:
Each Language made subservient to His end,
And those Acquiests as bravely did Defend.

Not Fam'd Timotheus could with greater ease
Command our Anger, or our Wrath appease:
True Measure with his Verse, our Passions kept,
And as He Pleas'd, we either Smil'd, or Wept.
How Noble was His Stile, Sublime his Thought!
How nicely Just was ev'ry Piece he wrote!
But with His last, what Numbers can compare?
Not dying Swan's more Sweet and Regular.

And till Neander Grac'd the British Sphere,
How abject did our Muses Sons appear!
They Coasted by the Shoar a Lazy way,
But all the Inlands Undiscover'd lay:
Wit's Empire Dryden boldly did explore,
And like the Hero, could have Wept for more;
But Gen'rously He check'd His Noble Rage,
And for His Albion's sake, His Passion did asswage:
Through glomy Shades unlighted by the day,
And Heights untrod, He forc'd an open way:
For ev'ry Province Beacons did provide,
And marks succeeding Travellers to guide:
Then gave us Charts of what was long Conceal'd,
And to th' admiring World, th' Incognita reveal'd.

Oh! had ye lengthen'd out His fleeting Hours;
Had he but liv'd t'ave made Great Homer ours;
Redeem'd his injur'd Sire, and set him free
From Chapman, Hobb's, and mangling Ogilby:
How had the Bard exulted in his mind!
And with what Pleasure his Great Soul resign'd!

But ah! Britannia, thou complain'st too late;
There's no reversing the Decrees of Fate;
In vain we Sigh, in vain alas, we Mourn,
Th' Illustrious POET never will return.
All like himself he Dy'd, so calm so free,
As none could equal, but his Emily.

Weep, weep, Britannia, never cease thy Tears,
But still encrease thy Sorrow with thy Years:
'Twas mighty Dryden gave thy Island Fame,
And made that Honour lasting, with his Name.
This said — She Pensively reclining lay,
And spent with Grief, wore out the tedious day:
When sudden Beams of Light around her broke,
And in a Vision, thus Apollo spoke.

Much lov'd Britannia, from this Posture rise,
Lament no more, nor dull thy beauteous Eyes:
See where thy Dryden at my Elbow stand's,
And with what Pow'r he now the Nine Command's:
To gain his Plaudit, how they all aspire,
And he the Genius is of Albion's Tuneful Quire.
Then up thou sluggish Isle, revere his Name
Let all thy Sons my Dryden's Worth proclaim,
And in Elegiac Numbers celebrate his Fame.