Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
The Medall.
A Satyre against Sedition
Epistle to the Whigs.

  For to whom can I dedicate this Poem, with so much justice, as to you? ’Tis the representation of your own Heroe: ’tis the Picture drawn at length, which you admire and prize so much in little. None of your Ornaments are wanting; neither the landscap of the Tower, nor the Rising Sun, nor the Anno Domini of your New Sovereign’s Coronation. This must needs be a gratefull undertaking to your whole Party: especially to those who have not been so happy as to purchase the Original. I hear the Graver has made a good Market of it: all his Kings are bought up already; or the value of the remainder so inhanc’d, that many a poor Polander who would be glad to worship the Image is not able to go to the cost of him: But must be content to see him here. I must confess I am no great artist; but Sign-post painting will serve the turn to remember a Friend by, especially when better is not to be had. Yet for your comfort the lineaments are true; and though he sate not five times to me, as he did to B., yet I have consulted History, as the Italian Painters do, when they would draw a Nero or a Caligula; though they have not seen the Man, they can help their Imagination by a Statue of him, and find out the Colouring from Suetonius and Tacitus. Truth is, you might have spar’d one side of your Medall: the Head wou’d be seen to more advantage, if it were place’d on a Spike of the Tower; a little nearer to the Sun. Which wou’d then break out to better purpose. You tell us in your Preface to the No-Protestant Plot, that you shall be forc’d hereafter to leave off your Modesty: I suppose you mean that little which is left you; for it was worn to rags when you put out this Medall. Never was there practis’d such a piece of notorious Impudence in the face of an Establish’d Government. I believe, when he is dead, you will wear him in Thumb-Rings, as the Turks did Scanderbeg; as if there were virtue in his Bones to preserve you against Monarchy. Yet all this while you pretend not onely zeal for the Publick good; but a due veneration for the person of the King. But all men who can see an inch before them, may easily detect those gross fallacies. That it is necessary for men in your circumstances to pretend both, is granted you; for without them there could be no ground to raise a Faction. But I would ask you one civil question, what right has any man among you, or any Association of men, (to come nearer to you,) who out of Parliament cannot be consider’d in a publick Capacity, to meet, as you daily doe, in Factious Clubs, to vilify the Government in your Discourses and to libel it in all your Writings? Who made you Judges in Israel? or how is it consistent with your Zeal of the publick Welfare to promote Sedition? Does your definition of loyal, which is to serve the King according to the Laws, allow you the licence of traducing the Executive Power with which you own he is invested? You complain that his Majesty has lost the love and confidence of his People; and by your very urging it you endeavour what in you lies, to make him lose them. All good Subjects abhor the thought of Arbitrary Power, whether it be in one or many: if you were the Patriots you would seem, you would not at this rate incense the Multitude to assume it; for no sober man can fear it, either from the King’s Disposition, or his Practice, or even, where you would odiously lay it, from his Ministers. Give us leave to enjoy the Government and the benefit of laws under which we were born, and which we desire to transmit to our Posterity. You are not the Trustees of the Publick liberty: and if you have not right to petition in a Crowd, much less have you to intermeddle in the management of Affairs, or to arraign what you do not like: which in effect is everything that is done by the King and Council. Can you imagine that any reasonable man will believe you respect the person of his Majesty, when ’tis apparent that your Seditious Pamphlets are stuff’d with particular Reflexions on him? If you have the confidence to deny this, ’tis easy to be evinc’d from a thousand Passages, which I onely forbear to quote, because I desire they should die and be forgotten. I have perus’d many of your Papers: and to show you that I have, the third part of your No-Protestant Plot is much of it stolen, from your dead Authour’s Pamphlet, called the Growth of Popery, as manifestly as Milton’s defence of the English People is from Buchanan, de Jure regni apud