1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

William Henry Ireland, "John Dryden" Neglected Genius (1812) 23-26 &n.



With pace majestic, fancy-beaming eye;
With bold imagination kindling high;
With spirit boundless, and with thought sublime;—
Behold our Dryden, god of sense and rhyme:
As satirist and poet ne'er surpass'd,
Cou'd adverse fate his brilliant sun o'ercast;
Cou'd one thus foster'd 'neath the muse's wing,
Rear'd by Ambrosia's sweets, Pieria's spring,—
Cou'd Dryden suffer? — Nature shrinks to own,
The bard cou'd want who grac'd Apollo's throne.
Yes, mighty Dryden, to amend the age,
Enrich'd, with shackled muse, his country's stage;
As if the legal instrument cou'd bind
Fancy, warm torrent of the human mind,—
Erect a flood-gate to controul the sense,
And turn the stream ordain'd by Providence:
As well may northern blasts bid roses blow,
Or sweet exotics bloom 'midst Alpine snow;
Rather on trackless deserts, parch'd by heat,
Bid vegetation rear her verdant seat;
Or, 'neath the burning line of Sol, behold
The congellations of Siberia cold;
Sooner shall nature's self invert her rule;—
Than genius willing greet coercion's school:
Yet Dryden travell'd this unwelcome road,
And saddled fancy with compulsion's load.
Too proud to bend beneath the galling weight,
He burst the fetters of his adverse fate;
Forgot those bonds that wou'd his muse confine,
And shone at once the dramatist divine.
In vain the rival wits, oppress'd with spleen,
Contemn'd the magic of our author's scene;
In vain great Buckingham his pow'r display'd,
Spite of his bays, the wreath our bard array'd;
Nor cou'd a Rochester's assassin aim
Enshroud his splendor, or attaint his fame.
A rock amidst the angry surge he stood,
And gaz'd disdainful on the foaming flood.
Conscious of inborn worth, he felt no dread,
Against the show'r of shafts rear'd high his head;
Untouch'd beheld the missile weapons fall,
And laugh'd to scorn his weak opponents' gall;
Despis'd that impotence their threats proclaim'd,
And, when he answer'd, made them more asham'd.
So beam'd as dramatist his teeming thought,
While satire's self through him its lesson taught.
As critic keen he still retain'd his sphere,
Too just to flatter — too renown'd to fear;
He soars true lyric poet to the sky,
An Alexander's Feast can never die;
Or if combin'd, e'er bard and scholar shone,
His Virgil claims those titles both his own.
So flourish'd Dryden, fancy's noontide blaze,
Sublime to contemplate — too great to praise.
Resign'd he met fate's all resistless doom,
And left another to erect his tomb.

Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, erected a monument to the memory of Dryden in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey; and I only lament to say, that it is neither worthy its noble projector, nor calculated to confer honour upon the renowned genius it is designed to commemorate.