Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
Shadwell (from Mac Flecknoe)
By John Dryden (1631–1700)

ALL human things are subject to decay,
And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey.
This Flecknoe 1 found, who, like Augustus, young
Was called to empire and had governed long,
In prose and verse was owned without dispute        5
Through all the realms of Nonsense absolute.
This aged prince, now flourishing in peace
And blest with issue of a large increase,
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the succession of the state;        10
And pondering which of all his sons was fit
To reign and wage immortal war with wit,
Cried, ‘’Tis resolved, for Nature pleads that he
Should only rule who most resembles me.
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,        15
Mature in dulness from his tender years;
Shadwell alone of all my sons is he
Who stands confirmed in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.        20
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell’s genuine night admits no ray,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day.
Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye        25
And seems designed for thoughtless majesty,
Thoughtless as monarch oaks that shade the plain,
And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.
Heywood and Shirley 2 were but types of thee,
Thou last great prophet of tautology.        30
Even I, a dunce of more renown than they,
Was sent before but to prepare thy way,
And coarsely clad in Norwich drugget 3 came
To teach the nations in thy greater name.
Note 1. Richard Flecknoe had died in 1678. He was an Irishman by birth. [back]
Note 2. Thomas Heywood and James Shirley were both extremely prolific dramatists. [back]
Note 3. Shadwell was a Norfolk man. [back]

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