Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Threnodia Augustalis:
A Funeral-Pindarique Poem Sacred to the Happy Memory of King Charles II
THUS 1 long my Grief has kept me dumb:
    Sure there’s a Lethargy in mighty Woe,
    Tears stand congeal’d, and cannot flow;
And the sad Soul retires into her inmost Room:
Tears, for a Stroke foreseen, afford Relief;        5
    But, unprovided for a sudden Blow,
    Like Niobe we Marble grow;
      And Petrifie with Grief.
Our British Heav’n was all Serene,
  No threatning Cloud was nigh,        10
  Not the least wrinkle to deform the Sky;
  We liv’d as unconcern’d and happily
As the first Age in Natures golden Scene;
  Supine amidst our flowing Store,
We slept securely, and we dreamt of more:        15
  When suddenly the Thunder-clap was heard,
  It took us unprepar’d and out of guard,
  Already lost before we fear’d.
Th’ amazing News of Charles at once were spread,
  At once the general Voice declar’d,        20
    Our Gracious Prince was dead.
  No Sickness known before, no slow Disease,
  To soften Grief by Just Degrees;
  But, like an Hurricane on Indian seas,
          The Tempest rose;        25
    An unexpected Burst of Woes:
With scarce a breathing space betwixt,
This Now becalm’d, and perishing the next.
As if great Atlas from his Height
Shou’d sink beneath his heavenly Weight,        30
And, with a mighty Flaw, the flaming Wall
          (As once it shall)
Shou’d gape immense, and rushing down, o’erwhelm this neather Ball;
So swift and so surprizing was our fear;
Our Atlas fell indeed; But Hercules was near.        35
    His Pious Brother, sure the best
      Who ever bore that Name,
    Was newly risen from his Rest,
      And, with a fervent Flame,
His usual morning Vows had just addrest        40
  For his dear Sovereign’s Health;
    And hop’d to have ’em heard,
    In long increase of years,
  In Honour, Fame, and Wealth:
  Guiltless of Greatness, thus he always pray’d,        45
  Nor knew nor wisht those Vows he made
  On his own head shou’d be repay’d.
Soon as th’ ill-omen’d Rumour reacht his Ear,
  (Ill news is wing’d with Fate and flies apace)
  Who can describe th’ Amazement in his Face!        50
Horrour in all his Pomp was there,
Mute and magnificent, without a Tear:
And then the Hero first was seen to fear.
Half unarray’d he ran to his Relief,
So hasty and so artless was his Grief:        55
Approaching Greatness met him with her Charms
  Of Power and future State;
  But looked so ghastly in a Brother’s Fate,
    He shook her from his Armes.
Arriv’d within the mournfull Room, he saw        60
  A wild Distraction, void of Awe,
And arbitrary Grief unbounded by a Law.
  God’s Image, God’s Anointed, lay
    Without Motion, Pulse or Breath,
  A senseless Lump of sacred Clay,        65
    An Image, now, of Death.
Amidst his sad Attendants’ Grones and Cryes,
  The Lines of that ador’d, forgiving Face,
  Distorted from their native grace;
An Iron Slumber sat on his Majestick Eyes.        70
The Pious Duke——forbear, audacious Muse,
No Terms thy feeble Art can use
Are able to adorn so vast a Woe:
The grief of all the rest like subject-grief did show,
  His like a sovereign did transcend;        75
No Wife, no Brother such a Grief cou’d know,
      Nor any name, but Friend.
O wondrous Changes of a fatal Scene,
  Still varying to the last!
  Heav’n, though its hard Decree was past,        80
Seem’d pointing to a gracious Turn agen:
  And Death’s up-lifted Arme arrested in its hast.
  Heav’n half repented of the doom,
And almost griev’d it had foreseen,
  What by Foresight it will’d eternally to come.        85
    Mercy above did hourly plead
      For her Resemblance here below;
    And mild Forgiveness intercede
      To stop the coming Blow.
New Miracles approach’d th’ Etherial Throne,        90
Such as his wondrous Life had oft and lately known,
And urg’d that still they might be shown.
  On Earth his Pious Brother pray’d and vow’d.
    Renouncing Greatness at so dear a rate,
Himself defending what he cou’d        95
    From all the Glories of his future Fate.
With him th’ innumerable Croud
    Of armed Prayers
Knock’d at the Gates of Heav’n, and knock’d aloud;
    The first well-meaning rude Petitioners.        100
All for his Life assayl’d the Throne,
All wou’d have brib’d the Skyes by offring up their own.
