Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Epistles and Complimentary Addresses
To my Honored Friend Sir Robert Howard on his Excellent Poems
AS 1 there is Musick uninform’d by Art
In those wild Notes, which with a merry heart
The Birds in unfrequented shades expresse,
Who better taught at home, yet please us lesse:
So in your Verse, a native sweetnesse dwells,        5
Which shames Composure, and its Art excells.
Singing no more can your soft numbers grace,
Then 2 Paint adds charms unto a beauteous Face.
Yet as when mighty Rivers gently creep,
Their even calmnesse does suppose them deep,        10
Such is your Muse: no Metaphor swell’d high
With dangerous boldnesse lifts her to the sky;
Those mounting Fancies, when they fall again,
Shew sand and dirt at bottom do remain.
So firm a strength and yet withall so sweet,        15
Did never but in Sampson’s Riddle meet.
’Tis strange each line so great a weight should bear,
And yet no signe of toil, no sweat appear.
Either your Art hides Art, as Stoicks feign
Then least to feel, when most they suffer pain;        20
And we, dull souls, admire but cannot see
What hidden springs within the Engine be
Or ’tis some happiness that still pursues
Each act and motion of your gracefull Muse.
Or is it Fortune’s work, that in your head        25
The curious Net 3 that is for fancies spread,
Lets 4 through its Meshes every meaner thought
While rich Idea’s there are only caught? 5
Sure that’s not all; this is a piece too fair
To be the child of Chance, and not of Care.        30
No Atoms casually together hurl’d
Could e’re produce so beautifull a world.
Nor dare I such a doctrine here admit,
As would destroy the providence of wit.
’Tis your strong Genius then which does not feel        35
Those weights would make a weaker spirit reel.
To carry weight and run so lightly too
Is what alone your Pegasus can do.
Great Hercules himself could ne’re do more,
Than not to feel those Heav’ns and Gods 6 he bore.        40
Your easier odes, which for delight were penn’d,
Yet our instruction make their second end;
We’re both enrich’d and pleas’d, like them that woo
At once a Beauty and a Fortune too.
Of Morall Knowledge Poesie was Queen,        45
And still she might, had wanton wits not been;
Who like ill Guardians liv’d themselves at large,
And, not content with that, debauch’d their charge.
Like some brave Captain, your successful Pen
Restores the Exil’d to her Crown again;        50
And gives us hope that having seen the days
When nothing flourish’d but Fanatique Bays,
All will at length in this opinion rest,
“A sober Prince’s Government is best.
This is not all; your Art the way has found        55
To make improvement 7 of the richest ground,
That soil which those immortal Lawrells bore,
That once the sacred Maro’s temples wore.
Elisa’s griefs, are so expresst by you,
They are too eloquent to have been true.        60
Had she so spoke, Æneas had obey’d
What Dido rather then 8 what Jove had said.
If funerall Rites can give a Ghost repose,
Your Muse so justly had discharged those,
Elisa’s shade may now its wandring cease,        65
And claim a title to the fields of peace.
But if Æneas be oblig’d, no lesse
Your kindnesse great Achilles doth confesse,
Who, dress’d by Statius in too bold a look,
Did ill become those Virgin’s 9 Robes he took.        70
To understand how much we owe to you,
We must your Numbers with your Author’s view:
Then we shall see his work was lamely rough,
Each figure stiff, as if design’d in buffe:
His colours laid so thick on every place,        75
As onely shew’d the paint, but hid the face.
But as in Perspective we Beauties see,
Which in the glasse, not in the Picture, be;
So here our sight obligeingly mistakes
That wealth, which his your bounty onely makes.        80
Thus vulgar dishes are by Cooks disguis’d,
More for their dressing than their substance priz’d.
Your curious Notes 10 so search into that Age,
When all was fable but the sacred Page,
That, since in that dark night we needs must stray,        85
We are at least misled in pleasant way.
But what we most admire, your Verse no lesse
The Prophet than the Poet doth confess.
Ere our weak eyes discern’d th’ doubtfull streak
Of light, you saw great Charles his morning break.        90
So skilfull Sea-men ken th’ Land from far,
Which shows like mists to the dul Passenger.
To Charls your Muse first pays her dutious love,
As still the Antients did begin from Jove
With Monck you end, whose name preserv’d shall be,        95
As Rome recorded Rufus 11 memory,
Who thought it greater honour to obey
His Countrey’s interest, than the world to sway.
But to write worthy things of worthy men,
Is the peculiar talent of your Pen:        100
Yet let me take your Mantle up, and I
Will venture in your right to prophesy.
  “This Work, by merit first of Fame secure,
“Is likewise happy in its Geniture:
“For, since ’tis born when Charls ascends th’ Throne,        105
“It shares at once his Fortune and its own.

Note 1. Text from the original of 1661. [back]
Note 2. Then] The editors change the spelling to Than. [back]
Note 3. Rete Mirabile. [back]
Note 4. Lets] Let’s 1661. [back]
Note 5. caught?] caught. 1661. [back]
Note 6. Gods] gods 1661. [back]
Note 7. improvement] The editors wrongly give the improvement. [back]
Note 8. then] The editors change the spelling to than. [back]
Note 9. Virgin’s] The editors wrongly give Virgin. [back]
Note 10. Annotations on Statius. [back]
Note 11. Hic situs est Rufus qui pulso vindice quondam Imperium asseruit non sibised Patriæ. [back]

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