Dryden's Oratory, 1660–1688
The heritage of panegyric is of central importance to a consideration of Dryden's public poetry. This relatively minor genre provides the background for understanding the progress of Dryden's career and the framework for judging individual poems. To demonstrate the various ways in which Dryden's poetry embodies the themes, topics, and values of panegyric, the discussion of his poems is divided into two parts. The present chapter will focus on the tradition of panegyric: Dryden's reassertion of the original, oratorical function of the genre. The next chapter will consider the transformation of panegyric: Dryden's accommodation of panegyrical oratory and heroic poetry.
To trace Dryden's career against the background of classical and Renaissance oratory is to recognize, first of all, the ambitious nature of his political poems. To influence power with poetry, Dryden stands between the prince and the people during a period that is bounded at both ends by revolution. Addressing the people on behalf of the prince, Dryden elaborates the theme of resto-
ration, designed to secure popular obedience to the monarch. Addressing the prince on behalf of the people, Dryden emphasizes the theme of limitation, intended to assure restrained and orderly rule. Striving to maintain this poised rhetorical stance, Dryden attempts to reconcile the often-opposed interests of his dual audience. Dryden's special brand of oratory is, in effect, precisely that combination of the demonstrative and deliberative types that defines panegyric. By considering first the poems surrounding the Restoration, then the poems of the reign of James II, we can appreciate and admire Dryden's efforts to find a voice and an argument suitable for an address to both the prince and the people.
Although some steps have already been taken toward an accurate assessment of Dryden's oratory, this aspect of his work has never received the attention it deserves, partly (I think) because of our modern distrust of political oratory. In Mark Van Doren's groundbreaking study of the poetry, for example, the conception of Dryden as poet-orator is presented under the chapter heading "False Lights." After a very brief survey of the connection between oratory and poetry, Van Doren observes: "It was not until Dryden's time, when the inspiration of the Elizabethans had in a way given out, and the full body of modern classical doctrine was being received in its most systematic form from France, that eloquence came to feel completely at home in poetry." "Dryden," adds Van Doren, "was peculiarly fitted to lead the rhetorical grand march in English poetry."
This negative approach to the subject persists, with
modifications, to the present day. K. G. Hamilton, for example, has qualified Van Doren's conclusion on the grounds that Dryden himself would not have recognized the distinction between poetic and rhetoric as a very meaningful one. This revised assumption leads Hamilton to an analysis of the poetry that is more precise and detailed, but not essentially different from Van Doren's approach of fifty years ago. Although useful in assessing the style of Dryden's so-called "poetry of statement," this approach through rhetorical amplificatio misses the obvious. As an orator Dryden has an audience, a voice, and an argument, as well as an appropriate style. Because Dryden defines his role in society as that of public speaker, his poetry should be read in light of the public functions it was intended to serve.
This direction has been pointed out by two of Dryden's most persuasive critics. In the introductory chapter to his book Alexander Pope: The Poetry of Allusion, Reuben Brower writes: "Dryden did something else for his generation that Marvell and Milton, much less Cowley, could not do: he reaffirmed the public role of the poet, the Graeco-Roman conception of the poet as the voice of a society." Lillian Feder, in her important article on "John Dryden's Use of Classical Rhetoric," agrees. She concludes that for Dryden, as for Cicero and Quintilian, the art of oratory "is a public good, that a man speaking to his fellows must use eloquence to lead them; in other words, that formal speech is true and practical
speech . . ." Considering Dryden's career chronologically, we can explore this conception of the poet as public speaker by reference to the specific oratorical model developed in chapter 2.
First, however, we can sharpen this conception of Dryden's career by taking a hint from James Sutherland. In his pamphlet (originally a lecture) aptly titled John Dryden: The Poet as Orator, Sutherland briefly considers a number of poems, concentrating on several of Dryden's prologues and epilogues. In these brief addresses to his theater audience, Dryden's verse does quite obviously function as oratory. Speaking through an actor, Dryden (like other dramatists of the period) considers the condition of the stage, takes sides on various theatrical controversies, and of course comments on his own plays. In several of the prologues and epilogues, however, Dryden uses the Restoration stage as a podium for comment on current topics of broader public interest, including politics. During the Exclusion crisis in particular, Dryden considers his theater audience as the representatives of the whole English nation. Moreover, on some of these occasions, the "nation" was complemented by the actual presence of the king, thus creating in fact the dual audience characteristic of panegyric.
One such occasion was a performance of John Banks's The Unhappy Favourite, for which Dryden wrote the prologue. Here Dryden revives the myth of national innocence which we have already seen in Cowley's Restora-
tion panegyric and which we shall see again in Dryden's own coronation panegyric of 1661.
When first the Ark was Landed on the Shore,
And Heaven had vow'd to curse the Ground no more,
When Tops of Hills the Longing Patriark saw,
And the new Scene of Earth began to draw;
The Dove was sent to View the Waves Decrease,
And first brought back to Man the Pledge of Peace . . .
After the purifying waters subside, "The Ark is open'd to dismiss the Train, / And People with a better Race the Plain" (11–12). But the new race succumb to the same temptations as the old, including the desire for innovation. The alternative to this "Scene of Changes" (18) is a steady reliance on the monarch.
Our Land's an Eden, and the Main's our Fence,
While we Preserve our State of Innocence;
That lost, then Beasts their Brutal Force employ,
And first their Lord, and then themselves destroy:
What Civil Broils have cost we know too well,
Oh let it be enough that once we fell,
And every Heart conspire with every Tongue,
Still to have such a King, and this King Long . (27–34)
In this conclusion, Dryden emphasizes the close connection between his prologue and traditional panegyric by quoting the last line of Jonson's Panegyre . Jonson had
concluded his poem with the following couplet:"Yet, let blest Brittaine aske (without your wrong) / Still to have such a king, and this king long."[ 8]
A second example of a prologue which functions as a panegyric is that written "To His Royal Highness Upon His first appearance at the Duke's Theatre since his Return from Scotland." Addressed to James, who had passed part of his Exclusion-crisis exile in Scotland, this prologue is an evident extension of the tradition of return poems discussed in the previous chapter. The seasonal and diurnal imagery appropriate to the theme of restoration provides the background for Dryden's attempt to reconcile his two audiences. This purpose Dryden expresses unequivocally.
Yet, late Repentance may, perhaps, be true;
Kings can forgive if Rebels can but sue:
A Tyrant's Pow'r in rigour is exprest:
The Father yearns in the true Prince's Breast .
Here both audiences are admonished, the people to repentance and the prince to forgiveness, thus defining the conditions of Dryden's welcome to the returning royalty. "0 welcome to this much offending Land / The Prince that brings forgiveness in his hand" (36–37). Dryden then concludes by urging James to "relax the rights of Sov'reign sway" (42). Thus combining the theme of limitation
with the theme of restoration, Dryden completes the pattern of traditional panegyric.
The orator's stance revealed in these two prologues had been confidently assumed in the 1660's and was to be maintained only with great difficulty in the 1680's. But as the beginning of Dryden's career antedates the Restoration, we must consider first two poems written at a time when the oratorical stance characteristic of panegyric was not possible.
The Early Poems
It is often observed that Dryden's elegy Upon the death of the Lord Hastings has minimal political significance. Unlike other poets on this occasion, most notably John Denham, Dryden does not develop the idea that Hastings's death was caused by the execution of the king. It is, however, true that Dryden elaborates the lament for Hastings in imagery that defines the state of English political institutions in 1649. The two major similes in the poem both involve the human body, always potentially an analogue for the body politic. The first simile describes the body in its healthy state as a perfect orb that contains the "Reg'lar Motions" of the soul. The soul, shining through the body, "The whole Frame render'd was Celestial" (38). The possible political significance of this comparison is revealed by Dryden's later poetry. In
To My Lord Chancellor he refers to "The Nations soul (our Monarch) . . . ," and in Absalom and Achitophel he develops the architectural suggestion of the word "Frame" to define the nature of the state. The second simile, the infamous smallpox conceit, describes the body in an advanced state of disease. As this comparison does not have traditional political associations, Dryden bluntly gives it special significance in connection with the recent rebellion.
