Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
The Beginning of the Second Book of Lucretius
Suave Mari magno, &c.

’TIS pleasant, safely to behold from shore
The rowling Ship, and hear the Tempest roar:
Not that anothers pain is our delight;
But pains unfelt produce the pleasing sight.
’Tis pleasant also to behold from far        5
The moving Legions mingled in the War:
But much more sweet thy lab’ring steps to guide
To Vertues heights, with wisdom well supply’d,
And all the Magazins of Learning fortifi’d:
From thence to look below on humane kind,        10
Bewilder’d in the Maze of Life, and blind:
To see vain fools ambitiously contend
For Wit and Pow’r; their last endeavours bend
T’ outshine each other, waste their time and health
In search of honour, and pursuit of wealth.        15
O wretched man! in what a mist of Life,
Inclos’d with dangers and with noisie strife,
He spends his little Span; And overfeeds
His cramm’d desires with more than nature needs!
For Nature wisely stints our appetite,        20
And craves no more than undisturb’d delight:
Which minds unmix’d with cares, and fears, obtain;
A Soul serene, a body void of pain.
So little this corporeal frame requires;
So bounded are our natural desires,        25
That wanting all, and setting pain aside,
With bare privation sence is satisfied.
If Golden Sconces hang not on the Walls,
To light the costly Suppers and the Balls;
If the proud Palace shines not with the state        30
Of burnish’d Bowls, and of reflected Plate;
If well tun’d Harps, nor the more pleasing sound
Of Voices, from the vaulted roofs rebound;
Yet on the grass, beneath a poplar shade,
By the cool stream our careless limbs are lay’d;        35
With cheaper pleasures innocently bless’d,
When the warm Spring with gaudy flow’rs is dress’d.
Nor will the rageing Feavours fire abate,
With Golden Canopies and Beds of State:
But the poor Patient will as soon be sound        40
On the hard mattrass, or the Mother ground.
Then since our Bodies are not eas’d the more
By Birth, or Pow’r, or Fortunes wealthy store,
’Tis plain, these useless toyes of every kind
As little can relieve the lab’ring mind:        45
Unless we could suppose the dreadful sight
Of marshall’d Legions moving to the fight,
Cou’d, with their sound and terrible array,
Expel our fears, and drive the thoughts of death away;
But, since the supposition vain appears,        50
Since clinging cares, and trains of inbred fears,
Are not with sounds to be affrighted thence,
But in the midst of Pomp pursue the Prince,
Not aw’d by arms, but in the presence bold,
Without respect to Purple, or to Gold;        55
Why shou’d not we these pageantries despise;
Whose worth but in our want of reason lies?
For life is all in wandring errours led;
And just as Children are surpriz’d with dread,
And tremble in the dark, so riper years        60
Ev’n in broad daylight are possest with fears;
And shake at shadows fanciful and vain,
As those which in the breasts of Children reign.
These bugbears of the mind, this inward Hell,
No rayes of outward sunshine can dispel;        65
But nature and right reason must display
Their beames abroad, and bring the darksome soul to day.

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