Scotos, or your First Covenant and new Association, from the holy League of the French Guisards. Any one who reads Davila may trace your Practices all along. There were the same pretences for Reformation, and Loyalty, the same Aspersions of the King, and the same grounds of a Rebellion. I know not whether you will take the Historian’s word, who says it was reported that Poltrot, a Hugonot, murthered Francis, Duke of Guise, by the instigations of Theodore Beza : or that it was a Hugonot Minister, otherwise call’d a Presbyterian (for our Church abhors so devilish a Tenent) who first writ a Treatise of the lawfulness of deposing and murthering kings of a different Perswasion in Religion: But I am able to prove from the doctrine of Calvin, and Principles of 1 Buchanan, that they set the People above the Magistrate; which if I mistake not, is your own Fundamental, and which carries your Loyalty no farther than your liking. When a vote of the House of Commons goes on your side, you are as ready to observe it as if it were pass’d into a Law: But when you are pinch’d with any former, and yet unrepealed Act of Parliament, you declare that, in same cases, you will not be oblig’d by it. The Passage is in the same third part of the No-Protestant Plot; and is too plain to be denied. The late Copy of your intended Association you neither wholly justify nor condemn; But, as the Papists, when they are unoppos’d, fly out into all the Pageantry’s of Worship; but in times of War, when they are hard press’d by Arguments, lie close intrench’d behind the Council of Trent; So, now, when your Affairs are in a low condition, you dare not pretend that to be a legal Combination, but whensoever you are afloat, I doubt not but it will be maintain’d and justify’d to purpose. For indeed there is nothing to defend it but the Sword: ’tis the proper time to say anything, when men have all things in their power.
  In the mean time, you wou’d fain be nibbling at a parallel betwixt this Association and that in the time of Queen Elizabeth. But there is this small difference betwixt them, that the ends of the one are directly opposite to the other: one with the Queen’s approbation and conjunction, as head of it; the other, without either the consent, or knowledge of the King, against whose Authority it is manifestly designed. Therefore, you doe well to have recourse to your last Evasion, that it was contriv’d by your Enemies, and shuffled into the Papers that were seiz’d; which yet you see the nation is not so easy to believe as your own Jury; But the matter is not difficult, to find twelve men in New-gate, who would acquit a Malefactour.
  I have one onely favour to desire of you at parting, that when you think of answering this Poem, you wou’d employ the same Pens against it who have combated with so much success against Absalom and Achitophel : for then you may assure yourselves of a clear Victory, without the least reply. Raile at me abundantly; and, not to break a Custome, doe it without wit: By this method you will gain a considerable point, which is wholly to wave the answer of my Arguments. Never own the botome of your Principles, for fear they shoud be Treason. Fall severely on the miscarriages of Government: for, if scandal be not allow’d, you are no freeborn subjects. If God has not bless’d you with the Talent of Rhiming, make use of my poor Stock and wellcome: let your Verses run upon my feet; and for the utmost refuge of notorious Block-heads, reduc’d to the last extremity of sense, turn my own lines upon me; and, in utter despaire of your own Satyre, make me Satyrize my self. Some of you have been driven to this Bay already; But above all the rest commend me to the Non-conformist Parson, who writ the Whip and Key. I am afraid it is not read so much as the Piece deserves, because the bookseller is every week crying help at the end of his Gazette, to get it off. You see I am charitable enough to doe him a kindness, that it may be publish’d as well as printed; and that so much skill in Hebrew Derivations may not lie for Wast-paper in the Shop. Yet I half suspect he went no farther for his learning, than the Index of Hebrew Names and Etymologies, which is printed at the end of some English Bibles. If Achitophel signify the Brother of a Fool, the Authour of that Poem will pass with his Readers for the next of kin. And perhaps ’tis the Relation that makes the kindness. Whatever the Verses are, buy ’em up I beseech you out of pity; for I hear the Conventicle is shut up, and the Brother of Achitophel out of service.
