1700 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Anonymous, "An Elegy to the Memory of John Dryden" 1700 ca.; Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (25 December 1786).



To those blest unknown distant regions, where
Great Pindar, Homer, and sweet Virgil live,
The immortal Dryden's fled; and justly there,
His nervous Poems do with their's compare,
Whilst more discerning Gods to him the laurel give.

May Envy let his dust in quiet sleep;
And fame eternal in his volumes dwell;
Whilst Chaucer's sacred tomb his ashes keep,
Let Lovers o'er his golden writings weep:
And thus the melting force of his strong numbers feel.

Great was his learning, and sublime his thoughts,
Pow'rful his fancy, matchless was his wit;
Num'rous his excellencies, few his faults;
And those he plac'd as foils, and beauty-spots,
To give more sprightly lustre to the lines he writ.

Satire and praise flow'd equal from his pen,
Dramatic rules no Shakespeare better knew;
The stately Epic and the Lyric strain,
In each he had so excellent a vein,
That from severest critics admiration drew.

Great King of Verse, whose merit rais'd thee high,
And won thy brows fresh laurel-crowns each day!
Thy works immortal are, and cannot die;
Why not thyself excempt from fate, oh why!
Unless the world's unworthy of thy longer stay.

Did the fell slights of an ingrateful age,
Hasten th' aspiring soul to take its flight;
And leave this worthless, sublunary stage,
Where pride and lust do mortal minds engage,
And keep the giddy world from doing merit right?

Great soul! no pen less pow'rful than thine own,
Can thy deserv'd immortal praise set forth,
Which time will magnify now thou art gone,
As ev'ry age successively comes on;
And to mankind discover, by degrees, thy worth.

Cou'd dust be sensible within the grave,
How joyful wou'd thy peaceful neighbours be,
Such venerable company to have,
Whose meritorious works will surely save
Thy mem'ry from decay to all eternity.

Chaucer and Cowley gladly wou'd receive
Thy precious reliques in their silent tomb;
Desiring their applause with your's might live,
In hopes your fame eternity might give
To their's, and that your laurels might together bloom.

For such an universal loss sustain'd,
May the like sorrow thro' the world be shewn;
Let ev'ry thing in nature be constrain'd
To weep, let full-charg'd clouds assistance lend,
And sadly-mournful, thickly drop their tears a-down.