1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Anonymous, "To Dr. Samuel Garth, occasioned by the much lamented Death of John Dryden, Esq." Luctus Britannici, or, the Tears of the British Muses for the Death of John Dryden (1700) 51-55.



Though Pens like Your's, and Tongues alone should date,
To make Departed worth the Muse's Care,
And in Defence of injur'd Virtue rise,
And bear Consummate Learning to the Skies:
Yet, since our Loss is greatest, We may plead,
A right to Mourn what you can never need,
As Children we Lament a Parents fall,
And for His Precepts, and his Counsels call:
As Brethren such as You bewail His Fate,
Bequeath'd for Guardians of our Infant State.
To parcel out the Bounties of the Dead,
And Comment on the Lectures He has Read.

Permit us then, our Dutious Zeal to prove,
And make a Tender of our Tears and Love,
As we with Sighs unfeign'd the Task pursue,
And Weep him Dead, who still must Live in You.
And who shall make us known, and stamp Esteem,
On what we Write, since He's the Writer's Theme,
Though 'midst our Verse no Fav'rite Congreve shines,
Nor Unwin sends Auxiliary Lines,
Though Title Page no swelling Kitcat Grace,
And Playford's Name, takes Jacob Tonson's place.

And since Britannia's Noblest Sons have paid,
Their Sorrows to this Venerable Shade
And with Solemnity of Grief have shown,
They durst ev'n abdicated Merit own,
Though Murm'ring Friends to Malice ever just,
Revil'd the Triumphs of His Honour'd Dust,
As through the Streets, the Moving Spoils of Fate,
Mix'd Pomp with Sorrow, and despair with State.

Since the Dead Bard His Living Honours owes,
Next to his Verse, to Your immortal Prose,
And in Wit's Throne by Wit's assistance Reigns,
And shine's a Virgil in a Tully's strains:
Since Gen'rous Montague a Tomb designs,
For Him He Stab'd, when Living with His Lines,
And unconfin'd in Bountious Actions show's,
How He can keep his Friends, and gain His Foes,
As He, by coming Ages to be read,
Preserves the Living, and Protects the Dead:
Isis, and Cham, and Thame would be ingrate,
If unconcern'd at such a Moving Fate,
Which gives Employment to the Noblest Tears,
And speak's a Gen'ral loss in Gen'ral Fears.

And, lo! in one United stream they flow,
Joyning to form a Sea of Blackest Woe!
Cham bred him up, and fitted Him to Fame,
Her self immortal in His Deathless Name,
And Thame receiv'd and fann'd the growing Flame,
Array'd His Brows with Laurel'd Wreaths, which spread,
Diffusive Beams of Sence around his Head;
And Brittish Bards with one consenting Voice,
Admir'd Their Monarch, and his Master's choice.
But, how He from His Throne Imperial fell,
Wisdom forbids the Trembling Muse to tell,
Superior Pow'rs thought his Removal fit,
And all Superior Pow'rs can Judg of Wit.

But Isis, to her Sorrow cannot claim,
The least Alliance to so great a Name,
Nor has she Taught, His Infant Genius Lays,
Nor Crown'd His Temples with Eternal Bays,
Yet has She been the subject of his Praise,
And He must be the Theme, which must infuse
Brightness, and strength, and Fancy to Her Muse,
As, in return to Her Exalted Fame,
She Sings, and Dwells upon it's Author's Name,
And made immortal in His Works, has shown,
She can from Him immortalize Her own.

Three Languages His Various Skill confess,
And own to Him their Decency of Dress:
Each made endebted to His Artful song,
The Greek, the Latin, and the Brittish Tongue,
And only Three Lament His mournful Fall,
Whose dying Glories should be wept in All.
The first with Clouds of English Rhimes o're spread,
Shew'd Homer's fury Spiritless and Dead,
While through the Gath'ring Fogs no Beams could Dart,
To make the Reader see the Writer's Art,
When He call'd forth his Numbers, in Defence
Of slaughter'd Fancy, and of martyr'd Sence,
Telling the Secrets of his Author's mind,
And Homer's Readers are no longer blind,
But lost in Light we grasp the shining Prize,
Though dark before as were its Author's Eyes.
Oh! had those Powers that took him hence bestow'd
A longer Time on Earth for His abode;
That the whole Bard might have adorn'd our Clime,
Rescu'd in ev'ry part from Fate and Time.
But I, in vain, a fruitless wish pursue,
We have no Hope unless that Hope's in You:
Or Yours most lengthen His contracted Strains,
Or all the Bard can never quit his Chains.

The Second (and what Muse can speak the Wrong,
Done to the Beauties of the Latian Song)
Perverted by base Hands, had lost its Charms,
And Brittish Words had conquer'd Roman Arms.
The Goths and Vandals seem'd again to Reign,
And strike a Terror through th' Italian Plain,
As we no more could find in either's Page,
An Ovid's softness, or a Virgil's Rage:
Till He, Rome's other Pow'rful Genius, rose,
And Triumph'd o'er the conquests of Her Foes.
Giving the first His Nativeness of Thought,
And to the last His Fire without a Fault.

But if the Greek, and if the Latin share
The Bounties of his Favours, and his Care,
If Foreign Tongues have His assistance known,
What Thanks are owing to Him from his own?
Brittain must rise (or Brittain is unjust,
And as she wrong'd Him Living, wrong's his Dust)
To Vindicate His long Experienc'd Aid,
And own a Debt which she but Oddly paid;
When from His Brows, the spreading Bays were torn,
And for His Labours, she return'd her Scorn.
Rugged, and rough, the Bard her Language found,
Without a Meaning, or a proper sound,
As Saxon Syllabs Cloak'd the Roads of Sence,
And Foreign Words were all Her Tongues Defence.
But Dryden's Diligence, and Dryden's Thought,
Chas'd back the Troops, which false Invaders brought.
New stamp'd the Language with another Face,
And gave it Majesty as well as Grace,
It's Periods happy, and its Cadence true,
It's flights surprizing, and expressions New,
Perspicuous in it's meaning as the Light,
And grateful to the Ear, and to the Sight.

Waller, at first, as Moses led the way,
And shew'd our Dark'ned Land a distant Day,
Dispell'd some Clouds which Gather'd round it's Head,
And made the Gloom of Night much thinner spread,
But Nature's Debt He pay'd, and scarce had spy'd,
The Darkness to decrease, but slept and dy'd.
When Dryden, like a second Joshua came,
His Fortune greater, though his Task the same.
And led us to the Beautious Realms of Light,
Possessing what the other had in Sight,
Bringing the North much nearer to the Sun,
And perfecting, what Waller had begun.

Yet though his Works are all sublimely Great,
And dare the Teeth of Time, and Rage of Fate;
Though Absolon's Rebellion ever shines,
And Fleckno's dullness Sparkles in his Lines,
Though Mourning ANTHONY still makes us Weep,
And brave VENTIDIUS' Manly Sorrows keep,
Though, All H' has done dares Envy's Nicest Test,
And His worst Poem's better than our Best,
His latest Work, though in His last decays,
As far exceeds His former as Our Praise,
And Chaucer shall again with Joy be Read,
Whose Language with its Master lay for Dead,
'Till Dryden, striving His Remains to save,
Sunk in His Tomb, who brought him from his Grave.