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'Tis still the same, although their airy shape But when he sees the eager chace renew'd, All but a quick poetic sight escape.
Himself by dogs, and dogs by men pursu'd, There Faunus and Sylvanus keep their courts, He straight revokes his bold resolve, and more And thither all the horned host resorts
Repents his courage than his fear before; To the ranker mead; that noble herd
Finds that uncertain ways unsafest are, On whose sublime and shady fronts is rear'd And doubt a greater mischief than despair. Nature's great masterpiece, to shew how soon Then to the stream, when neither friends, nor force, Great things are made, but sooner are undone. Nor speed, nor art avail, he shapes his course; Here have I seen the King, when great affairs Thinks not their rage so desp’rate to essay Gave leave to slacken and unbend his cares,
An element more merciless than they. Attended to the chase, by all the flow'r
But fearless they pursue, nor can the flood Of youth, whose hopes a noble prey devour; Quench their dire thirst: alas! they thirst for blood. Pleasure with praise and danger they would buy, So towards a ship the oar-finn'd gallies ply, And wish a foe that would not only fly.
Which wanting sea to ride, or wind to fly, The stag now conscious of his fatal growth,
Stands but to fall reveng'd on those that dare At once indulgent to his fear and sloth,
Tempt the last fury of extreme despair. To some dark covert his retreat had made,
So fares the stag; among th' enraged hounds, Where no man's eye, nor heaven's should invade Repels their force, and wounds returns for wounds: His soft repose; when th' unexpected sound
And as a hero, whom his baser foes Of dogs aud men his wakeful ear does wound. In troops surround, now these assails, now those, Rous'd with the noise, be scarce believes his ear, Though prodigal of life, disdains to die Willing to think th'illusions of his fear
By common hands; but if he can descry
And begs his fate, and then contented falls.
From his unerring hand, then glad to die,
Fair Liberty pursu'd, and meant a prey Has lost the chasers, and his ear the cry;
To lawless Power, here turn'd, and stood at bay; Exulting, till he finds their nobler sense
When in that remedy all hope was plac'd Their disproportion'd speed doth recompense; Which was, or should have been at least, the last. Then curses his conspiring feet, whose scent
Here was that Charter seal'd wherein the crown Betrays that safety which their swiftness lent: All marks of arbitrary power lays down; Then tries his friends; among the baser herd, Tyrant and slave, those names of hate and fear, Where he so lately was obey'd and fear'd,
The happier style of king and subject bear : His safety seeks : the herd, unkindly wise,
Happy when both to the same centre move, Or chases him from thence or from him flies,
When kings give liberty and subjects love. Like a declining statesman, left forlorn
Therefore not long in force this Charter stood; To his friends' pity, and pursuers' scorn,
Wanting that seal, it must be seal'd in blood. With shame remembers, while himself was one The subjects arm’d, the more their princes gave, Of the same berd, himself the same had done. Th' advantage only took the more to crave ; Thence to the coverts and the conscious groves, Till kings, by giving, gave themselves away, The scenes of his past triumphs and his loves, And ev'n that power that should deny betray. Sadly surveying where he rang’d alone,
“ Who gives constrain'd, but his own fear reviles, Prince of the soil, and all the herd his own, “ Not thank’d, but scorn'd; nor are they gifts, but And like a bold knight-errant did proclaim
spoils.” Combat to all, and bore away the dame,
Thus kings, by grasping more than they could hold, And taught the woods to echo to the stream First made their subjects by oppression bold; His dreadful challenge, and his clashing beam; And popular sway, by forcing kings to give Yet faintly now declines the fatal strife,
More than was fit for subjects to receive, So much his love was dearer than his life.
Ran to the same extremes; and one excess Now ev'ry leaf, and ev'ry moving breath
Made both, by striving to be greater, less. Presents a foe, and ev'ry foe a death.
When a calm river, rais'd with sudden rains, Weary'd, forsaken, and pursu'd, at last
Or snows dissolv’d, oʻerflows th' adjoining plains, All safety in despair of safety plac’d,
The husbandmen with high-rais'd banks secure Courage he thence resumes, resolv’d to bear Their greedy hopes, and this he can endure; All their assaults, since 'tis in vain to fear.
But if with bays and dains they strive to force And now, too late, he wishes for the fight
His channel to a new or narrow course, That strength he wasted in ignoble flight;
No longer then within his banks he dwells,
First to a torrent, then a deluge, swells ;
All her own virtues through the universe. Stronger and fiercer by restraint, he roars,
Here some digression I must make, t' accuse And knows no bound, but makes his power his Thee, my forgetful and ungrateful Muse ! shores.