  Now Footmen, you know, have the generosity to make a Purse for a Member of their Society, who has had his Livery pull’d over his Ears; and even Protestant Socks are bought up among you, out of veneration to the name. A Dissenter in Poetry from Sense and English will make as good a Protestant Rhymer, as a Dissenter from the Church of England a Protestant Parson. Besides, if you encourage a young Beginner, who knows but he may elevate his stile a little above the vulgar epithets of prophane and sawcy jack, and Atheistick Scribler, with which he treats me, when the fit of Enthusiasm is strong upon him: by which well-mannered and charitable Expressions I was certain of his Sect, before I knew his name. What would you have more of a man? he has damn’d me in your Cause from Genesis to the Revelations : And has half the Texts of both the Testaments against me, if you will be so civil to your selves as to take him for your Interpreter; and not to take them for Irish Witnesses. After all, perhaps you will tell me, that you retain’d him onely for the opening of your Cause, and that your main Lawyer is yet behind. Now if it so happen he meet with no more reply than his Predecessours, you may either conclude that I trust to the goodness of my Cause, or fear my Adversary, or disdain him, or what you please, for the short on’t is, ’tis indifferent to your humble servant, whatever your Party says or thinks of him.


OF 2 all our Antick Sights and Pageantry
Which English Idiots run in crowds to see,
The Polish Medal bears the prize alone:
A Monster, more the Favourite of the Town
Than either Fairs or Theatres have shown.        5
Never did Art so well with Nature strive,
Nor ever Idol seem’d so much alive; 3
So like the Man; so golden to the sight,
So base within, so counterfeit and light.
One side is fill’d with Title and with Face;        10
And, lest the King shou’d want a regal Place,
On the reverse, a Tow’r the Town surveys,
O’er which our mounting Sun his beams displays.
The Word, pronounc’d aloud by Shrieval voice,
Lætamur, which in Polish is rejoyce,        15
The Day, Month, Year, to the great Act are join’d,
And a new Canting Holiday design’d.
Five daies he sate for every cast and look;
Four more than God to finish Adam took.
But who can tell what Essence angels are        20
Or how long Heav’n was making Lucifer? 4
Oh, cou’d the Style that copy’d every grace
And plough’d such furrows for an Eunuch face,
Cou’d it have formed his ever-changing Will,
The various Piece had tir’d the Graver’s Skill!        25
A Martial Heroe first, with early care
Blown, like a Pigmee by the Winds, to war.
A beardless Chief, a Rebel e’er a Man,
(So young his hatred to his Prince began.)
Next this, (How wildly will Ambition steer!)        30
A Vermin wriggling in th’ Usurper’s ear,
Bart’ring his venal wit for sums of gold,
He cast himself into the Saint-like mould;
Groan’d, sigh’d, and pray’d, while Godliness was gain,
The lowdest Bag-pipe of the Squeaking train.        35
But, as ’tis hard to cheat a Juggler’s Eyes,
His open lewdness he cou’d ne’er disguise.
There split the Saint: for Hypocritique Zeal
Allows no Sins but those it can conceal.
Whoring to Scandal gives too large a scope;        40
Saints must not trade; but they may interlope.
Th’ ungodly Principle was all the same;
But a gross Cheat betrays his Partner’s Game.
Besides, their pace was formal, grave, and slack;
His nimble Wit out-ran the heavy Pack.        45
Yet still he found his Fortune at a stay,
Whole droves of Blockheads choaking up his way;
They took, but not rewarded, his advice;
Villain and Wit exact a double price.
Pow’r was his aym; but, thrown from that pretence,        50
The Wretch turned loyal in his own defence,
And Malice reconciled him to his Prince.
Him, in the anguish of his Soul he serv’d;
Rewarded faster still than he deserv’d.
Behold him, now exalted into trust;        55
His Counsels oft convenient, seldom just;
Ev’n in the most sincere advice he gave
He had a grudging still to be a Knave.
The Frauds he learnt in his Fanatique years
Made him uneasie in his lawfull gears.        60
At best as little honest as he cou’d:
And, like white Witches, mischievously good.
To his first byass, longingly he leans;
And rather would be great by wicked means.
Thus fram’d for ill, he loos’d our Triple hold;        65
(Advice unsafe, precipitous, and bold.)
From hence those tears! that Ilium of our woe!
Who helps a pow’rful Friend fore-arms a foe.