Each little Pimple had a Tear in it,
To wail the fault its rising did commit:
Who, Rebel-like, with their own Lord at strife,
Thus made an Insurrection 'gainst his Life . (59–62)
Although the metaphors and similes in the poem are not sufficiently continuous to justify an allegorical reading of the poem, it is evident that the death of Hastings and the death of the king are at least sporadically analogous. Dryden does not suggest a causal link between the two events because he wishes to indicate instead their symbolic parallelism.
Other images in the poem, especially those consistent with the tradition of panegyric, establish the significance of the poem as a royal elegy. One couplet in particular evokes the death of Charles more effectively than the death of Hastings. "The Nations sin hath drawn that Veil, which shrouds / Our Day-spring in so sad benighting Clouds" (49–50). The conventional imagery of the couplet, especially the term "Day-spring," has evident
royalist associations, and the appearance of "benighting Clouds" reveals the pattern of the elegy to be a reversal of the restorative pattern found in panegyric.
Dryden extends the poem's latent analogy between private and public experience to the very end of the poem, where he considers the plight of Hastings's "Virgin-Widow" (93). Although the passage has a specific, factual basis in relation to Hastings, this topic also describes the condition of a nation without a king. Marriage as an emblem of the harmony between king and people, evident for example in Thomas More's Latin poem to Henry VIII, is explicitly developed by Dryden in Astraea Redux : "While Our cross Stars deny'd us Charles his Bed / Whom Our first Flames and Virgin Love did wed." In the Hastings elegy as in the later panegyric, the bride can be seen as a symbol of the nation, in this case a nation without a king. The trouble with these last lines, whether read as elegiac consolation to a particular woman or as a covert address to the nation as a whole, is that Dryden has no real consolation or policy to offer. Nevertheless, in the conclusion to this immature poem, Dryden metaphorically anticipates the rhetorical stance of his poem on the death of Cromwell: direct address to the whole English nation.
This poem, unlike the lament for Hastings, is not an elegy, but rather a funeral oration in verse. The Heroique Stanza's follows the pattern of a classical oration more closely than any other poem of Dryden's. The poem can
be readily outlined according to the seven-fold arrangement favored by the classical rhetoricians.
Exordium (stanzas 1–4)
Part 1 (11–15)
Part 1 (11–20)
Part 2 (16–20) or
Part 2 (21–31)
Part 3 (21–31)
This poem is the purest and simplest example of Dryden's oratory.
The exordium establishes with precision both the occasion and the reason for the speech. Dryden identifies himself with his audience ("our") and contrasts himself to other speakers on this occasion, including both those who have already spoken ("they whose muses have the highest flown") and those who may yet speak ("And claime a Title in him by their praise"). The first group, who are revealed as personally self-serving, have been premature and disrespectful, but provide no reason for Dryden to speak out. It is rather the second group, those who may yet praise Cromwell, who worry Dryden and
call forth his speech. Although the phrase "claime a Title in him" is not entirely clear, Dryden seems to refer to the possibility that Cromwell's career may be appropriated as fodder for various political arguments. That is, praise for Cromwell may be cast in terms that would advance or justify some political cause or another. It is to prevent this occurrence that Dryden will accept the duty of praising Cromwell in a way that will further "our interest" (13), the interest not of a faction or a cause, but of the nation as a whole. This is a very skillful opening because it not only captures the audience's attention and concern, but also consolidates their self-interest.
In the next five stanzas Dryden presents an abstract of his speech. Starting with a version of what has been called the "inexpressibility" topos ("How shall I then begin . . . "), he outlines his perspective on Cromwell's career. In this exposition, which provides the evaluative background for the proposition announced in stanza 10, the crucial terms are "Fame" (18) and "Fortune" (22). The perspective indicated by these terms is a human one; they describe Cromwell as he seemed to Dryden's audience. Although his innate greatness is a divine gift, Cromwell's public fame is determined by the fortune of war. Dryden expresses this good fortune and resultant fame by adapting the familiar sun image, an image which also forecasts the second phase of Cromwell's career. "And Warr's like mists that rise against the Sunne / Made him but greater seem, not greater grow" (25–24). Initially the "Sunne" in this couplet refers to Charles I, for the king is indeed the sun that the mists of civil war rose against. But the second line changes the identification and establishes Cromwell as the sun who seems greater
because of the "mists" of war. This substitution of Cromwell for Charles initiates the shift in Dryden's exposition to consideration of Cromwell as ruler.
No borrow'd Bay's his Temples did adorne,
But to our Crown he did fresh Jewells bring,
Nor was his Vertue poyson'd soon as born
With the too early thoughts of being King . (25–28)
Gliding smoothly and swiftly over the difficult constitutional questions of a few years earlier, Dryden suggests the transition from hero ("Bay's") to monarch ("Crown"), while simultaneously praising Cromwell for not aspiring "too early" to be king. It is not ambition but rather maturity that characterizes Cromwell as ruler.
He, private, mark'd the faults of others sway,
And set as Sea-mark's for himself to shun ;
Not like rash Monarch's who their youth betray
By Acts their Age too late would wish undone . (33–36)
In sum, Dryden views Cromwell as the favorite of fortune and yet as a man prepared for the fortune that came to him.
Dryden is now ready to give the audience his argument, beginning with a clear, succinct proposition.
And yet Dominion was not his Designe,
We owe that blessing not to him but Heaven,
Which to faire Acts unsought rewards did joyn,
Rewards that lesse to him than us were given . (36–40)
This, in effect, is what the oration will prove. Derived directly from the preceding exposition, this passage fore-shadows the major lines of argument to be developed later in the poem. First of all, Dryden discards the possibility that Cromwell was ambitious for himself; his
"faire" acts brought "unsought" rewards. Second, these rewards, like his dominion, are blessings not as much to him as to "us." The first point of the proposition is demonstrated in parts 1 (stanzas 11–15) and 2 (16–20) of the argument, where Dryden traces Cromwell's career first as warrior and then as ruler. The second point is shown in the longer third part (21–31), which is devoted to the blessings of Cromwell's rule. As these blessings are due primarily to the Protector's aggressive foreign policy, Dryden here draws on the imperialist theme of Waller's panegyric. Waller had written:
To dig for wealth we weary not our limbs;
Gold, though the heaviest metal, hither swims;
Ours is the harvest where the Indians mow;
We plough the deep, and reap what others sow .
Dryden adopts this topic in the final stanza of his argument.
By his command we boldly crost the Line
And bravely fought where Southern Starrs arise,
We trac'd the farre-fetchd Gold unto the mine
And that which brib'd our fathers made our prize . (121–124)
Having thus demonstrated his proposition, Dryden offers a brief confirmation ("Such was our Prince . . . ") and proceeds to a refutation of those who believe that Cromwell was slipping at the time of his death.
Nor dy'd he when his ebbing Fame went lesse,
But when fresh Lawrells courted him to live ;
He seem'd but to prevent some new successe;
As if above what triumphs Earth could give . (129–132)
The reason for refuting this particular anti-Cromwell argument is quite evident in Dryden's peroration. Here he carefully leaves his audience with a final implication of the whole speech: Cromwell's benign power continues after his death. Far from slipping, his influence persists.
No Civill broyles have since his death arose,
But Faction now by Habit does obey :
And Warrs have that respect for his repose,
As Winds for Halcyons when they breed at Sea . (141–144)
Dryden's oration is a memorial to Cromwell's achievement designed to help preserve the peace of the realm. This penultimate stanza explains what Dryden meant back in stanza 4:"Yet' tis our duty and our interest too / Such monuments as we can build to raise . . ." (13–14) Keeping alive Cromwell's memory as England's "Protecting Genius" (159) is in the best "interest" of domestic peace and is therefore the "duty" of a poet-orator like Dryden.
