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the others were occasional pieces aimed at a popular taste, which has fortunately proved to be transitory. But in All for Love, his version of the Antony and Cleopatra story, there are undoubtedly some touches of greatness: the tragedy can still be read with pleasure, and might well be accorded another hearing on the stage. Of his Odes, the two finest are that on Alexander's Feast and that on St. Cecilia's Day: both stately examples of a form in which English verse and English music have equally excelled. That he falls below the first rank of poets is indisputable he lacks the fervour, the passion, the imaginative power which alone give access to the higher summits. But as a man of letters he occupies a wide domain, over which his supremacy can never be challenged. He summed up the seventeenth century; he prepared the way for the eighteenth; and he has left behind him a monument which will last as long as our literature endures.

JOHN DRYDEN (1631-1700) began his literary career while still a boy at Westminster. His Tears of the Muses on the Death of Henry, Lord Hastings (1641) is in the artificial fashion of the day. Dryden's family were all 'Parliament men', and in 1658 he wrote his Heroic Stanzas on the death of Oliver Cromwell. His next work was Astraea Redux, celebrating the Restoration, followed by a Panegyric upon the coronation of Charles II. In 1662 he was made a member of the Royal Society, and in the next year his first play, The Wild Gallant, was acted. Dryden now turned his attention to the drama, and began to produce plays with extraordinary rapidity. When the theatres were closed (1665-6) on account of the plague, he retired to Wiltshire, where he wrote Annus Mirabilis and the Essay of Dramatic Poesy. In 1666 he returned to London, and it is said that he undertook to provide the King's Theatre with three plays a year. He also collaborated with Davenant in rewriting The Tempest and Macbeth, and turned Milton's Paradise Lost into an heroic opera. The best of his plays is All for Love, which is founded on Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. In 1670 he became

poet laureate. In 1681 appeared Absalom and Achitophel, a brilliant satire on the Popish Plot, followed in 1682 by The Medal. In the same year appeared Mac Flecknoe, an answer to Shadwell's attacks on Dryden, and the second part of Absalom and Achitophel, of which the greater part was written by Tate. In November, 1682, the Religio Laici, a poetical defence of the Church of England, was published. In 1684-5 he published two volumes of miscellaneous poems. After the accession of James, Dryden became a Roman Catholic, and in 1687 he printed The Hind and the Panther, a defence of the Roman Church. Among his minor poems the best known is Alexander's Feast, written in 1697. He also translated works of Virgil and Ovid. His famous essays were written as prefaces to his various plays and poems.

Dryden is said to have been the first English man of letters to make a livelihood by his pen without being dependent on patrons.



Antony has sacrificed fame and honour in order to live in luxury in Egypt. Ventidius has come to try and rouse him. Enter ANTONY, walking with a disturbed motion before he speaks.

Ant. THEY tell me 'tis my birthday, and I'll keep it With double pomp of sadness.

'Tis what the day deserves which gave me breath. Why was I raised the meteor of the world

Hung in the skies, and blazing as I travelled

Till all my fires were spent; and then cast downward
To be trod out by Caesar?

Vent. (aside).

"Tis mournful, wondrous mournful!


On my soul

Count thy gains.

Now, Antony, wouldst thou be born for this?

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Glutton of fortune, thy devouring youth
Has starved thy wanting age.

Vent. (aside). How sorrow shakes him!

So now the tempest tears him up by the roots
And on the ground extends the noble ruin.


(ANT. having thrown himself down.)

Lie there, thou shadow of an emperor;
The place thou pressest on thy mother earth
Is all thy empire now: now it contains thee;
Some few days hence, and then 'twill be too large
When thou'rt contracted in thy narrow urn,
Shrunk to a few cold ashes; then Octavia 1
(For Cleopatra will not live to see it)-

Octavia then will have thee all her own,


And bear thee in her widowed hand to Caesar;
Caesar will weep, the crocodile will weep,

To see his rival of the universe

Lie still and peaceful there. I'll think no more on't.
Ant. Give me some music; look that it be sad;
I'll sooth my melancholy, till I swell

And burst myself with sighing.

'Tis somewhat to my humour: stay, I fancy

I'm now turned wild, a commoner of nature;
Of all forsaken and forsaking all;

Live in a shady forest's sylvan scene;



[Soft music.


Stretched at my length beneath some blasted oak,
I lean my head upon the mossy bark

And look just of a piece as I grew from it;
My uncombed locks, matted like mistletoe
Hang o'er my hoary face; a murm'ring brook
Runs at my foot.

Vent. (aside). Myself there too.

Methinks, I fancy

1 Caesar's sister and Antony's wife.


The herd come jumping by me And fearless quench their thirst, while I look on, And take me for their fellow-citizen.

More of this image, more; it lulls my thoughts.


[Soft music again.


PART I, LINES 146-302

Charles II wished to restore the Roman Catholic religion in
England. Shaftesbury came forward as champion of the
Protestant cause, and supported Titus Oates, who professed to
have discovered a 'Popish Plot'. Dryden, in this poem, attacks
Shaftesbury and the Protestant party. Achitophel represents
Shaftesbury himself, and Absalom, the Duke of Monmouth.
The poem opens with an account of the King's opponents.
SOME by their Monarch's fatal mercy grown
From pardoned rebels kinsmen to the throne
Were raised in power and public office high;
Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie.
Of these the false Achitophel was first,
A name to all succeeding ages curst:
For close designs and crooked counsels fit,
Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit,
Restless, unfixed in principles and place,
In power unpleased, impatient of disgrace;
A fiery soul, which, working out its way,
Fretted the pigmy body to decay

And o'er-informed the tenement of clay.
A daring pilot in extremity,


Pleased with the danger, when the waves went high, 160 He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,

Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.

Great wits are sure to madness near allied

And thin partitions do their bounds divide;

Else, why should he, with wealth and honour blest,

Refuse his age the needful hours of rest?
Punish a body which he could not please,
Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease?
And all to leave what with his toil he won
To that unfeathered two-legged thing, a son,
Got, while his soul did huddled notions try,
And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy.
In friendship false, implacable in hate,
Resolved to ruin or to rule the state;
To compass this the triple bond he broke,
The pillars of the public safety shook,
And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke;

Then, seized with fear, yet still affecting fame,
Usurped a patriot's all-atoning name.
So easy still it proves in factious times
With public zeal to cancel private crimes.
How safe is treason and how sacred ill,
Where none can sin against the people's will,
Where crowds can wink and no offence be known,
Since in another's guilt they find their own!
Yet fame deserved no enemy can grudge;
The statesman we abhor, but praise the judge.
In Israel's courts ne'er sat an Abbethdin
With more discerning eyes or hands more clean,
Unbribed, unsought, the wretched to redress,
Swift of despatch and easy of access.

Oh! had he been content to serve the crown
With virtues only proper to the gown,
Or had the rankness of the soil been freed
From cockle that oppressed the noble seed,
David for him his tuneful harp had strung
And Heaven had wanted one immortal song.
But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand,
And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land.




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