What wonder if the Waves prevail so far,
When He cut down the Banks that made the bar?        70
Seas follow but their Nature to invade;
But he by Art our native Strength betray’d.
So Sampson to his Foe his force confest,
And, to be shorn, lay slumb’ring on her breast.
But, when this fatal Counsel, found too late,        75
Expos’d its Authour to the publique hate;
When his just Sovereign, by no impious way,
Cou’d be seduced to Arbitrary sway;
Forsaken of that hope, he shifts the sayle;
Drives down the Current with a pop’lar gale;        80
And shows the Fiend confess’d without a vail.
He preaches to the Crowd that Pow’r is lent,
But not convey’d to Kingly Government;
That Claimes successive bear no binding force;
That Coronation Oaths are things of course;        85
Maintains the Multitude can never err;
And sets the People in the Papal Chair.
The reason’s obvious; Int’rest never lyes;
The most have still their Int’rest in their eyes;
The pow’r is always theirs, and pow’r is ever wise.        90
Almighty crowd, thou shorten’st all dispute;
Power is thy Essence; Wit thy Attribute!
Nor Faith nor Reason make thee at a stay,
Thou leapst o’er all Eternal truths in thy Pindarique way!
Athens, no doubt, did righteously decide,        95
When Phocion and when Socrates were try’d;
As righteously they did those dooms repent;
Still they were wise, whatever way they went.
Crowds err not, though to both extremes they run;
To kill the Father and recall the son.        100
Some think the Fools were most as times went then,
But now the World’s o’er stock’d with prudent men.
The common Cry is ev’n Religion’s Test;
The Turk’s is, at Constantinople, best,
Idols in India, Popery at Rome,        105
And our own Worship onely true at home,
And true, but for the time, ’tis hard to know
How long we please it shall continue so;
This side to-day, and that to-morrow burns;
So all are God a’mighties in their turns.        110
A Tempting Doctrine, plausible and new;
What Fools our Fathers were, if this be true!
Who, to destroy the seeds of Civil War,
Inherent right in Monarchs did declare:
And, that a lawfull Pow’r might never cease,        115
Secur’d Succession, to secure our Peace.
Thus Property and Sovereign Sway, at last
In equal Balances were justly cast:
But this new Jehu spurs the hot mouth’d horse;
Instructs the Beast to know his native force:        120
To take the Bit between his teeth and fly
To the next headlong Steep of Anarchy.
Too happy England, if our good we knew;
Wou’d we possess the freedom we pursue!
The lavish Government can give no more;        125
Yet we repine; and plenty makes us poor.
God try’d us once; our Rebel-fathers fought;
He glutted ’em with all the Pow’r they sought,
Till, master’d by their own usurping Brave,
The free-born Subject sunk into a Slave.        130
We loath our Manna, and we long for Quails;
Ah, what is man, when his own wish prevails!
How rash, how swift to plunge himself in ill;
Proud of his Pow’r and boundless in his Will!
That Kings can doe no wrong we must believe;        135
None can they do, and must they all receive?
Help Heav’n! or sadly we shall see an hour,
When neither wrong nor right are in their pow’r!
Already they have lost their best defence,
The benefit of Laws which they dispence.        140
No justice to their righteous Cause allow’d;
But baffled by an Arbitrary Crowd;
And Medalls grav’d, their Conquest to record,
The Stamp and Coyn of their adopted Lord.
  The Man who laugh’d but once, to see an Ass        145
Mumbling to make the cross-grained Thistles pass,
Might laugh again, to see a Jury chaw
The prickles of unpalatable Law.
The Witnesses that, Leech-like, liv’d on bloud,
Sucking for them were med’cinally good;        150
But, when they fasten’d on their fester’d Sore,
Then Justice and Religion they forswore,
Their Maiden Oaths debauch’d into a Whore.
Thus Men are rais’d by Factions and decry’d;
And Rogue and Saint distinguish’d by their Side.        155
They rack ev’n Scripture to confess their Cause;
And plead a Call to preach in spight of Laws.
But that’s no news to the poor injur’d Page,
It has been us’d as ill in every Age;
And is constrain’d, with patience, all to take;        160
For what defence can Greek and Hebrew make?