The final stanza of the poem looks backward to the other Cromwell poems of the 1650's.
His Ashes in a peacefull Urne shall rest,
His Name a great example stands to show
How strangely high endeavours may be blest,
Where Piety and valour joyntly goe . (145–148)
The union of valor and piety suggests Waller's idealization of Cromwell in terms of "power and piety" and, indirectly, Marvell's celebration of the Protector as the perfect union of power and grace. In comparison with these poems, however, Dryden's eulogy is perhaps more sig-
nificant for what it does not achieve, or even attempt, than for what it does. The poem is politically neutral, as Dryden makes not the slightest effort to solve the problem of legitimacy that had challenged earlier poets of the Protectorate. This neutrality is not an accident. In the opening Dryden assures his audience that the very purpose of his oration is to further "our interest," and in the peroration he defines this interest as civil order undisturbed by faction. To take a strong position on the constitutional issues then being debated would be to identify himself with a faction, and this Dryden resolutely and wisely refuses to do. Indeed the strength of his argument, his credibility as a speaker, and therefore the success of his oration depend on his neutrality. In the Heroique Stanza's, Dryden was awaiting the outcome of events without attempting to influence them in the manner of Waller and Marvell.
By speaking for and to all the people ("we," "our," "us"), Dryden does, however, establish the characteristic voice of his later verse orations. But these later poems, from Astraea Redux to Britannia Rediviva, are far more complex than the eulogy of Cromwell, because after 1660 Dryden's audience includes the king as well as the people. The poem on Cromwell is a demonstrative oration, pure and relatively simple. The later poems, on the other hand, combine demonstrative with deliberative oratory. The twin themes of restoration and limitation, focused by the traditional terms "power" and "piety," are here balanced in ways that transcend the restricted, if orderly, design of the Heroiaue Stanza's .
The greater complexity of Astraea Redux is evident in A. E. Wallace Maurer's attempt to read the poem as an
oration. Maurer observes:"The audience directly addressed is, of course, Charles II, but the total audience includes the English nation listening in the background." Although this seems to me exactly right, the poem nevertheless resists Maurer's attempt to outline its oratorical structure because, unlike the Heroique Stanza's, Astraea Redux is not simply an oration. The first two-thirds of the poem (to line 249) is a heroic narrative reflecting Waller's transformation of panegyric, while the last third is an oration addressed to the monarch with "the English nation listening in the background." The combination of elements in the poem has been recognized by Earl Miner, who concludes that the poem lacks coherence because it is not "clearly defined as a panegyric, as a narrative of historical events, or as a picture of heroic endeavor." I suggest that the poem should be defined as a heroic panegyric and that, in spite of its vigorous diversity and range of tones, the poem is coherent. The two basic parts of the poem are closely related, for the narrative of recent events is necessary to establish the appropriate ethos for the people's spokesman. In part 1 we find revealed the guilt of the people, the suffering of the king, and the renewed felicity of both people and king at the Restoration. Through this narrative Dryden identifies himself with the penitent nation by using the characteristic pronoun "our"; then in part 2 he directly addresses the king ("you") on their behalf.
By focusing attention in the first part of the poem on
"our" fate and "our" past, Dryden reasserts the inclusive public voice of the Heroique Stanza's . Here, however, Dryden also identifies the enemy of the public interest, "they" who have presumed to destroy what is "ours."
Nor could our Nobles hope their bold Attempt
Who ruin'd Crowns would Coronets exempt:
For when by their designing Leaders taught
To strike at Pow'r which for themselves they sought,
The Vulgar gull'd into Rebellion, arm'd,
Their blood to action by the Prize was warm'd . (29–34)
This "Faction" (22) is characterized by its pursuit of unrestricted power.
Blind as the Cyclops, and as wild as he,
They own'd a lawless salvage Libertie,
Like that our painted Ancestours so priz'd
Ere Empires Arts their Breasts had Civiliz'd . (45–48)
These two narrative passages focus the argument of Dryden's concluding oration: the limitation of power by law and the restoration of the civilizing "Arts" of empire. In final preparation for the oration itself, however, Dryden discards the pronoun "they" and generously returns to a now-penitent "our." "We by our suff'rings learn to prize our bliss . . ." (210). By calling attention to the guilty faction and then confirming the repentance of the whole nation, Dryden creates the perfect voice for his address to the king, a voice that is at once forgiving and penitent. Developed in the narrative section of the poem, then, is the oratorical stance of the poem's conclusion. Dryden stands poised between the people, who must repent, and the king, who must forgive.
Midway through the oration, Dryden pauses to ask a
rhetorical question:"How shall I speak of that triumphant Day / When you renew'd the expiring Pomp of May" (284–285). Dryden here defines the ceremonial purpose of panegyric in terms that suggest the original function of the genre: to celebrate a festival occasion, or holiday. It is worth recalling that the word "day" (or the Latin equivalent) is a significant catchword of the genre, appearing in the first lines of panegyrics by Erasmus, More, and Daniel, and as the final word in the first stanza of Cowley's Restoration Pindaric. By posing the question in the conventional vocabulary of panegyric, Dryden implicitly acknowledges the conventional nature of his answer. Although the address to Charles does not fit the strict patterns of a classical oration, it does unite the traditional themes of panegyric. For purposes of discussion we can break the speech into three parts. The first, lines 250 to about 275, is deliberative in purpose, designed to instruct the king. The second, lines 276–291, is demonstrative in purpose, designed to ensure popular obedience to the prince. The third part, derived from the first two, is a prophecy of England's future under an ideal monarch who rules over ideal subjects. Dryden's conception of both ideals is focused by familiar topics and expressed in traditional language.
In the first part of his oration, Dryden concentrates on the obligations of the king.
But you, whose goodness your discent doth show,
Your Heav'nly Parentage and earthly too;
By that same mildness which your Fathers Crown
Before did ravish, shall secure your own.
Not ty'd to rules of Policy, you find
Revenge less sweet then a forgiving mind .
Thus when th' Almighty would to Moses give
A sight of all he could behold and live ;
A voice before his entry did proclaim
Long-Suff'ring, Goodness, Mercy in his Name . (256–265)
Royal "goodness" is defined emphatically, if somewhat redundantly, as mildness, forgiveness, and mercy. Although Dryden does not use the conventional word "piety" here, his emphasis on mercy accomplishes the traditional purpose of restraining the monarch equally well. In fact, in traditional panegyric pietas and clementia are closely associated. In Claudian's Panegyricus Dictus Manlio Theodoro Consuli, for example, Astraea, personified to address the consul, specifically links these two qualities:
nonne vides, ut nostra soror clementia tristes
obtundat gladios fratresque amplexa serenos
adsurgat Pietas . . .
Seest thou not how my sister Mercy blunts the cruel sword of war; how Piety rises to embrace the two noble brothers . . .
In Walter Haddon's neo-Latin panegyric to Elizabeth we find the same conjunction:
Sit pia, sit clemens . . ."
May she be pious, may she be merciful . . .
Moreover, as we have seen, Edmund Waller changed the wording but not the essential meaning of his panegyric
to Cromwell when he revised "power and piety" to read "power and clemency."
Dryden not only defines royal "goodness" in a traditional way, he also expressly unites this ideal with the traditional theme of limitation.
Your Pow'r to Justice doth submit your Cause,
Your Goodness only is above the Laws;
Whose rigid letter while pronounc'd by you
Is softer made . (266–269)
The balanced phrasing, "Your Pow'r . . ." in the first line, "Your Goodness . . ." in the second, gives this couplet something of the same force as Marvell's "power and grace" and Waller's "power and piety" (or "clemency"). Dryden then supplements the moral limitation on royal power by emphasizing the more tangible but equally traditional restriction provided by the "Laws." As the editors of the California Dryden have observed, "The rigid letter that Dryden was thinking of may have been the hard 'g' in the Latin leges ." This may well be true, as the literary source of these lines is probably Pliny's admonitory praise of Trajan:
Quod ego nunc primum audio, nunc primum disco, non est princeps super leges, sed leges super principem . . .