So great a Throng not Heav’n it self cou’d bar;
’Twas almost born by force, as in the Giants War.
The Pray’rs, at least, for his Reprieve were heard;        105
His Death, like Hezekiah’s, was deferr’d:
  Against the Sun the Shadow went;
  Five days, those five Degrees, were lent,
  To form our Patience and prepare th’ Event.
The second Causes took the swift Command,        110
The med’cinal Head, the ready Hand,
All eager to perform their Part,
All but Eternal Doom was conquer’d by their Art:
Once more the fleeting Soul came back
  T’ inspire the mortal Frame,        115
And in the Body took a doubtfull Stand,
  Doubtfull and hov’ring, like expiring Flame,
That mounts and falls by turns, and trembles o’er the Brand.
The joyful short-liv’d news soon spread around,
Took the same Train, the same impetuous bound:        120
The drooping Town in smiles again was drest,
  Gladness in every Face exprest,
  Their eyes before their Tongues confest.
Men met each other with erected look,
The steps were higher that they took;        125
Friends to congratulate their friends 2 made haste;
And long inveterate Foes saluted as they past:
Above the rest Heroick James appear’d
Exalted more, because he more had fear’d:
His manly heart, whose Noble pride        130
            Was still above
    Dissembled hate or varnisht love,
Its more than common transport cou’d not hide;
But like an Eagre 3 rode in triumph o’re the tide.
  Thus, in alternate Course        135
    The Tyrant passions, hope and fear,
    Did in extreams appear,
  And flasht upon the Soul with equal force.
Thus, at half Ebb, a rowling Sea
  Returns, and wins upon the shoar;        140
  The wat’ry Herd, affrighted at the roar,
Rest on their Fins a while, and stay,
Then backward take their wondring way;
The Prophet wonders more than they,
  At Prodigies but rarely seen before,        145
And cries a King must fall, or Kingdoms change their sway.
  Such were our counter-tydes at land, and so
  Presaging of the fatal blow,
  In their prodigious Ebb and flow.
The Royal Soul, that, like the labouring Moon,        150
By Charms of Art was hurried down,
Forc’d with regret to leave her Native Sphear,
Came but a while on liking here:
Soon weary of the painful strife,
And made but faint Essays of Life:        155
      An Evening light
      Soon shut in Night;
A strong distemper, and a weak relief,
Short intervals of joy, and long returns of grief.
The Sons of Art all Med’cines try’d,
And every Noble remedy applied,
With emulation each essay’d
His utmost skill, nay more they pray’d:
Never was losing game with better conduct plaid.
Death never won a stake with greater toyl,        165
Nor e’re was Fate so near a foil:
But, like a fortress on a Rock,
Th’ impregnable Disease their vain attempts did mock;
They min’d it near, they batter’d from a far
With all the Cannon of the Med’cinal War;        170
No gentle means could be essay’d,
’Twas beyond parly when the siege was laid:
The extreamest ways they first ordain,
Prescribing such intolerable pain
As none but Cæsar could sustain;        175
Undaunted Cæsar underwent
The malice of their Art, nor bent
Beneath what e’re their pious rigour cou’d invent.
In five such days he suffer’d more
Than any suffer’d in his reign before;        180
More, infinitely more than he
Against the worst of Rebels cou’d decree,
A Traytor, or twice pardon’d Enemy.
Now Art was tir’d without success,
No Racks could make the stubborn malady confess.        185
  The vain Insurancers of life,
And He who most perform’d and promis’d less,
  Even Short himself forsook the unequal strife.
Death and despair was in their looks,
No longer they consult their memories or books;        190
Like helpless friends, who view from shoar
The labouring Ship and hear the tempest roar,
  So stood they with their arms across;
Not to assist; but to deplore
        Th’ inevitable loss.        195
Death was denounc’d; that frightful sound
  Which even the best can hardly bear;
  He took the Summons void of fear;
And, unconcern’dly, cast his eyes around;
  As if to find and dare the griesly Challenger.        200
What death cou’d do he lately try’d,
When in four days he more then dy’d.
The same assurance all his words did grace;
The same Majestick mildness held its place,
Nor lost the Monarch in his dying face.        205
Intrepid, pious, merciful, and brave,
He lookt as when he conquer’d and forgave.