Happy who can this talking Trumpet seize;
They make it speak whatever Sense they please!
’Twas fram’d at first our Oracle t’ enquire;
But Since our Sects in prophecy grow higher,        165
The Text inspires not them; but they the Text inspire.
  London, thou great Emporium of our Isle,
O, thou too bounteous, thou too fruitfull Nile!
How shall I praise or curse to thy desert!
Or separate thy sound, from thy corrupted part!        170
I call’d thee Nile; the parallel will stand:
Thy tydes of Wealth o’erflow the fatten’d Land;
Yet Monsters from thy large increase we find
Engender’d on the Slyme thou leav’st behind.
Sedition has not wholly seiz’d on thee,        175
Thy nobler Parts are from infection free.
Of Israel’s Tribes thou hast a numerous band;
But still the Canaanite is in the Land.
Thy military Chiefs are brave and true,
Nor are thy disinchanted Burghers few.        180
The Head is loyal which thy Heart commands,
But what’s a Head with two such gouty Hands?
The wise and wealthy love the surest way;
And are content to thrive and to obey.
But Wisedom is to Sloath too great a Slave;        185
None are so busy as the Fool and Knave.
Those let me curse; what vengeance will they urge,
Whose Ordures neither Plague nor Fire can purge;
Nor sharp experience can to duty bring,
Nor angry Heaven nor a forgiving King!        190
In Gospel phrase their Chapmen they betray;
Their Shops are Dens, the Buyer is their Prey.
The Knack of Trades is living on the Spoil;
They boast e’en when each other they beguile.
Customs to steal is such a trivial thing,        195
That ’tis their Charter to defraud their King.
All hands unite of every jarring Sect;
They cheat the Country first, and then infect.
They, for God’s Cause their Monarchs dare dethrone,
And they’ll be sure to make his Cause their own.        200
Whether the plotting Jesuite lay’d the plan
Of murth’ring Kings, or the French Puritan,
Our Sacrilegious Sects their guides outgo;
And Kings and Kingly Pow’r would murther too.
  What means their Trait’rous Combination less,        205
Too plain t’evade, too shamefull to confess?
But Treason is not own’d when ’tis descry’d;
Successfull Crimes alone are justify’d.
The Men, who no Conspiracy wou’d find,
Who doubts but, had it taken, they had join’d?        210
Join’d in a mutual Cov’nant of defence;
At first without, at last against their Prince?
If Sovereign Right by Sovereign Pow’r they scan,
The same bold Maxime holds in God and Man:
God were not safe; his Thunder cou’d they shun        215
He shou’d be forc’d to crown another Son.
Thus, when the Heir was from the Vineyard thrown,
The rich Possession was the Murth’rers own.
In vain to Sophistry they have recourse;
By proving theirs no Plot they prove ’tis worse,        220
Unmask’d Rebellion, and audacious Force,
Which, though not Actual, yet all Eyes may see
’Tis working, in th’ immediate Pow’r to be;
For from pretended Grievances they rise,
First to dislike, and after to despise;        225
Then, Cyclop-like, in humane Flesh to deal,
Chop up a Minister at every meal;
Perhaps not wholly to melt down the King;
But clip his regal rights within the Ring.
From thence t’ assume the pow’r of Peace and War;        230
And ease him by degrees of publique Care.
Yet, to consult his Dignity and Fame,
He shou’d have leave to exercise the Name,
And hold the Cards while Commons play’d the game.
For what can Pow’r give more than Food and Drink,        235
To live at ease, and not be bound to think?
These are the cooler methods of their 5 Crime,
But their hot Zealots think ’tis loss of time:
On utmost bounds of Loyalty they stand,
And grin and whet like a Croatian band;        240
That waits impatient for the last Command.
Thus Out-laws open Villainy maintain;
They steal not, but in Squadrons scoure the Plain;
And, if their Pow’r the Passengers subdue;
The Most have right, the wrong is in the Few.        245
Such impious Axiomes foolishly they show;
For in some Soils Republicks will not grow:
Our Temp’rate Isle will no extremes sustain
Of pop’lar Sway or Arbitrary Reign:
But slides between them both into the best;        250
Secure in freedom, in a Monarch blest.