There is a new turn of phrase which I hear and understand for the first time—not the prince is above the law but the law is above the prince . . .
The king, submitting himself to the law, tempers that law with mercy toward the people.
Charles can afford to be merciful because the people have promised to forsake their former ways of rebellion.
And welcome now (Great Monarch) to your own;
Behold th' approaching cliffes of Albion;
It is no longer Motion cheats your view ,
As you meet it, the Land approacheth you .
The Land returns, and in the white it wears
The marks of penitence and sorrow bears . (250–255)
In these opening lines of the oration, Dryden recapitulates the penitence and submission of the people delineated in the preceding narrative. The unusual and often-abused metaphor of the land returning to the king perfectly complements the more traditional celebration of the king's return to the land. This meeting in mid-channel symbolizes the compromise of the Restoration settlement and thus represents Dryden's version of Claudian's alterna fides . More specifically, it represents an imagistic rendering of a sentence from Pliny:
scis tibi ubique iurari, cum ipse iuraveris omnibus.
[Y]ou can be sure that everywhere the oath is being taken for you, as you have taken it for us all.
The mutuality of the renewed contract between prince and people is expressed by the reciprocal obligations of mercy on the one hand and obedience on the other. After
stressing royal mercy, therefore, Dryden emphasizes popular obedience.
The demonstrative part of Dryden's oration takes the conventional form of the processional topos .
Methinks I see those Crowds on Dovers Strand
Who in their hast to welcome you to Land
Choak'd up the Beach with their still growing store,
And made a wilder Torrent on the shore .
While spurr'd with eager thoughts of past delight
Those who had seen you, court a second sight ;
Preventing still your steps, and making hast
To meet you often where so e're you past .(276–283)
Dryden's lines are very similar to those of Ben Jonson, whose version of this topos, as we have seen, is based on Latin and neo-Latin models. Jonson, too, had portrayed an insatiable crowd of admirers running alongside the king. The purpose of this topos is to demonstrate what Jonson had modestly called the "consent" of the people to the rule of the new king. Dryden goes further, closing his demonstration with an allusion to the king's birth star, which "Did once again its potent Fires renew / Guiding our eyes to find and worship you" (290–291). The obedience of the people to the resurrected king, when read in light of the preceding qualifications on the king's power, creates a conventional political ideal sanctioned by divine authority. Here "consent" becomes "worship." Dryden thus combines the deliberative and demonstrative themes of panegyric to assert the highest ideal of the genre: national reconciliation.
This reconciliation between the idealized prince and the idealized people makes possible the prophecy with which the speech concludes. Here too Dryden asserts generic
convention. Classical and Renaissance panegyrics frequently close with some global allusion, hyperbolically confirming the potential of a united nation. Usually this hyperbole takes the form of the so-called "two-Indies topos ." Claudian captures the essential idea of this topic in the conclusion of his Panegyricus De Tertio Consulatu Honorii Augusti :
vobis Rubra dabunt pretiosas aeauora conchas,
Indus ebur, ramos Panchaia, vellera Seres .
To you the Red Sea shall give precious shells, India her ivory, Panchia perfumes, and China silks.
Dryden's version of the topos, however, reflects the more frankly imperialist tone of Waller's Cromwell panegyric. Waller had written:
Fame, swifter than your winged navy, flies
Through every land that near the ocean lies
Sounding your name, and telling dreadful news
To all that piracy and rapine use .
Quae regio est aut quam vastus perlabitur Indus
Aut Tartessiaci litoris unda quatit
Quaeve sub ardenti squallens male culta leone
Quaeve trucis boreae flatibus, ora rigens,
Hunc quae non cupiat Dominum, cui libera colla
Festinet grato subdere sponte iugo?
In Dryden this becomes:
Their wealthy Trade from Pyrates Rapine free
Our Merchants shall no more Advent'rers be:
Nor in the farthest East those Dangers fear
Which humble Holland must dissemble here .
Spain to your Gift alone her Indies owes;
For what the Pow'rful takes not he bestowes.(304–309)
Charles's empire abroad "shall no Limits know" (298) precisely because his power at home is limited. This celebration of English sea power reflects not the power of the prince alone, but the "united Int'rest" (296) of prince and people together. The storm of faction and disunity gives way in this conclusion to national harmony and reconciliation.
And now times whiter Series is begun
Which in soft Centuries shall smoothly run;
Those Clouds that overcast your Morne shall fly
Dispell'd to farthest corners of the sky.
After the euphoria of the Restoration had subsided, most poets were content to pass over the coronation of 1661 in silence. But Dryden took the opportunity to reassert the themes and ideals of Astraea Redux in To His Sacred Majesty . This poem has not received nearly as much critical attention as Astraea Redux and generally has been seen as a rather pale reflection of the earlier poem, a briefer and less vigorous celebration of the king. The difference in length and design of the two poems does, however, deserve explanation. Astraea Redux is a heroic narrative concluded by an oration; To His Sacred Majesty is simply an oration, although it is almost twice as long as the earlier address to Charles.
In the coronation poem Dryden assumes the ethos previously developed in the narrative section of Astraea Redux and extends the significance (as well as the length) of his earlier oration. There can be no doubt about the kind of oration this is, for Dryden subtitled the poem A Panegyrick on His Coronation . Moreover, by using such words as "pomp" (7, 34), "feasted" (36), "solemn" (7, 50), and "Nations" (35), he echoes Philemon Holland's classical definition of the term written almost sixty years earlier: "Feasts, games, faires, marts, pompes, shewes, or any such solemnities, performed or exhibited before the general assembly of a whole nation." The "solemnitie" celebrated here is, of course, the coronation of the king. Dryden develops the significance of this event so that his poem answers the interregnum challenge to
panegyric. The coronation symbolizes the reunion of ceremony and power in the figure of the monarch. In To His Sacred Majesty, then, Dryden reasserts a political tradition by adapting a traditional form of oratory. It is his most conventional panegyric.
The reunion of ceremony and power is expressed by the double strand of allusion in the poem, the one Hebraic and the other Roman. Dryden compares Charles to the Biblical patriarch Noah at the beginning of the poem and to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar at the end. Within this framework of patriarchal and imperial ideals, and near the center of the poem, Dryden compares Charles first to David and then to Augustus. The poem thus achieves a balance between ceremony and power that suggests further the reconciliation of church and state. It is the church that confers the crown on the king in a ceremony that recalls the anointment of David by Samuel.
Next to the sacred Temple you are led,
Where waites a Crown for your more sacred Head:
How justly from the Church that Crown is due,
Preserv'd from ruine and restor'd by you!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Now while the sacred Oyl annoints your head,
And fragrant scents, begun from you, are spread
Through the large Dome, the peoples joyful sound
Sent back, is still presero'd in hallow'd ground . . .
Once the ceremony has been performed, however, the power of the king as supreme religious authority is asserted by reference not just to the established church but to the sects as well.
The jealous Sects that dare not trust their cause
So farre from their own will as to the Laws,
You for their Umpire and their Synod take,
And their appeal alone to Caesar make . (81–84)
The idea of national reconciliation is thus emphasized by the union of Biblical ceremony and political power.
The allusions also provide a clue to the overall structure of the oration. The Biblical allusions are clustered at the beginning of the poem, giving way in the end to the Roman. Although the poem is not rigidly divided, the movement is from ceremony to power, with a transition near the center where the two are harmonized by the coronation. In rhetorical terms, the first part of the poem is demonstrative, the second deliberative.
Dryden embellishes the demonstrative theme of restoration with solar and seasonal imagery, as well as with Biblical allusions. The comparison of the king to the sun is, of course, a standard topic of the genre.
