1693 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

William Congreve, "To Mr. Dryden, on his Translation of Persius" Dryden, The Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus (1693) sig. A-Av.



As when of Old Heroique Story tells
Of Knights Imprison'd long by Magick Spells;
Till future Time, the destin'd Hero send,
By whom, the dire Enchantment is to end:
Such seems this Work, and so reserv'd for thee,
Thou great Revealer of dark Poesie.

Those sullen Clouds, which have for Ages past,
O're Persius's too-long-suff'ring Muse been cast,
Disperse, and flie before thy Sacred Pen,
And, in their room, bright tracks of light are seen.
Sure Phoebus self, thy swelling Breast inspires,
The God of Musick, and Poetique Fires:
Else, whence proceeds this great Surprise of Light!
How dawns this day, forth from the Womb of Night!

Our Wonder, now, does our past Folly show,
Vainly Contemning what we did not know:
So, Unbelievers impiously despise
The Sacred Oracles, in Mysteries.
Persius, before, in small Esteem was had,
Unless, what to Antiquity is paid;
But like Apocrypha, with Scruple read,
(So far, our Ignorance, our Faith misled)
'Till you, Apollo's darling Priest thought fit
To place it, in the Poet's Sacred Writ.

As Coin, which bears some awful Monarchs Face,
For more than its Intrinsick Worth will pass:
So your bright Image, which we here behold,
Adds Worth to Worth, and dignifies the Gold.
To you, we, all this following Treasure owe,
This Hippocrene, which from a Rock did flow.

Old Stoick Virtue, clad in rugged lines,
Polish'd by you, in Modern Brilliant shines:
And as before, for Persius our Esteem,
To his Antiquity was paid, not him:
So now, whatever Praise, from us is due,
Belongs not to Old Persius, but the New.
For still Obscure, to us no Light he gives;
Dead in himself, in you alone he lives.

So, stubborn Flints, their inward heat conceal,
'Till Art and Force, th' unwilling Sparks reveal;
But through your Skill, from those small Seeds of Fire,
Bright Flames arise, which never can Expire.