As if some Angel had been sent
To lengthen out his Government,
And to foretel as many years again,        210
As he had number’d in his happy reign,
So chearfully he took the doom
    Of his departing breath;
    Nor shrunk, nor stept aside for death
    But, with unalter’d pace, kept on;        215
Providing for events to come,
    When he resigned the Throne.
Still he maintained his Kingly State;
And grew familiar with his fate.
Kind, good and gracious to the last,        220
On all he lov’d before his dying beams he cast
Oh truly good and truly great,
For glorious as he rose benignly so he set!
All that on earth he held most dear
He recommended to his Care,        225
    To whom both heav’n
    The right had giv’n,
And his own Love bequeath’d supream command:
He took and prest that ever loyal hand,
Which cou’d in Peace secure his Reign,        230
Which cou’d in wars his Pow’r maintain,
That hand on which no plighted vows were ever vain.
Well for so great a trust, he chose
  A Prince who never disobey’d:
  Not when the most severe commands were laid;        235
  Nor want, nor Exile with his duty weigh’d:
A Prince on whom (if Heav’n its Eyes cou’d close)
The Welfare of the World it safely might repose.
That King who liv’d to Gods own heart,
  Yet less serenely died than he;        240
  Charles left behind no harsh decree
For Schoolmen with laborious art
  To salve from cruelty:
Those, for whom love cou’d no excuses frame,
He graciously forgot to name.        245
Thus far my Muse, though rudely, has design’d
Some faint resemblance of his Godlike mind:
But neither Pen nor Pencil can express
The parting Brothers tenderness:
Though thats a term too mean and low;        250
(The blest above a kinder word may know:)
  But what they did, and what they said,
The Monarch who triumphant went,
  The Militant who staid,
Like Painters, when their heigthning arts are spent,        255
  I cast into a shade.
    That all-forgiving King,
      The type of him above,
    That inexhausted spring
      Of clemency and Love;        260
Himself to his next self accus’d,
And ask’d that Pardon which he ne’re refus’d:
For faults not his, for guilt and Crimes
Of Godless men, and of Rebellious times:
For an hard Exile, kindly meant,        265
When his ungrateful Country sent
Their best Camillus into banishment:
And forc’d their Sov’raign’s Act, they could not his consent.
Oh how much rather had that injur’d Chief
  Repeated all his sufferings past,        270
  Then hear a pardon beg’d at last,
Which given cou’d give the dying no relief:
He bent, he sunk beneath his grief:
His dauntless heart wou’d fain have held
From weeping, but his eyes rebell’d.        275
Perhaps the Godlike Heroe in his breast
  Disdain’d, or was asham’d to show
  So weak, so womanish a woe,
Which yet the Brother and the Friend so plenteously confest.
Amidst that silent show’r, the Royal mind
  An Easy passage found,
And left its sacred earth behind:
  Nor murm’ring groan exprest, nor labouring sound,
Nor any least tumultuous breath;
Calm was his life, and quiet was his death.        285
Soft as those gentle whispers were,
In which th’ Almighty did appear;
By the still Voice, 4 the Prophet knew him there.
That Peace which made thy Prosperous Reign to shine,
That Peace thou leav’st to thy Imperial Line,        290
That Peace, oh happy Shade, be ever thine!
For all those Joys thy Restauration brought,
For all the Miracles it wrought,
  For all the healing Balm thy Mercy pour’d
Into the Nations bleeding Wound,        295
And Care that after kept it sound,
  For numerous Blessings yearly shouer’d,
And Property with Plenty crown’d;
For Freedom, still maintain’d alive,
Freedom which in no other Land will thrive,        300
Freedom an English Subject’s sole Prerogative,
Without whose Charms ev’n Peace would be
But a dull, quiet Slavery:
  For these and more, accept our Pious Praise;
    ’Tis all the Subsidy        305
      The present Age can raise,
    The rest is charg’d on late Posterity.
      Posterity is charg’d the more,
      Because the large abounding store
To them and to their Heirs, is still entail’d by thee.        310
  Succession of a long descent,
Which Chast’ly in the Chanells ran,
And from our Demi-gods began,
  Equal almost to Time in its extent,
Through Hazzards numberless and great,        315
  Thou hast deriv’d this mighty Blessing down,
  And fixt the fairest Gemm that decks th’ Imperial Crown:
Not Faction, when it shook thy Regal Seat,
Not senates, insolently loud,
(Those Ecchoes of a thoughtless Croud,)        320
Not Foreign or Domestick Treachery,
Could Warp thy Soul to their Unjust Decree.