Till your kind beams by their continu'd stay
Had warm'd the ground, and call'd the Damps away.
Such vapours while your pow'rfull influence dryes
Then soonest vanish when they highest rise . (13–16)
Although this is too conventional to suggest a particular source, we can point to the opening of Jonson's Panegyre, where the healthy influence of the king is equally obvious.
Againe, the glory of our Westerne world
Unfolds himself: & from his eyes are hoorl'd
(To day) a thousand radiant lights, that stream
To every nooke and angle of his realme.
His former rayes did onely cleare the skie;
But these his searching beams are cast, to prie
Into those darke and deepe concealed vaults,
Where men commit blacke incest with their faults;
And snore supinely in the stall of sin . . .
The warmth of the sun in Dryden serves the same function as the light of the sun in Jonson; Dryden's "damps" and "vapours" are a milder, metaphoric version of the sins alluded to by Jonson. In both poems the rising sun marks the occasion as a turning point in national history. For Dryden, moreover, this occasion signifies national regeneration, which he expresses in an elaborate seasonal metaphor.
Now our sad ruines are remov'd from sight,
The Season too comes fraught with new delight;
Time seems not now beneath his years to stoop
Nor do his wings with sickly feathers droop:
Soft western winds waft ore the gaudy spring
And opend Scenes of flow'rs and blossoms bring
To grace this happy day, while you appear
Not King of us alone but of the year .(25–52)
This seasonal imagery evokes a host of earlier poems, but in particular it recalls the neo-Latin verse of the sixteenth century. The third couplet of the passage, for example, is anticipated by Erasmus:
Rursus ubi zephyris tepidum spirantibus anni
Leta iuventa redit, gemmantur floribus horti . . .
Again when spring returns with west winds blowing warmly, gardens are studded with flower buds like jewels . . .
And by Walter Haddon:
Nunc Zephyrus mollis iucundas commovet auras,
Anglia vere novo nunc recreata viret .
Now the gentle westwind stirs up pleasant breezes; England now flourishes, refreshed with a new springtime.
Dryden extends the potential of this imagery by explicitly referring to the king as a vegetation deity. The combination of seasonal, solar, and Biblical metaphors suggests that the Restoration is like the resurrection. Natural regeneration of the earth symbolizes spiritual regeneration of the nation, all brought about by the Restoration of the king.
The political significance of regeneration is established by reference, once again, to the processional topos, which underscores the ceremonial theme of restoration and emphasizes the unanimity of the people in celebration of the king.
All eyes you draw, and with the eyes the heart,
Of your own pomp your self the greatest part:
Loud shouts the Nations happiness proclaim
And Heav'n this day is feasted with your name.
Your Cavalcade the fair Spectators view
From their high standings, yet look up to you . (33–38
Again Dryden may well have had in mind Ben Jonson: "Upon his face all threw their covetous eyes, / As on a wonder" (34–35). In both panegyrics all eyes are fastened on the king, and in Dryden, characteristically, all eyes are lifted up in the process. Charles, identified as the optimus princeps or "best of Kings" (54), is divine.
We add not to your glory, but employ
Our time like Angels in expressing joy.
Nor is it duty or our hopes alone
Create that joy, but full fruition . . . (67–70)
The corollary to the divinity of the king, then, is the angelic nature of the people. The comparison is normative, recalling the fallen angel status of Cromwell in Cowley's Restoration ode and, more importantly, foreshadowing the metaphoric situation of Shaftesbury in Absalom and Achitophel . In To His Sacred Majesty, Dryden presents the ideal against which the impiety of rebellion is to be measured. By quietly restoring the people to their proper place in heaven, Dryden expresses the nation's renewed obedience to the king.
In the last lines of the above citation, Dryden begins to bring us back down to earth. Moving from the ideal to the actual world, he suggests that popular obedience is contingent on the "blessings" (71) expected from the king. Here, in short, Dryden shifts to deliberative oratory and begins to advise the king.
No promise can oblige a Prince so much
Still to be good as long to have been such.
A noble Emulation heats your breast,
And your own fame now robbs you of your rest:
Good actions still must be maintain'd with good,
As bodies nourish'd with resembling food . (75–78)
Although the conditions presented here are not specified beyond the vague "Good actions," the words "promise," "oblige," and "must" establish the contractual intent of the passage. In subsequent lines, moreover, Dryden does provide a specific pattern for "Emulation" by outlining the proper royal response to the nation's former crimes. "Among our crimes oblivion may be set, / But 'tis our Kings perfection to forget" (87–88). The desired end of this advice is peace, as Dryden makes clear by repeating the instructions of Astraea Redux .
Virtues unknown to these rough Northern climes
From milder heav'ns you bring, without their crimes:
Your calmnesse does no after storms provide,
Nor seeming patience mortal anger hide . (89–92)
As in the earlier poem, the royal virtues necessary for domestic tranquillity are mildness, calmness, and patience. The admonitory significance of these lines is revealed by the qualifying phrases—"no after storms provide," no "mortal anger hide." Dryden's concern here, as in the traditional deliberative oration, is for the future. His praise functions as advice.
As he moves toward the end of his address, Dryden extends this advice to encompass the virtues of a leader in foreign affairs as well as in domestic. By reference to Charles's interest in naval affairs and by allusion to his improvements at St. James's Park, Dryden urges the king to guarantee "our defence" (110). Slyly, he even points to a model for the conduct of foreign affairs:"So safe are all things which our King protects" (116). The reconciliation of King and Protector in Charles, which functions both as royal instruction and popular propa-
ganda, succinctly completes Dryden's reunion of ceremony and power.
The poem closes with a variation on the two-Indies topos, designed to reiterate the importance of national reconciliation.
From your lov'd Thames a blessing yet is due,
Second alone to that it brought in you ;
A Queen, from whose chast womb, ordain'd by Fate,
The souls of Kings unborn for bodies wait .
It was your Love before made discord cease :
Your love is destin'd to your Countries peace .
Both Indies (Rivalls in your bed) provide
With Gold or Jewels to adorn your Bride . (117–124)
Here Dryden combines the East-West hyperbole with the image of marriage to symbolize the harmony between prince and people. In this he adheres to the tradition as exemplified by Claudian and Thomas More. Claudian had concluded his panegyric on the fourth consulship of Honorius with a similar, if more extravagant, expression of the idea.
quae tali devota toro, quae murice fulgens
ibit in amplexus tanti regina mariti?quaenam tot divis veniet nurus, omnibus arvis
et toto donanda mari? quantusque feretur
idem per Zephyri metas Hymenaeus et Euri!
Who shall be consecrated to such a couch; who, glorious in purple, shall pass, a queen, to the embraces of such a husband? What bride shall come to be the daughter of so many gods, dowered with every land and the whole sea? How gloriously shall the nuptial song be borne at once to farthest East and West.
The tone of Dryden's version, however, is closer to the conclusion of More's panegyric to Henry.
Illa tibi felix populos hinc inde potentes
Non dissoluenda iunxit amicitia.
Regibus orta quidem magnis, nihiloque minorum est
Regum, quam quibus est orta, futura parens.
Hactenus una tui navem tenet ancora regni,
Una, sat illa quidem firma, sed una tamen.
At regina tibi sexu foecunda virili
Undiaue firmatam perpetuamaue dabit .
This blessed lady has joined to you in lasting alliance nations which are, in various places, powerful. She is descended from great kings, to be sure; and she will be the mother of kings as great as her ancestors. To this time one anchor has protected your ship of state—a strong one, yet only one. But your fruitful queen will present you with a male heir, a protection in unbroken line, who shall be supported on every side.
Dryden, more laconic than either of his predecessors, is also more emphatically admonitory.
Your Subjects, while you weigh the Nations fate,
Suspend to both their doubtfull love or hate:
Choose only, (Sir,) that so they may possesse
With their own peace their Childrens happinesse . (133–136)
In the last lines of the poem Dryden calls for the extension of the traditional ideals to the next generation. Like Claudian and More, Dryden would persuade prince and people to maintain their present harmony in the future.
