To My Honoured Kinsman, John Dryden, Of Chesterton, In The County Of Huntingdon, Esq.

A poem by John Dryden

How bless'd is he who leads a country life,
Unvex'd with anxious cares, and void of strife!
Who studying peace, and shunning civil rage,
Enjoy'd his youth, and now enjoys his age:
All who deserve his love, he makes his own;
And, to be loved himself, needs only to be known.

Just, good, and wise, contending neighbours come,
From your award to wait their final doom;
And, foes before, return in friendship home.
Without their cost, you terminate the cause;
And save the expense of long litigious laws:
Where suits are traversed; and so little won,
That he who conquers, is but last undone:
Such are not your decrees; but so design'd,
The sanction leaves a lasting peace behind;
Like your own soul, serene; a pattern of your mind.

Promoting concord, and composing strife,
Lord of yourself, uncumber'd with a wife;
Where, for a year, a month, perhaps a night,
Long penitence succeeds a short delight:
Minds are so hardly match'd, that even the first,
Though pair'd by Heaven, in Paradise were cursed.
For man and woman, though in one they grow,
Yet, first or last, return again to two.
He to God's image, she to his was made;
So farther from the fount the stream at random stray'd.

How could he stand, when, put to double pain,
He must a weaker than himself sustain!
Each might have stood perhaps; but each alone;
Two wrestlers help to pull each other down.

Not that my verse would blemish all the fair;
But yet, if some be bad, 'tis wisdom to beware;
And better shun the bait, than struggle in the snare.
Thus have you shunn'd, and shun the married state,
Trusting as little as you can to fate.

No porter guards the passage of your door,
To admit the wealthy, and exclude the poor;
For God, who gave the riches, gave the heart,
To sanctify the whole, by giving part;
Heaven, who foresaw the will, the means has wrought,
And to the second son a blessing brought;
The first-begotten had his father's share:
But you, like Jacob, are Rebecca's heir.[2]

So may your stores and fruitful fields increase;
And ever be you bless'd, who live to bless.
As Ceres sow'd, where'er her chariot flew;
As Heaven in deserts rain'd the bread of dew;
So free to many, to relations most,
You feed with manna your own Israel host.

With crowds attended of your ancient race,
You seek the champion sports, or sylvan chase:
With well-breath'd beagles you surround the wood,
Even then, industrious of the common good:
And often have you brought the wily fox
To suffer for the firstlings of the flocks;
Chased even amid the folds; and made to bleed,
Like felons, where they did the murderous deed.
This fiery game your active youth maintain'd;
Not yet by years extinguish'd, though restrain'd:
You season still with sports your serious hours:
For age but tastes of pleasures youth devours.
The hare in pastures or in plains is found,
Emblem of human life, who runs the round;
And, after all his wandering ways are done,
His circle fills, and ends where he begun--
Just as the setting meets the rising sun.

Thus princes ease their cares; but happier he,
Who seeks not pleasure through necessity,
Than such as once on slippery thrones were placed;
And chasing, sigh to think themselves are chased.

So lived our sires, ere doctors learn'd to kill,
And multiplied with theirs the weekly bill.
The first physicians by debauch were made:
Excess began, and sloth sustains the trade,
Pity the generous kind their cares bestow
To search forbidden truths (a sin to know),
To which, if human science could attain,
The doom of death, pronounced by God, were vain.
In vain the leech would interpose delay;
Fate fastens first, and vindicates the prey.
What help from art's endeavours can we have?
Gibbons[3] but guesses, nor is sure to save:
But Maurus[4] sweeps whole parishes, and peoples every grave;
And no more mercy to mankind will use,
Than when he robb'd and murder'd Maro's Muse.
Wouldst thou be soon despatch'd, and perish whole,
Trust Maurus with thy life, and Milbourn[5] with thy soul.

By chase our long-lived fathers earn'd their food;
Toil strung the nerves, and purified the blood:
But we their sons, a pamper'd race of men,
Are dwindled down to threescore years and ten.
Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught.
The wise, for cure, on exercise depend;
God never made his work for man to mend.