So much thy Foes thy manly Mind mistook,
Who judg’d it by the Mildness of thy look:
Like a well-temper’d Sword, it bent at will;        325
But kept the Native toughness of the Steel.
Be true, O Clio, to thy Hero’s name!
  But draw him strictly so
  That all who view, the Piece may know,
He needs no Trappings of fictitious Fame:        330
The Load’s too weighty; Thou may’st chuse
Some Parts of Praise, and some refuse;
Write, that his Annals may be thought more lavish than the Muse.
In scanty Truth thou hast confin’d
The Vertues of a Royal Mind,        335
Forgiving, bounteous, humble, just and kind:
His Conversation, Wit, and Parts,
His Knowledge in the Noblest, useful Arts,
Were such Dead Authors could not give;
But habitudes of those who live;        340
Who, lighting him, did greater lights receive:
He drain’d from all, and all they knew;
His Apprehension quick, his Judgment true:
That the most Learn’d, with shame, confess
His Knowledge more, his Reading only less.        345
Amidst the peaceful Triumphs of his Reign,
  What wonder if the kindly beams he shed
Reviv’d the drooping Arts again,
  If Science rais’d her Head,
  And soft Humanity that from Rebellion fled;        350
Our Isle, indeed, too fruitful was before;
  But all uncultivated lay
  Out of the Solar walk and Heavens high way;
With rank Geneva Weeds run o’re,
And Cockle, at the best, amidst the Corn it bore:        355
The Royal Husbandman appear’d,
  And Plough’d and Sow’d and Till’d,
The Thorns he rooted out, the Rubbish clear’d,
  And blest th’ obedient Field.
When, straight, a double Harvest rose,        360
Such as the swarthy Indian mowes;
Or happier Climates near the Line,
Or Paradise manur’d, and drest by hands Divine.
As when the New-born Phœnix takes his way,
His rich Paternal Regions to Survey,        365
Of airy Choristers a numerous Train
Attends his wondrous Progress o’re the Plain;
So, rising from his Fathers Urn,
So Glorious did our Charles return;
Th’ officious Muses came along,        370
A gay Harmonious Quire, 5 like Angels ever Young;
(The Muse that mourns him now his happy Triumph sung.)
Even they cou’d thrive in his Auspicious reign;
  And such a plenteous Crop they bore,
Of purest and well winow’d Grain        375
  As Britain never knew before.
Tho little was their Hire, and light their Gain,
Yet somewhat to their share he threw;
Fed from his hand, they sung and flew,
Like Birds of Paradise that liv’d on morning dew.        380
Oh never let their Lays his Name forget!
The Pension of a Prince’s Praise is great.
Live then, thou great Encourager of Arts,
Live ever in our Thankful Hearts;
Live blest Above, almost invok’d Below;        385
Live and receive this Pious Vow,
Our Patron once, our Guardian Angel now.
Thou Fabius of a sinking State,
Who didst by wise delays, divert our Fate,
When Faction like a Tempest rose        390
  In Death’s most hideous form,
Then, Art to Rage thou didst oppose,
  To weather out the Storm:
Not quitting thy Supream command,
Thou heldst the Rudder with a steady hand,        395
Till safely on the Shore the Bark did land:
The Bark that all our Blessings brought,
Charg’d with thy Self and James, a doubly Royal fraught.
Oh frail Estate of Humane things,
  And slippery hopes below!        400
  Now to our Cost your Emptiness we know,
  (For ’tis a Lesson dearly bought)
  Assurance here is never to be sought.
The Best, and best belov’d of kings,
And best deserving to be so,        405
  When scarce he had escap’d the fatal blow
  Of Faction and Conspiracy,
Death did his promis’d hopes destroy:
He toyl’d, He gain’d, but liv’d not to enjoy.
What mists of Providence are these        410
  Through which we cannot see!
  So Saints, by supernatural Pow’r set free,
  Are left at last in Martyrdom to dye;
Such is the end of oft repeated Miracles.
Forgive me, Heav’n, that Impious thought,        415
’Twas Grief for Charles to Madness wrought,
  That Questioned thy Supream Decree!
Thou didst his gracious Reign Prolong,
Even in thy Saints and Angels wrong,
  His Fellow Citizens of Immortality:        420
For Twelve long years of Exile, born,
Twice Twelve we number’d since his blest Return:
So strictly wer’t thou Just to pay,
Even to the driblet of a day.