Only one year into this future, however, Dryden himself had begun to shift the emphasis of his political oratory. In Astraea Redux and To His Sacred Majesty, he adopts panegyrical conventions to idealize and to re-
strict the king. In Astraea Redux he summarizes his position in one neat couplet, discussed above but worth repeating. "Your Pow'r to Justice doth submit your Cause, / Your Goodness only is above the Laws" (266–267). In To His Sacred Majesty he expresses the same idea in a couplet which brings together the patriarchal and imperial threads of the poem. "But you that are a Soveraign Prince, allay / Imperial pow'r with your paternal sway" (95–96). The limitation on the king's power, suggested here by allusion to the ideals of law and fatherhood, is further defined in both poems by a virtue variously expressed as "mercy," "mildness," or "goodness." In Dryden's next poem, To My Lord Chancellor of 1662, he takes a fresh look at this royal ideal.
Heav'n would your Royal Master should exceed
Most in that Vertue which we most did need,
And his mild Father (who too late did find
All mercy vain but what with pow'r was joyn'd,)
His fatal goodnesse left to fitter times,
Not to increase but to absolve our Crimes . . .
Here Dryden repeats his warning against power without mercy, but in the process he takes a longer look at the other side of the problem: mercy without power. The parenthesis indicates that mercy, or piety, or mildness, or goodness, can qualify power only where power exists. This passage, while urging mildness, parenthetically warns that mildness by itself is politically meaningless.
In these early panegyrics Dryden does not shy away from the fact of power. The question is rather how and by whom power should be exercised. In To My Lord Chancellor this question is succinctly answered.
By you he fits those Subjects to obey,
As Heavens Eternal Monarch does convey
His pow'r unseen, and man to his designs,
By his bright Ministers the Stars, inclines . (83–86)
Power qualified by mercy belongs to Charles and is administered by the Lord Chancellor, thereby securing the obedience of the people. Clearly, however, this obedience can be guaranteed only if royal power is retained and asserted. To My Lord Chancellor thus points toward Dryden's later political poetry.
The Later Poems
In Absalom and Achitophel Dryden expands, illustrates, and universalizes the themes of the early panegyrics. In this allegory of English politics, Charles is portrayed as a king who rules according to the ideals set forth in the poems of the 1660's. In rebelling against him, the people perversely rebel against the perfect prince and, in effect, violate the contract signed in Astraea Redux and reaffirmed in To His Sacred Majesty . The normative values of Absalom and Achitophel are consistently defined through echoes of the earlier poems.
My Father Governs with unquestion'd Right;
The Faiths Defender, and Mankinds Delight:
Good, Gracious, Just, observant of the Laws;
And Heav'n by Wonders has Espous'd his Cause.
Whom has he Wrong'd in all his Peaceful Reign?
Who sues for Justice to his Throne in Vain?
What Millions has he Pardon'd of his Foes,
Whom Just Revenge did to his Wrath expose?
Mild, Easy, Humble, Studious of our Good ;
Enclin'd to Mercy, and averse from Blood.
If Mildness Ill with Stubborn Israel Suite,
His Crime is God's beloved Attribute .
Because the "Stubborn" people resist the traditional ideals of law and justice, because, moreover, they rebel against the king's very "Mildness," Charles is compelled to reconsider his own virtues. In his decisive oration, the king elaborates the parenthetical warning of To My Lord Chancellor and thereby avoids the fate of "his mild Father (who too late did find / All mercy vain but what with pow'r was joyn'd,) . . ."
Thus long have I, by native mercy sway'd.,
My wrongs dissembl'd, my revenge delay'd:
So willing to forgive th' Offending Age,
So much the Father did the King asswage.
But now so far my Clemency they slight,
Th' Offenders question my Forgiving Right.
That one was made for many, they contend:
But 'tis to Rule, for that's a Monarch's End . (939–946)
Whereas in Astraea Redux and To His Sacred Majesty Dryden had emphasized the limits of royal power, in Absalom and Achitophel he explores the limits of the king's mercy. "How ill my Fear they by my Mercy scan, / Beware the Fury of a Patient Man" (1004–1005).
In his oration the king not only polishes his ideal image by righting the balance between power and mercy, but he also reflects ironically on the nature of the ideal subject. "My Pious Subjects for my Safety pray, / Which to Secure they take my Power away" (983–984). The phrase "power and piety," traditionally voiced to restrain the king, is here adapted by the king himself as a re-
straint on the people. The "Pious Subjects" referred to include, for example, the representative Puritan zealot Slingsby Bethel: "The City, to reward his pious Hate / Against his Master, chose him Magistrate" (593–594). More importantly, however, the irony is directed against Shaftesbury, who invokes the traditional royal virtue to incite rebellion against the monarchy: "Urge now your Piety" (419) is his advice to Monmouth. This inherited ideal, significantly enriched in this poem by the thematic context of religious and filial duty, is first perverted by the people and then re-established by the king. In effect, the monarch converts the traditional language of panegyric to achieve his own goal: restoration of those ideal "pious times" with which the poem begins. The speech succeeds, and in the final lines Dryden implicitly identifies the "pious times" of Absalom and Achitophel with "time's whiter Series" predicted in Astraea Redux .
Henceforth a Series of new time began,
The mighty Years in long Procession ran:
Once more the Godlike David was Restor'd,
And willing Nations knew their Lawfull Lord . (1028–1031)
By adapting the vocabulary and values of panegyric for this royal speech, Dryden forecasts a shift in the balance of his rhetorical stance. From 1660 to 1688 he attempts to maintain his position between the prince and the people, but in the early poems he is closer to the people, whereas in the later poems he is closer to the prince. And yet there is more involved in the later panegyrics than a movement toward the monarchy. The verse orations of the reign of James II are more complicated, more variable, and more resistant to precise for-
mulation, whether in terms of structure or type, than either Astraea Redux or To His Sacred Majesty . In both Threnodia Augustalis and Britannia Rediviva Dryden shifts his ground uncomfortably, speaking sometimes for the people to the king, sometimes for the king to the people, but oftentimes throwing up his hands and addressing God in prayer for the nation. More important than the apparent movement toward the prince is a movement from an assured oratorical stance in 1660 to a very shaky one in 1688. This shift indicates not only Dryden's disillusionment with post-Restoration politics, but also his reassessment of his own role as poet-orator.
The problematic nature of Threnodia Augustalis can be dealt with only partially in terms of oratory. Nevertheless, the perspective suggested by reading the poem as an oration on the accession of James II does complement and illuminate the more customary view of the poem as an elegy on the death of Charles. The dual occasion of death and accession had, of course, challenged earlier poets. The two basic techniques of handling the problem are apparent in the poems written in 1509. Thomas More's panegyric to Henry VIII disposes of the previous king by making him the villain of the piece. Condemning the policies of Henry VII, More celebrates the restoration of his own ideals in the person of Henry VIII. The churchman Andreas Ammonius, whose poem is titled Elegia De Obitu Regis Henrici VII Et Felici Successione Henrici Octavi, adopts an alternative strategy, taking the new king first as the elegiac consolation for the loss of the old, and only afterward as the ideal monarch. In Threnodia Augustalis Dryden is closer to Ammonius than to More. Still, the problem of coping
with two kings in one poem is new to Dryden and adds a degree of complexity not found in the panegyrics of the 1660's.
As Charles is dead and James is living, we might reasonably expect Dryden to address James, while considering Charles in a narrative, reflective, or purely elegiac manner. But instead it is Charles whom Dryden addresses in the apostrophe of stanza 10.
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,
And Care that after kept it sound,
For numerous Blessings yearly shourd,
And Property with Plenty crown'd;
For Freedom, still maintain'd alive,
Freedom which in no other Land will thrive,
Freedom an English Subject's sole Prerogative,
Without whose Charms ev'n Peace wou'd be
But a dull quiet Slavery . . .