Couldst thou from Greece to Latium take thy flight,
I can no more believe old Homer blind,
Than those who say the sun hath never shin'd: When God from earth form'd Adam in the East, The age wherein he liv'd was dark, but he He his own image on the clay imprest.
Could not want sight who taught the world to see, As subjects then the whole creation came,
They who Minerva from Jove's head derive, And from their natures Adam them did name; Might make old Homer's skull the Muses' hive, Not from experience (for the world was new) And from his brain that Helicon distil He only from their cause their natures knew. Whose racy liquor did his offspring fill. Had memory been lost with innocence,
Nor old Anacreon, Hesiod, Theocrite, We had not known the sentence nor th' offence. Must we forget, nor Pindar's lofty flight. 'Twas his chief punishment to keep in store
Old Homer's soul, at last from Greece retir'd, The sad remembrance what he was before ;
In Italy the Mantuan swain inspir'd. And though th' offending part felt mortal pain, When great Augustus made war's tempests cease, Th’immortal part its knowledge did retain. His halcyon days brought forth the arts of
peace. After the food arts to Chaldea fell;
He still in his triumphant chariot shines, The fai her of the faithful there did dwell,
By Horace drawn and Virgil's mighty lines. Who both their parent and instructor was:
'Twas certainly mysterious that the name From thence did learning into Egypt pass.
Of prophets and of poets is the same. Moses in all th' Egyptian arts was skill'd,
What the Tragedian wrote, the late success
As dark a truth that author did unfold
“ Of things, and a new world by Typhis found; Musæus first, then Orpheus, civilize
“ Then ages far remote shall understand Mankind, and gave the world their deities:
“ The isle of Thule is not the farthest land.” To many gods they taught devotion,
Sure God, by these discoveries, did design Which were the distinct faculties of one:
That his clear light thro' all the world should shine; Thi Eternal Cause in their immortal lines
But the obstruction from that discord springs Was taught, and poets were the first divines. The Prince of Darkness made 'twixt Christian kings: God Moses first, then David, did inspire,
That peaceful age with happiness to crown, To compose anthems for his heavenly quire:
From heav'n the Prince of Peace himself came To th' one the style of Friend he did impart,
down; On th’ other stamped the likeness of his heart: Then the true Sun of knowledge first appear’d, And Moses, in the old original,
And the old dark mysterious clouds were clear'd; Er'n God the poet of the world doth call.
The heavy cause of th' old accursed flood Next those old Greeks Pythagoras did rise,
Sunk in the sacred deluge of his blood. Then Socrates, whom th' oracle call'd Wise.
His passion man from his first fall redeem'd; The divine Plato moral virtue shews,
Once more to Paradise restor'd we seemid; Then his disciple Aristotle rose,
Satan himself was bound, till th” iron chain Who nature's secrets to the world did teach, Our pride did break, and let him loose again. Yet that great soul our novelists impeach:
Still the old sting remain'd, and man began Too much manuring fill'd that field with weeds, To tempt the serpent as he tempted man. While sects, like locusts, did destroy the seeds. Then hell sends forth her furies, Av'rice, Pride, The tree of knowledge, blasted by disputes,
Fraud, Discord, Force, Hypocrisy, their guide : Produces sapless leaves instead of fruits.
Though the foundation on a rock were laid, Proud Greece all nations else barbarians held, The church was undermin'd, and then betray'd. Boasting her learning all the world excell'd. Though the Apostles these events foretold, Flying from thence, to Italy it came,
Yet ev’n the shepherd did devour the fold: And to the realm of Naples gave the name,
The fisher to convert the world began, Till both their nation and their arts did come The pride convincing of vain-glorious man ; A welcome trophy to triumphant Rome.
But soon his followers grew a sovereign lord, Then wheresoe'er her conquering eagles fled, And Peter's keys exchang'd for Peter's sword, Arts, learning, and civility, were spread;
Which still maintains for his adopted son And as in this our microcosm, the heart
Vast patrimonies, though himself had none; Heat, spirit, motion, gives to every part,
Wresting the text to the old giant's sense, So Rome's victorious influence did disperse
That heaven once more must suffer violence.
Then subtle doctors scriptures made their prize;
To furnish ammunition for this war: Casuists, like cocks, struck out each others' eyes: Uncharitable zeal our reason whets, Then dark distinctions reason's light disguis’d, And double edges on our passions sets. And into atoms truth anatomiz'd:
"Tis the most certain sign the world's accurst, Then Mahʼmet's crescent, by our feuds increast, That the best things corrupted are the worst. Blasted the learn'd remainders of the East.