Yet still we murmur, and Complain        425
The Quails and Manna shou’d no longer rain:
Those Miracles ’twas needless to renew;
The Chosen Flock has now the Promis’d Land in view.
A Warlike Prince ascends the Regal State,
A Prince, long exercis’d by Fate:        430
Long may he keep, tho he obtains it late.
Heroes, in Heaven’s peculiar Mold are cast,
They and their Poets are not formed in hast;
Man was the first in God’s design, and Man was made the last.
False Heroes made by Flattery so,        435
Heav’n can strike out, like Sparkles, at a blow;
But e’re a Prince is to Perfection brought,
He costs Omnipotence a second thought.
        With Toyl and Sweat,
  With hardning Cold, and forming Heat,        440
  The Cyclops did their strokes repeat,
Before th’ impenetrable Shield was wrought.
  It looks as if the Maker wou’d not own
        The Noble work for his,
Before ’twas try’d and found a Masterpiece.        445
  View then a Monarch ripen’d for a Throne
Alcides thus his race began,
O’re Infancy he swiftly ran;
The future God, at first was more than Man:
  Dangers and Toils, and Juno’s Hate,        450
  Even o’re his Cradle lay in wait;
  And there he grappled first with Fate:
In his young Hands the hissing Snakes he prest,
So early was the Deity confest;
  Thus, by degrees, he rose to Jove’s Imperial Seat;        455
  Thus difficulties prove a Soul legitimately great.
Like his, our Hero’s Infancy was try’d;
Betimes the Furies did their Snakes provide;
And, to his Infant Arms oppose
His Father’s Rebels, and his Brother’s Foes;        460
The more opprest the higher still he rose.
  Those were the Preludes of his Fate,
That form’d his Manhood, to subdue
The Hydra of the many-headed, hissing Crew.
As after Numa’s peaceful Reign
  The Martial Ancus did the Scepter wield,
Furbish’d the rusty Sword again,
  Resum’d the long forgotten Shield,
  And led the Latins to the dusty Field;
So James the drowsy Genius wakes        470
  Of Britain long entranc’d in Charms,
  Restiff and slumbring on its Arms:
’Tis rows’d, & with a new strung Nerve the Spear already shakes.
No neighing of the Warriour Steeds,
No Drum, or louder Trumpet, needs        475
T’ inspire the Coward, warm the Cold,
His Voice, his sole Appearance makes ’em bold.
Gaul and Batavia dread th’ impending blow;
Too well the Vigour of that Arm they know;
They lick the dust, and Crouch beneath their fatal Foe.        480
Long may they fear this awful Prince,
  And not Provoke his lingring Sword;
Peace is their only sure Defence,
  Their best Security his Word:
In all the Changes of his doubtful State,        485
His Truth, like Heav’ns, was kept inviolate,
For him to Promise is to make it Fate.
His Valour can Triumph o’re Land and Main;
With broken Oaths his Fame he will not stain;
With Conquest basely bought, and with Inglorious gain.        490
For once, O Heav’n, unfold thy Adamantine Book;
  And let his wondring Senate see,
  If not thy firm Immutable Decree,
  At least the second Page of strong 6 contingency;
  Such as consists with wills, Originally free:        495
Let them, with glad amazement, look
  On what their happiness may be:
Let them not still be obstinately blind,
Still to divert the Good thou hast design’d,
  Or with Malignant penury,        500
To sterve the Royal Vertues of his Mind.
Faith is a Christian’s and a Subject’s Test,
Oh give them to believe, and they are surely blest!
  They do; and, with a distant view, I see
  Th’ amended Vows of English Loyalty;        505
  And all beyond that Object, there appears
The long Retinue of a Prosperous Reign,
  A Series of Successful years,
In orderly Array, a Martial, manly Train.
  Behold ev’n to remoter Shores,        510
A Conquering Navy proudly spread;
  The British Cannon formidably roars,
While starting from his Oozy Bed,
Th’ asserted Ocean rears his reverend Head;
To View and Recognize his ancient Lord again:        515
  And, with a willing hand, restores
      The Fasces of the main.

Note 1. Text from the second edition, 1685. The first was of the same year. [back]
Note 2. Friends to congratulate their friends] Each to congratulate his friend ed. 1. [back]
Note 3. An Eagre is a Tyde swelling above another Tyde, which I have my self observ’d on the River Trent. [back]
Note 4. Voice] Sound ed. 1. [back]
Note 5. Quire like] Quire of ed. 1. [back]
Note 6. strong] great ed. 1. [back]

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