To My Honoured Friend Dr Charleton

A poem by John Dryden

On His Learned And Useful Works; But More Particularly His Treatise Of Stonehenge,[1] By Him Restored To The True Founder.


The longest tyranny that ever sway'd,
Was that wherein our ancestors betray'd
Their free-born reason to the Stagyrite,
And made his torch their universal light.
So truth, while only one supplied the state,
Grew scarce, and dear, and yet sophisticate.
Still it was bought, like empiric wares, or charms,
Hard words seal'd up with Artistotle's arms.
Columbus was the first that shook his throne,
And found a temperate in a torrid zone,
The feverish air fann'd by a cooling breeze,
The fruitful vales set round with shady trees:
And guiltless men, who danced away their time,
Fresh as their groves, and happy as their clime.
Had we still paid that homage to a name,
Which only God and nature justly claim,
The western seas had been our utmost bound,
Where poets still might dream the sun was drown'd:
And all the stars that shine in southern skies,
Had been admired by none but savage eyes.

Among the asserters of free reason's claim,
Our nation's not the least in worth or fame.
The world to Bacon does not only owe
Its present knowledge, but its future too.
Gilbert[2] shall live, till loadstones cease to draw,
Our British fleets the boundless ocean awe.
And noble Boyle, not less in nature seen,
Than his great brother read in states and men.
The circling streams, once thought but pools, of blood
(Whether life's fuel, or the body's food)
From dark oblivion Harvey's[3] name shall save;
While Ent[4] keeps all the honour that he gave.
Nor are you, learned friend, the least renown'd,
Whose fame, not circumscribed with English ground,
Flies like the nimble journeys of the light;
And is, like that, unspent too in its flight.
Whatever truths have been, by art or chance,
Redeem'd from error, or from ignorance,
Thin in their authors, like rich veins of ore,
Your works unite, and still discover more.
Such is the healing virtue of your pen,
To perfect cures on books, as well as men.
Nor is this work the least: you well may give
To men new vigour, who make stones to live.
Through you, the Danes, their short dominion lost,
A longer conquest than the Saxons boast.
Stonehenge, once thought a temple, you have found
A throne, where kings, our earthly gods, were crown'd;
Where by their wondering subjects they were seen,
Joy'd with their stature, and their princely mien.
Our sovereign here above the rest might stand,
And here be chose again to rule the land.

These ruins[5] shelter'd once his sacred head,
When he from Worcester's fatal battle fled;
Watch'd by the genius of this royal place,
And mighty visions of the Danish race.
His refuge then was for a temple shown:
But, he restored, 'tis now become a throne.

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