And though the Climate, vex’t with various Winds,
Works through our yielding Bodies, on our Minds,
The wholesome Tempest purges what it breeds;
To recommend the Calmness that succeeds.        255
  But thou, the Pander of the Peoples hearts,
(O crooked Soul and Serpentine in Arts;)
Whose blandishments a Loyal Land have whor’d,
And broke the Bonds she plighted to her Lord;
What Curses on thy blasted Name will fall!        260
Which Age to Age their Legacy shall call;
For all must curse the Woes that must descend on all.
Religion thou hast none: thy Mercury
Has pass’d through every Sect, or theirs through Thee.
But what thou giv’st, that Venom still remains;        265
And the pox’d Nation feels Thee in their Brains.
What else inspires the Tongues & swells the Breasts
Of all thy bellowing Renegado Priests,
That preach up thee for God; dispence thy Laws;
And with thy Stumm ferment their fainting Cause?        270
Fresh Fumes of Madness raise; and toile and sweat,
To make the formidable Cripple great.
Yet, shou’d thy Crimes succeed, shou’d lawless Powr
Compass those Ends thy greedy Hopes devour,
Thy Canting Friends thy Mortal Foes wou’d be,        275
Thy God and Theirs will never long agree;
For thine, (if thou hast any,) must be one
That lets the World and Humane Kind alone;
A jolly God that passes hours too well
To promise Heav’n, or threaten us with Hell.        280
That unconcern’d can at Rebellion sit;
And wink at Crimes he did himself commit.
A Tyrant theirs; the Heav’n their Priesthood paints
A Conventicle of gloomy sullen Saints;
A Heav’n, like Bedlam, slovenly and sad,        285
Fore-doomed for Souls with false Religion mad.
  Without a Vision Poets can fore-show
What all but Fools by common Sense may know:
If true Succession from our Isle should fail,
And Crowds profane with impious Arms prevail,        290
Not thou nor those thy Factious Arts ingage
Shall reap that Harvest of Rebellious Rage,
With which thou flatter’st thy decrepit Age.
The swelling Poison of the sev’ral Sects,
Which, wanting vent, the Nations Health infects        295
Shall burst its Bag; and fighting out their way,
The various Venoms on each other prey.
The Presbyter, puft up with spiritual Pride,
Shall on the Necks of the lewd Nobles ride:
His Brethren damn, the Civil Pow’r defy;        300
And parcel out Republique Prelacy.
But short shall be his Reign; his rigid Yoke
And Tyrant Pow’r will puny Sects provoke,
And Frogs, and Toads, and all the Tadpole Train
Will croak to Heav’n for help from this devouring Crane.        305
The Cut-throat sword and clamorous Gow shall jar
In sharing their ill-gotten Spoils of War;
Chiefs shall be grudg’d the part which they pretend,
Lords envy Lords, and Friends with every Friend
About their impious Merit shall contend.        310
The surly Commons shall respect deny;
And justle Peerage out with Property
Their Gen’ral either shall his Trust betray
And force the Crowd to Arbitrary sway;
Or they suspecting his ambitious Aim,        315
In hate of Kings shall cast anew the Frame;
And thrust out Collatine that bore their Name.
  Thus in-born broils the Factions would ingage;
Or Wars of Exil’d Heirs, or Foreign Rage,
Till halting Vengeance overtook our Age:        320
And our wild Labours, wearied into Rest,
Reclin’d us on a rightfull Monarch s Breast.

Pudet hæc opprobria, vobis
Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.
Note 1. and Principles of Buchanan] The editors give and the principles of Buchanan. [back]
Note 2. Text from the second edition, 1683, except as noted. The first edition was of 1682. [back]
Note 3. alive. 1682: alive? 1683. [back]
Note 4. Lucifer?] 1682: Lucifer! 1683. [back]
Note 5. their] 1682: the 1683. [back]

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