1695 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On the Death of Amyntas: a Pastoral Elegy. Written by Mr. Dryden.

Poetical Miscellanies: the Fifth Part. Containing a Collection of original Poems, with several new Translations. By the most eminent Hands.

John Dryden


An undated pastoral elegy written for an unknown occasion posthumously published in 1704; John Dryden died in 1700. Amyntas evidently died young: "His Infancy was ripe: a Soul sublime | In Years so tender that prevented time: | Heav'n gave him all at once; then snatch'd away, | E're Mortals all his Beauties cou'd survey. | Just like the Flow'r that buds and withers in a day."

Anne Seward to Walter Scott: "Abundant as are Dryden's beauties, his faults are so numerous, both as a poet and commentator, that I should think it sad up-hill work to defend him where he errs; and for his beauties, they have met their full portion of celebrity. He, Spencer, and Chaucer, have, in my opinion, been overpraised. On a balance of their beauty and deformity, not one of them equals yourself or Southey. Coleridge has a very sublime and rich vein; naturally, and by education, perhaps not inferior to that of the author of Madoc; but Coleridge is indolent" 29 January 1807; in Letters (1806) 6:330-31.

Thomas Campbell: "In his old age he renewed his youth, like the eagle; or rather his genius acquired stronger wings than it had ever spread. He rose and fell, it is true, in the course of his poetical career; but upon the whole it was a career of improvement to the very last" Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1842) lxxxiii.

Herbert E. Cory: "It is remarkable, under the circumstances, to find Spenser admired and followed by poets in other respects so inimical to one another. Neo-classicism was necessary to save English poetry. But it grew only very slowly and painfully. Neo-classicism, when it did prevail, found inspiration in Spenser and reconciled him, for the most part, with its ideals. It is significant, as we have already seen, to note how often he was named with Virgil. It is not true that Spenser fell into disrepute and so remained until the romanticists 'revived' him" Critics of Edmund Spenser (1911) 126.

Dorothy E. Mason: "Strong relation to Spenser's pastoral elegiac vein, especially the bright closing of hope for the departed. Cf. the Lament for Dido, SC Nov" Wells, Spenser Allusions (1972) 310.



'Twas on a Joyless and a Gloomy Morn,
Wet was the Grass, and hung with Pearls the Thorn;
When Damon, who design'd to pass the Day
With Hounds and Horns, and chase the flying Prey,
Rose early from his Bed; but soon he found
The Welkin pitch'd with sullen Clouds around,
An Eastern Wind, and Dew upon the Ground.
Thus while he stood, and sighing did survey
The Fields, and curs'd th' ill Omens of the Day,
He saw Menalcas come with heavy pace;
Wet were his Eyes, and chearless was his Face:
He wrung his Hands, distracted with his Care,
And sent his Voice before him from afar.
Return, he cry'd, return unhappy Swain,
The spungy Clouds are fill'd with gath'ring Rain;
The Promise of the Day not only cross'd,
But ev'n the Spring, the Spring it self is lost.
Amyntas, — Oh! he cou'd not speak the rest,
Nor needed, for presaging Damon guess'd.
Equal with Heav'n young Damon lov'd the Boy;
The boast of Nature, both his Parents Joy.
His graceful Form revolving in his Mind;
So great a Genius, and a Soul so kind,
Gave sad assurance that his Fears were true;
Too well the Envy of the Gods he knew:
For when their Gifts too lavishly are plac'd,
Soon they repent, and will not make them last.
For, sure, it was too bountiful a Dole,
The Mother's Features, and the Father's Soul.
Thus then he cry'd, The Morn bespoke the News,
The Morning did her chearful Light diffuse;
But see how suddenly she chang'd her Face,
And brought on Clouds and Rains, the Day's disgrace;
Just such, Amyntas, was thy promis'd Race!
What Charms adorn'd thy Youth where Nature smil'd,
And more than Man was giv'n us in a Child.
His Infancy was ripe: a Soul sublime
In Years so tender that prevented time:
Heav'n gave him all at once; then snatch'd away,
E're Mortals all his Beauties cou'd survey.
Just like the Flow'r that buds and withers in a day.

MENALCAS.
The Mother Lovely, tho' with Grief opprest,
Reclin'd his dying Head upon her Breast.
The mournful Family stood all around;
One Groan was heard, one Universal Sound:
All were in Floods of Tears and endless Sorrow drown'd.
So dire a Sadness sate on ev'ry Look,
Ev'n Death repented he had giv'n the Stroke.
He griev'd his fatal Work had been ordain'd,
But promis'd length of Life to those who yet remain'd.
The Mother's and her Eldest Daughter's Grace,
It seems had brib'd him to prolong their space:
The Father bore it with undaunted Soul,
Like one who durst his Destiny controul:
Yet with becoming Grief he bore his part,
Resign'd his Son, but not resign'd his Heart.
Patient as Job; and may he live to see,
Like him, a now increasing Family:

DAMON.
Such is my Wish, and such my Prophesie.
For yet, my Friend, the Beauteous Mold remains,
Long may she exercise her fruitful Pains:
But, ah! with better hap, and bring a Race
More lasting, and endu'd with equal Grace:
Equal she may, but farther none can go;
For he was all that was exact below.

MENALCAS.
Damon, behold, yon breaking Purple Cloud;
Hear'st thou not Hymns and Songs Divinely loud?
There mounts Amyntas, the young Cherubs play
About their Godlike Mate, and Sing him on his way.
He cleaves the liquid Air, behold he Flies,
And every Moment gains upon the Skies;
The new come Guest admires th' Aetherial State,
The Saphyr Portal, and the Golden Gate;
And now admitted in the shining Throng,
He shows the Passport which he brought along;
His Passport in his Innocence and Grace,
Well known to all the Native of the Place.
Now Sing yee joyful Angels, and admire
Your Brother's Voice that comes to mend your Quire:
Sing you, while endless Tears our Eyes bestow;
For like Amyntas none is left below.

[pp. 16-21]