Here Dryden praises Charles for having realized the ideals set forth in the early panegyrics. The "mercy" recommended in Astraea Redux appears in retrospect as the king's outstanding quality; it is one of the "blessings" that Dryden, in To His Sacred Majesty, had led the nation to expect from Charles. However, the last lines of this passage, with the severe emphasis on "Freedom," suggest that Dryden is thinking of the future as well as the past. The function of Dryden's eulogy of Charles is, in part, to educate James.
That one purpose of the poem is the instruction of the
new king is suggested from the very beginning. In stanzas 2 and 3 Dryden uses the adjective "pious" three times to describe James. Because the piety of the new king must be demonstrated before he inherits the royal power, Dryden portrays James as the "Pious Duke" (71) and the "Pious Brother" (36 and 93). Indeed James first rejects the allure of "Approaching Greatness" which "met him with her Charms / Of Pow'r" (56–57), turning instead to pray for the life of his brother, an action that expresses the appropriate sense of duty. The deathbed scene further develops the educational theme, as Dryden concentrates on the significance of the royal inheritance. "He took and prest that ever loyal hand, / Which cou'd in Peace secure his Reign, / Which cou'd in wars his Pow'r maintain, / That hand on which no plighted vows were ever vain." The new king must be what the old king had been: "Intrepid, pious, merciful, and brave" (206).
One function of the poem, then, is to advise James that being king entails responsibility as well as authority, piety as well as power. At the same time, however, Dryden's portrayal of James establishes an ideal for the people. Because James is not yet king at the time his piety is expressed, he himself becomes a model for the subjects of the new reign. As in Absalom and Achitophel (though without the irony), Dryden again shows
piety to be a subject's virtue as well as a king's. In his behavior toward Charles, James promotes love and duty toward the monarch as the desired norm for his own subjects.
Later in the poem Dryden directly addresses these subjects on behalf of the new king. "View then a Monarch ripen'd for a Throne" (446). The purpose of this address, as the preceding lines indicate, is to convince the people that James is indeed the perfect prince.
But e'r a Prince is to Perfection brought,
He costs Omnipotence a second thought.
With Toyl and Sweat,
With hardning Cold, and forming Heat,
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 . (437–445)
Thus moving somewhat uneasily and defensively toward the role of spokesman for the king, Dryden attempts to bolster his appeal to the nation by enlisting divine aid. Whereas Astraea Redux had ended with an enthusiastic prophecy, affirmed in To His Sacred Majesty, the prophecy at the end of Threnadia Augustalis is complicated and severely qualified by the distressful prayer that precedes it.
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 contingency;
Such as consists with wills, Originally free:
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,
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! (491–503)
Although the invocation of the gods on behalf of the monarch is not in itself new, Dryden's emphasis is strikingly different from what we find in earlier poems. Following panegyrists both in Latin (like Walter Haddon) and in English (like Samuel Daniel), Dryden defines disobedience to the king as disobedience to God and equates established government with divine providence. But the future of this government, and of the English nation, does not here rest directly on God but rather on the people's "faith" in God, and "faith" has a strong adversary in the blind obstinance of the people.
The test Dryden poses for the future is to "believe" in God and the king. Yet, in reading these lines, it is possible to wonder how long Dryden himself can continue to believe in the metaphor which links the king with God. This traditional analogy expresses the reconciliation of actual and ideal in the political sphere, a reconciliation challenged during the interregnum, recaptured at the Restoration, and now during the reign of James II asserted with more hope than conviction. The almostpleading voice of Dryden's address to God, "O give them to believe," exposes the unbridged gap between the political realities of 1685 and the political ideals of traditional panegyric.
Britannia Rediviva is sufficient proof that Dryden did
not see his prayer answered in the years between 1685 and 1688. The poem celebrates the birth of Prince James and thus represents a variation on traditional panegyric which classical writers referred to as a panegyricus genethliacus[ 45] In the panegyrics of Claudian, Erasmus, Cowley, and in the early panegyrics of Dryden himself, the poet draws a parallel between the day of celebration and the day of the prince's birth. In Astraea Redux, for example, Dryden, developing the parallel by allusion to the king's birth star, celebrates the Restoration of the prince as a new birth for the nation. In Britannia Rediviva Dryden reverses the analogy and celebrates the birth of the prince as symbolic of national restoration. Indeed this occasion is actually perfect for panegyric as the poet is not hampered by biographical fact; the baby prince can easily become the symbolic focus of whatever ideals the orator wishes to persuade the king and people to accept. However, given this perfect occasion, Dryden's oratory is more complicated and more strained than in any of the previous panegyrics. Sometimes he is the people's spokesman and sometimes the king's, but ultimately he is neither. Moreover, this shifting rhetorical stance is accompanied by a new rigidity, a firmness of tone and diction not to be found in Threnodia Augustalis .
The poem opens with Dryden in his old role as the people's orator. The very first word of the poem is the corporate "Our" so characteristic of Dryden's public poetry of the 1660's. But this "Our" turns out to be an exclusive rather than an inclusive pronoun, referring
only to those who came to pray for the child. The interests of the rest of the nation Dryden considers not as "ours" but as "yours."
O still repining at your present state,
Grudging your selves the Benefits of Fate,
Look up, and read in Characters of Light
A Blessing sent you in your own Despight.
The Manna falls, yet that Coelestial Bread
Like Jews you munch, and murmure while you feed.
May not your Fortune be like theirs, Exil'd,
Yet forty Years to wander in the Wild:
Or if it be, may Moses live at least
To lead you to the Verge of promis'd Rest .
Dryden, dissociating himself from that "Headstrong, Moody, Murmuring race," sees the nation threatened by a new period of exile for which the hoped-for survival of this new Moses is but small consolation. To prevent this disaster and to counter public disbelief, Dryden attempts to revive the voice of Threnodia Augustalis and to address the nation once again on behalf of James.
Now view at home a second Constantine;
(The former too, was of the Brittish Line )
Has not his healing Balm your Breaches clos'd,
Whose Exile many sought, and few oppos'd?
Or, did not Heav'n by its Eternal Doom
Permit those Evils, that this Good might come?
So manifest, that ev'n the Moon-ey'd Sects
See Whom and What this Providence protects . (88–95)
Although the repeated negatives disclose the increased difficulty of Dryden's task, he is at least trying to fill the role of spokesman for the monarch.
From this perspective, speaking to the people for the king, Dryden attempts to refute the notorious "warming-pan" story. Hercules (55), Jesus (127), and Aeneas (128), who figure so prominently in heroic panegyric, are now trundled out to prove the legitimacy of the prince. The comparison of the child to "the Saviour" suggests, moreover, the ritualistic element of traditional panegyric. In Samuel Daniel's address to James I, in particular, there is a passage that anticipates the rhetoric of Britannia Rediviva .
And all for thee, that we the more might praise
The glory of his [God's] powre, and reverence thine,
Whom he hath rais'd to glorifie our dayes,
And make this Empire of the North to shine
Against all th'impious workings, all th'assayes
Of vile disnatur'd Vipers, whose designe
Was to embroile the State, t'obscure the light,
And that cleere brightnesse of thy sacred right .
Daniel's "Vipers" become Dryden's "Fiends."
Fain wou'd the Fiends have made a dubious birth,
Loth to confess the Godhead cloath'd in Earth.
But sickned after all their baffled lyes,
To find an Heir apparent of the Skyes:
Abandon'd to despair, still may they grudge,
And owning not the Saviour, prove the Judge . (122–127)
Dryden's oration, like Daniel's, is designed to counter those who would "embroile the State." It should be noted, however, that Dryden omits the loaded word "impiety" and instead defines opposition to the monarchy
as willful disbelief, a failure in faith, a failure to pass the test proposed at the end of Threnodia Augustalis . What Britannia Rediviva demonstrates is the denial of Dryden's plea for belief uttered three years earlier. Dryden as poet-orator has reached an impasse, his ideal way into the future blocked by the nation's unwillingness to believe in their monarch.