'Twas the corrupted light of knowledge hurl'd That project, when from Greece to Rome it came, Sin, death, and ignorance, o'er all the world. Made mother Ignorance Devotion's dame;
That sun like this (from which our sight we have) Then he whom Lucifer's own pride did swell, Gazed on too long, resumes the light he gave ; His faithful emissary, rose from hell
And when thick mists of doubts obscure his beams, To possess Peter's chair; that Hildebrand,
Our guide is error and our visions dreams. Whose foot on mitres, then on crowns, did stand: 'Twas no false heraldry when Madness drew And before that exalted idol all
Her pedigree from those who too much knew. (Whom we call Gods on earth) did prostrate fall. Who in deep mines for hidden knowledge toils, Then darkness Europe's face did overspread, Like guns o'ercharg’d, breaks, misses, or recoils. From lazy cells, where superstition bred,
When subtle wits have spun their thread too fine, Which, link'd with blind obedience, so increas'd, "Tis weak and fragile, like Arachne's line. That the whole world some ages they oppress’d; True piety without cessation tost Till thro' those clouds the sun of knowledge brake,
By theories, the practic part is lost; And Europe from her lethargy did wake;
And like a ball bandy'd 'twixt pride and wit, Then first our monarchs were acknowledg'd here, Rather than yield, both sides the prize will quit; That they their churches' nursing fathers were. Then whilst his foe each gladiator foils, When Lucifer no longer could advance
The Atheist looking on enjoys the spoils. His works on the false ground of ignorance,
Through seas of knowledge we our course advance, New arts he tries, and new designs he lays, Discovering still new worlds of ignorance; Then his well-studied masterpiece he plays;
And these discov'ries make us all confess Loyola, Luther, Calvin, he inspires,
That sublunary science is but guess. And kindles with infernal flames their fires;
Matters of fact to man are only known, Sends their forerunner (conscious of th' event) And what seems more is mere opinion : Printing, his most pernicious instrument!
The standers-by see clearly this event; Wild controversy then, which long had slept, All parties say they're sure, yet all dissent. Into the press from ruin'd cloisters leapt.
With their new light our bold inspectors press, No longer by implicit faith we err,
Like Cham, to shew their father's nakedness, Whilst every man's his own interpreter;
By whose example after-ages may No more conducted now by Aaron's rod,
Discover we more naked are than they.
All human wisdom to divine is folly:
But to be sure we are deceiv'd brings grief.
Who thinks his wife is virtuous, though not so, Fiery disputes that union have calcin'd;
Is pleas'd and patient till the truth he know. Almost as many minds as men we find;
Our God, when heaven and earth he did create, And when that flame finds combustible earth, Form'd man, who should of both participate. Thence fatuus fires and meteors take their birth; If our lives' motions theirs must imitate, Legions of sects and insects come in throngs; Our knowledge, like our blood, must circulate. To name them all would tire a hundred tongues. When like a bridegroom from the East the sun Such were the Centaurs, of Ixion's race,
Sets forth, he thither whence he came doth run. Who a bright cloud for Juno did embrace ;
Into earth's spongy veins the ocean sinks, And such the monsters of Chimæra's kind,
Those rivers to replenish which he drinks : Lions before, and dragons were behind.
So Learning, which from reason's fountain springs, Then from the clashes between popes and kings Back to the source some secret channel brings. Debate, like sparks from flints' collision, springs. 'Tis happy when our streams of knowledge flow As Jove's loud thunderbolts were forg'd by heat, To fill their banks, but not to overthrow. The like our Cyclops on their anvils beat:
“ Ut metit Autumnus fruges quas parturit æstas, All the rich mines of learning ransack'd are “ Sic orum Natura, dedit Deus his quoque finem."
DRYDEN-A. D. 1631-1701.
ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.