The tree of knowledge, once in Eden placed,
Was easy found, but was forbid the taste:
Oh, had our grandsire walk'd without his wife,
He first had sought the better plant of life!
Now both are lost: yet, wandering in the dark,
Physicians, for the tree, have found the bark:
They, labouring for relief of human kind,
With sharpen'd sight some remedies may find;
The apothecary-train is wholly blind,
From files a random recipe they take,
And many deaths of one prescription make.
Garth,[6] generous as his Muse, prescribes and gives;
The shopman sells; and by destruction lives:
Ungrateful tribe! who, like the viper's brood,
From medicine issuing, suck their mother's blood!
Let these obey; and let the learn'd prescribe;
That men may die, without a double bribe:
Let them, but under their superiors, kill;
When doctors first have sign'd the bloody bill;
He 'scapes the best, who, nature to repair,
Draws physic from the fields, in draughts of vital air.

You hoard not health, for your own private use;
But on the public spend the rich produce.
When, often urged, unwilling to be great,
Your country calls you from your loved retreat,
And sends to senates, charged with common care,
Which none more shuns, and none can better bear;
Where could they find another form'd so fit,
To poise, with solid sense, a sprightly wit?
Were these both wanting, as they both abound,
Where could so firm integrity be found?
Well born, and wealthy, wanting no support,
You steer betwixt the country and the court:
Nor gratify whate'er the great desire,
Nor grudging give what public needs require.
Part must be left, a fund when foes invade;
And part employ'd to roll the watery trade:
Even Canaan's happy land, when worn with toil,
Required a sabbath-year to mend the meagre soil.

Good senators (and such as you) so give,
That kings may be supplied, the people thrive.
And he, when want requires, is truly wise,
Who slights not foreign aids, nor over-buys;
But on our native strength, in time of need, relies.
Munster was bought, we boast not the success;
Who fights for gain, for greater makes his peace.

Our foes, compell'd by need, have peace embraced:
The peace both parties want, is like to last:
Which, if secure, securely we may trade;
Or, not secure, should never have been made.
Safe in ourselves, while on ourselves we stand,
The sea is ours, and that defends the land.
Be then the naval stores the nation's care,
New ships to build, and batter'd to repair.

Observe the war, in every annual course;
What has been done, was done with British force:
Namur subdued,[7] is England's palm alone;
The rest besieged, but we constrain'd the town;
We saw the event that follow'd our success;
France, though pretending arms, pursued the peace;
Obliged, by one sole treaty,[8] to restore
What twenty years of war had won before.
Enough for Europe has our Albion fought:
Let us enjoy the peace our blood has bought.
When once the Persian king was put to flight,
The weary Macedons refused to fight:
Themselves their own mortality confess'd:
And left the son of Jove to quarrel for the rest.

Even victors are by victories undone;
Thus Hannibal, with foreign laurels won,
To Carthage was recall'd, too late to keep his own.
While sore of battle, while our wounds are green,
Why should we tempt the doubtful die again?
In wars renew'd, uncertain of success;
Sure of a share, as umpires of the peace.

A patriot both the king and country serves:
Prerogative and privilege preserves:
Of each our laws the certain limit show;
One must not ebb, nor the other overflow:
Betwixt the prince and parliament we stand;
The barriers of the state on either hand:
May neither overflow, for then they drown the land.
When both are full, they feed our bless'd abode;
Like those that water'd once the paradise of God.

Some overpoise of sway, by turns, they share;
In peace the people, and the prince in war:
Consuls of moderate power in calms were made;
When the Gauls came, one sole dictator sway'd.

Patriots, in peace, assert the people's right;
With noble stubbornness resisting might:
No lawless mandates from the court receive,
Nor lend by force, but in a body give.
Such was your generous grandsire; free to grant
In parliaments, that weigh'd their prince's want:

But so tenacious of the common cause,
As not to lend the king against his laws;
And, in a loathsome dungeon doom'd to lie,
In bonds retain'd his birthright liberty,
And shamed oppression, till it set him free.

O true descendant of a patriot line,
Who, while thou shar'st their lustre, lend'st them thine!
Vouchsafe this picture of thy soul to see;
'Tis so far good, as it resembles thee:
The beauties to the original I owe;
Which when I miss, my own defects I show:
Nor think the kindred Muses thy disgrace:
A poet is not born in every race.
Two of a house few ages can afford;
One to perform, another to record.
Praiseworthy actions are by thee embraced;
And 'tis my praise, to make thy praises last.
For even when death dissolves our human frame,
The soul returns to heaven from whence it came;
Earth keeps the body--verse preserves the fame.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'To My Honoured Kinsman, John Dryden, Of Chesterton, In The County Of Huntingdon, Esq.' by John Dryden

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy