1700 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Sarah Fyge Egerton, "An Ode on the Death of John Dryden, Esq." Luctus Britannici, or, the Tears of the British Muses for the Death of John Dryden (1700) 25-30.



I.
As when Plebeians at a Monarch's Death,
(Which should not be Prophan'd by Vulgar Breath)
With sawcy Grief, bewail the Fate
Of him they fear'd, almost Ador'd of late,
Presumptuous in their Tears, tho' helpless in their State.
So I the Muse's meanest Subject join
The Sorrows of the Great, with mine;
And tho' I cannot Tribute pay,
T' acknowledge Their Imperial Sway,
With arrogant, yet conscious Grief presume
To shed a Tear at Their Vicegerent's awful Tomb.

II.
Ah! who could think that God-like Man,
Immortal in our Thoughts, as in His own,
Should have no greater Favour shown;
And tho' with ev'ry Art and Grace Endow'd,
Should have a Life but of the usual Span,
And shrink into a Common Shroud:
Yet shall not His unequal'd Merit die,
Nor all the wrongs of Fate, His Lawrels blast,
Tho' Albion's Realms should be Destroy'd and Wast,
And in forgotten Ruins lye,
Fame's ecchoing Trump His Glories shall rehearse
To all the wond'ring Universe,
Till its shrill Voice be swallow'd up in what shall sound the Last.

III.
Sure, Poets are not made of Common Earth;
Or He at least may boast a Nobler Birth:
He, who in ev'ry Atom was Inspir'd
With flowing Fancy, and with Rapture fir'd;
Tho' the great Secret's not disclos'd,
He surely was, like Thebes, with artful Tunes Compos'd.
The Voices of the soft Melodious Nine
In Consort join'd Apollo's forming Lyre,
And Light ineffable infus'd its Fire,
With Tuneful Measures, Harmony Divine,
At the glad, Sacred, all-commanding Sound,
With Animation, passing Vulgar Thought,
The knowing, willing Atoms came,
And danc'd into the Sacred Frame,
And bless'd Idea's brought,
Which fill'd His Soul, and Ours with Rapture drown'd.

IV.
It must be so — for nothing else could dart
Such Beams of Knowledge, and Celestial Art,
So clear a Judgment, and so bright a Mind;
Like it's Almighty Maker, ever Young,
And amid'st Weakness, Strong;
Tho' Age and Sickness both against it join'd.
But why did Phoebus and the Nine
A Piece so Perfect make?
If we their Workmanship must now resign,
And they again the Blessing take?
Why was Thy Body, most Illustrious Shade,
Like others made?
Subject to Casualties and Fate,
And comon ills, which wait a Mortal State?
When thy Celestial Mind
Had nothing of base Human kind,
But full of Inspiration spread
It's noble Ardour, and its God-like Rage,
Whose Works shall be with Pleasure read,
By ev'ry coming Age.
And Fame shall make Thee Live, tho' Fate has made Thee Dead.

V.
Apollo once before a Temple bless'd,
Where all th' Inquisitive might come
For an Ambiguous Doom;
And splendid Pomp amaz'd the Curious Guest,
Yet with less Glory could at Delphos shine,
Where Floors of Marble, Roofs of Gold,
Did his Orac'lous God-head hold,
Than in thy living Shrine.
There He was check'd with a Priest-riding Yoke,
Nor till the Block-head pleas'd, the God-head spoke.
But Phoebus ha's been always free,
And spoke without restraint in Thee.
In Thee with the same Pomp His Rays appear'd,
As when upon his bright Imperial Seat,
Where He the shining Scepter rear'd,
Beyond Expression great.
But Oh! that Deity is Silent now!
Silent as is Thy Tomb, which claim's our Tears,
No more the God within thy Voice appear's
Nor speak's through Thee what we should know,
As from thy Lips the Graces flow.
But all the lesser Lights of Wit Expire,
All glimmering lye,
And with declining Fire,
Since He, from whom they took their Light,
Has wing'd His flight,
And set's not in the Seas, but in the Sky.

VI.
Farewell to Inspiration now,
All Sacred extasies of Wit,
The softer Excellence
Of melting Words, and moving Sence;
Ye will no more with tempting sweetness flow,
But Poetry must now submit
To the bold, Enthusiastick Rage
Of a Malicious Age:
Which stead of Wonders, Monsters must bring forth,
To stock the Times with want of Worth,
And break the Poets, as they break the Stage.

VII.
Pythygoras his Doctrin much I doubt,
Or else if Thy Great Soul should Transmigrated be,
It might be Parcell'd out.
And stock each Age with Lawreat's till Eternity.
Oh! where is that Harmonious Soul of thine,
Teaching more Tuneful Numbers to the Sphere?
Or making Stars with greater Lustre shine,
Or hov'ring through th' extended space thy long Eternity of Years?
No — into Sacred Shades Thou'rt gone;
The Souls of Poets needs must thither fly,
(I'm sure they Lovers live, how e'er they die)
But Thou so many Laurels here hast won,
As soon will plant a new Elysium of thy own:
Triumphant sit beneath Thy Verdant Shade
Of ever blooming Wreaths, which less than those will fade
Which are below for Laurels made.
Then Virgil the Renown'd, the Great,
May keep His ancient Regal Seat,
Which there at thy approach he must resign,
For well he knows, Wit's Throne is Thine,
And thou deserv'st the guidance of the Learned State.

VIII.
And lo! with humblest Thanks He greet's that Hand,
Which so succesfully ha's taught,
His long fam'd Works, the Language of our Land,
With Art in ev'ry Line, and Grace in ev'ry Thought.
None their intrinsick Value can deny,
The well-plac'd Pride of ancient Rome,
Polish'd by Thee, is now Our Boast become.
Sparkling with all the Glories of true Poetry,
And take's from all a just and happier Doom.
Orpheus, and all the Tuneful Spirits there,
With Joys new Dated celebrate thy Fame,
In an Eternal, soft Celestial Air,
For all the Honours Thou hast done that slighted, injur'd Name.

IX.
And We, who drown'd in Tears, are left behind,
Are all employ'd about Thee too;
And tho' thy Worth too great a Theme we find,
At least our Gratitude and Grief we shew.
Our best Encomiums but Prophane Thy Name,
Unless a Congreve would a Piece design,
Whose Numbers, as they're dear to Fame,
Can Justice do to Thine.
My well-meant Trophy blushing I must rear,
Unkind Melpomene afford's no aid,
Tho' I so often begg'd and Pray'd,
My weaker Voice she would not hear.
Amongst the mighty Men She's busi'd now,
They, They, I find, best Charm Immortal Females too.
Tho' she'll not teach what Measures I shall keep,
Nor in Heroicks will my Wonder dress,
Nor in a softer Ode my Grief express,
'Tis my own fault (being Woman) if I cease to Weep.
Since this Great Man Fate's rigid Laws obey'd,
How is Wit's Empire lessen'd and decay'd!
It scarce a Province now appears;
Come, then 'tis Politick to join your Tears;
Forbear not till an Ocean round it flows,
And it an Island grows,
It may be safe encompass'd with our Sea,
But never Fortunate can be
While Nonsence shall have Friends, and Sence have Foes.
May 7th. 1700.
S. F.