In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin, Before polygamy was made a sin; When man on many multiplied his kind, Ere one to one was cursedly contin'd; When nature prompted, and no law deny’d, Promiscuous use of concubine and bride; When Israel's monarch after heaven's own heart His vigorous warmth.did variously impart To wives and slaves; and wide as his command, Scatter'd his Maker's image through the land: Michal, of royal blood, the crown did wear, A soil ungrateful to the tiller's care; Not so the rest ; for several mothers bore To god-like David several sons before. But since like slaves his bed they did ascend, No true succession could their seed attend. Of all the numerous progeny was none So beautiful, so brave, as Absalom: Whether, inspired by some diviner lust, His father got him with a greater gust; Or that his conscious destiny made way, By manly beauty to imperial sway. Early in foreign fields he won renown, With kings and states ally'd to Israel's crown: In peace the thoughts of war he could remove, And seem'd as he were only born for love. Whate'er he did was done with so much ease, In him alone 'twas natural to please : His motions all accompany'd with grace; And Paradise was open'd in his face. With secret joy indulgent David view'd His youthful image in his son renew'd: To all his wishes nothing he deny’d; And made the charming Annabel his bride. What faults he had; for who from faults is free? His father could not, or he would not see. Some warm excesses which the law forbore, Were construed youth, that purg'd by boiling o'er; And Amnon's murder, by a specious name, Was call'd a just revenge for injur'd fame: Thus prais'd and lov'd, the noble youth remain’d, While David undisturb’d in Sion reign'd, But life can never be sincerely blest: Heaven punishes the bad, and proves the best. The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murmuring race, As ever tried th' extent and stretch of grace; God's pamper'd people, whom debauch'd with ease, No king could govern, nor no God could please ; Gods they had tried of every shape and size, That goldsmiths could produce, or priests devise : These Adam-wits too fortunately free, Began to dream they wanted liberty;
And when no rule, no precedent, was found
Th' inhabitants of old Jerusalem
From hence began that plot, the nation's curse, Punish a body which he could not please;
Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease ?
To that unfeather'd two-legg'd thing, a son;
Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state.
To compass this the triple bond he broke; Succeeding times did equal folly call,
The pillars of the public safety shook ; Believing nothing, or believing all.
And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke; Th’Egyptian rites the Jebusites embrac'd ;
Then seiz'd with fear, yet still affecting fame, Where gods are recommended by their taste. Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name. Such savory deities must needs be good,
So easy still it proves in factious times, As serv'd at once for worship and for food.
With public zeal to cancel private crimes. By force they could not introduce these gods; How safe is treason, and how sacred ill, For ten to one in former days was odds.
Where none can sin against the people's will! So fraud was us'd, the sacrificer's trade:
Where crowds can wink, and no offence be known, Fools are more hard to conquer than persuade. Since in another's guilt they find their own? Their busy teachers mingled with the Jews, Yet fame deserv'd no enemy can grudge; And rak'd for converts ev'n the court and stews: The statesman we abhor, but praise the judge. Which Hebrew priests the more unkindly took, In Israel's courts ne'er sat an Abethdin Because the fleece accompanies the flock.
With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean, Some thought they God's anointed meant to slay Unbrib'd, unsought, the wretched to redress; By guns, invented since full many a day:
Swist of dispatch, and easy of access. Our author swears it not; but who can know
Oh! had he been content to serve the crown, How far the devil and Jebusites may go?
With virtues only proper to the gown; This plot, which fail'd for want of common sense,
Or had the rankness of the soil been freed Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence:
From cockle, that oppress'd the 'noble seed; For as, when raging fevers boil the blood,
David for him his tuneful harp had strung, The standing lake soon floats into a flood,
And heaven had wanted one immortal song. And every hostile humour, which before
But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand, Slept quiet in its channels, bubbles o'er;
And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land. So several factions, from this first ferment,
Achitophel, grown weary to possess Work up to foam, and threat the government.
A lawful fame, and lazy happiness, Some by their friends, more by themselves thought Disdain'd the golden fruit to gather free, wise,
And lent the crowd his arm to shake the tree. Opposed the power to which they could not rise. Now, manifest of crimes contriv'd long since, Some had in courts been great, and thrown from He stood at bold defiance with his prince; thence,
Held up the buckler of the people's cause Like fiends were hardend in impenitence. Against the crown, and sculk'd behind the laws. Some, by their monarch's fatal mercy, grown The wish'd occasion of the plot he takes; From pardon'd rebels kinsmen to the throne, Some circumstances finds, but more he makes. Were rais'd in power and public office high: By buzzing emissaries fills the ear Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie. Of listening crowds with jealousies and fears Of these the false Achitophel was first;
Of arbitrary counsels brought to light, A name to all succeeding ages curst;
And proves the king himself a Jebusite. For close designs and crooked counsels fit;
Weak arguments! which yet he knew full well, Sagacious, bold, and turbulent of wit;
Were strong with people easy to rebel. Restless, unfix'd in principles and place;
For, govern'd by the moon, the giddy Jews In power unpleas’d, impatient of disgrace:
Tread the same track when she the prime reA fiery soul, which working out its way, Fretted the pigmy body to decay,
And once in twenty years, their scribes record, And o'er inform’d the tenement of clay.
By natural instinct they change their lord.
Achitophel still wants a chief, and none
But, for he knew his title not allowed,
Would keep him still depending on the crowd Else why should he, with wealth and honour blest, That kingly power, thus ebbing out, might be Refuse his age the needful hours of rest ?
Drawn to the dregs of a democracy.