But it is also evident that Dryden himself no longer believes in the monarch either. The closing line of the above citation, "And owning not the Saviour, prove the Judge," besides referring to the dual nature of Christ, anticipates Dryden's address to James. "The Name of Great, your Martial mind will sute, / But Justice, is your Darling Attribute" (333–334). The merciful king of Astraea Redux, challenged in Absalom and Achitophel, gives way to the just king of Britannia Rediviva . The substitution of justice for mercy is double-edged; justice is all the people deserve but, as the subsequent lines reveal, it is possibly more than they can expect from the king. Having lectured the people, Dryden turns around and lectures James.
Some Kings the name of Conq'rours have assum'd,
Some to be Great, some to be Gods presum'd;
But boundless pow'r, and arbitrary Lust
Made Tyrants still abhor the Name of Just;
They shun'd the praise this Godlike Virtue gives,
And fear'd a Title, that reproach'd their Lives.
The Pow'r from which all Kings derive their state,
Whom they pretend, at least, to imitate,
Is equal both to punish and reward;
For few wou'd love their God, unless they fear'd .
Resistless Force and Immortality
Make but a Lame, Imperfect Deity:
Tempests have force unbounded to destroy,
And Deathless Being ev'n the Damn'd enjoy,
And yet Heav'ns Attributes, both last and first,
One without life, and one with life accurst;
But Justice is Heav'ns self, so strictly He,
That cou'd it fail, the God-head cou'd not be . (399–356)
Although Dryden invokes the tradition of the genre by rejecting "boundless pow'r," these lines have an ironic edge that expresses the orator's deep disillusionment with royalty. Dryden here views kings as a presumptuous lot who have claimed ties with divinity but have not acted in accordance with divine laws. As a critique of the fundamental royalty-divinity metaphor of panegyric, this passage shows that the traditional virtues—mercy, patience, and piety—are now beyond Dryden's hopes. Even if James were to live up to the reduced ideal of justice, he would be but a momentary exception to the general rule of less-than-ideal monarchs. Dryden can no longer speak for the people, but he can no longer speak for the monarchy either.
The frustration of Dryden's attempt to influence power with poetry is strongly expressed in his address to God.
Enough of Ills our dire Rebellion wrought,
When, to the Dregs, we drank the bitter draught;
Then airy Atoms did in Plagues conspire,
Nor did th' avenging Angel yet retire,
But purg'd our still encreasing Crimes with Fire.
Then perjur'd Plots, the still impending Test,
And worse; but Charity conceals the Rest:
Here stop the Current of the sanguine flood,
Require not, Gracious God, thy Martyrs Blood . . . .(152–160)
This summation of recent English history, from one rebellion to the eve of another, suggests the full extent of Dryden's disillusionment with events and the inadequacy of the traditional ideals of panegyric in writing about contemporary English politics. Rebellion, plague, fire, plot, martyrdom are the actualities that, by their persistence and progress, undermine belief in the ideals of panegyrical oratory. Britannia Rediviva represents, finally, the collapse of the persuasive purpose that had sustained Dryden's political poetry during the preceding three decades.
The futility of continuing to assert the old ideals is most evident in Dryden's elaboration of conventional image patterns. The poem begins with a sequence of commonplace metaphors, as Dryden celebrates the occasion by reference to the day, the season, and the liturgical calendar. To trace these images through the rest of the poem, however, is to discover Dryden's recognition that such poetic comparisons no longer make political sense.
Dryden's initial celebration of the "day" of the prince's birth includes the conventional image of le roi soleil .
Just on the Day, when the high mounted Sun
Did farthest in his Northern Progress run,
He bended forward and ev'n stretch'd the Sphere
Beyond the limits of the lengthen'd year;
To view a Brighter Sun in Britaine Born . . . (5–9)
Later in the poem, however, the solar imagery is developed in a strikingly unconventional way.
Born in broad Day-light, that th' ungrateful Rout
May find no room for a remaining doubt:
Truth, which it self is light, does darkness shun,
And the true Eaglet safely dares the Sun . (118–121)
The extension of the image to include the additional comparison between the king and the eagle is itself nothing new. Claudian, for example, had used the same complex metaphor to demonstrate the worth of Honorius. What is new is the apparent purpose of the image in Britannia Rediviva . Neither demonstrative nor deliberative in function, this passage is designed to prove the child's legitimacy. Dryden thus forces the ceremonial image of the sun to serve a quasi-judicial purpose, to function as factual proof. The conventional, hyperbolic language of panegyric simply cannot bear this kind of strain and still be taken seriously. As proof of the prince's parentage this image—and this poem—will convince no one.
Like the sun image, the related imagery of the seasons is developed in an initially conventional but ultimately strained manner. At the outset Dryden celebrates the child by allusion to spring, summer, and fall. "Betwixt two Seasons comes th' Auspicious Heir, / This Age to blossom, and the next to bear" (17–18). Eventually, however, this image of seasonal transition gives way to a harvest image set in the context of the familiar tempest metaphor. The focus of this later passage is the rumored death of the prince, an event which suggests to Dryden's mind all the old horrors of rebellion.
Down fell the winnow'd Wheat; but mounted high,
The Whirl-wind bore the Chaff, and hid the Sky.
Here black Rebellion shooting from below
(As Earth's Gigantick brood by moments grow)
And here the Sons of God are petrify'd with Woe . . .
Although reminiscent of passages in Dryden's previous panegyrics, these conventional metaphors do not here suggest reconciliation either now or in the future, but rather indicate a permanent national division: wheat and chaff. Although Dryden further extends the harvest imagery, shaping it into the usual pattern of restoration, his voice expresses at best a temporary victory of good over evil.
As when a sudden Storm of Hail and Rain
Beats to the ground the yet unbearded Grain,
Think not the hopes of Harvest are destroy'd
On the flat Field, and on the naked void;
The light, unloaded stem, from tempest free'd,
Will raise the youthful honours of his head;
And, soon restor'd by native vigour, bear
The timely product of the bounteous year . (259–266)
Although the prince is here "restor'd," there is nothing in this passage to persuade the "chaff" of Dryden's audience that national restoration is symbolized by the fortune of the child.
That Dryden himself no longer believes in the political reconciliation of actual and ideal through metaphor is strikingly evident in his development of the third major image pattern initiated in the opening lines: religious ritual. The celebration of the prince's birth is initially linked to the celebration of Whitsuntide. "Last solemn Sabbath saw the Church attend; / The Paraclete in fiery Pomp descend; / But when his Wondrous Octave rowl'd again, / He brought a Royal Infant in his Train" (19–22). The significance of the descent of the Holy Spirit is subsequently focused by the ceremony of baptism.
Let his Baptismal Drops for us attone;
Lustrations for Offences not his own.
Let Conscience, which is Int'rest ill disguis'd,
In the same Font be cleans'd, and all the Land Baptiz'd .(188–191)
The penitential pattern of Astraea Redux and the national baptism implicit in the flood imagery of To His Sacred Majesty are revived in the spiritual birth of the prince. As Dryden's definition of conscience suggests, however, he no longer believes in the political significance of ceremony. As he had observed earlier in the poem, "To mend our Crimes whole Ages wou'd require" (58). This one symbolic day cannot eradicate past and persistent evils; this festival ceremony cannot bring national reconciliation. The enthusiastic prophecies of the 1660's end in 1688 with a very tentative vision of the future, a vision in which ideals have surrendered to actualities. "By living well, let us secure his days, / Mod'rate in hopes, and humble in our ways" (298–299).
In Britannia Rediviva Dryden abandons his belief in the essential functions of panegyric. Although he opens the poem by celebrating a public festival, he admits that this occasion does not symbolize national restoration: "Nor yet conclude all fiery Trials past, / For Heav'n will exercise us to the last" (267–268). As this pessimism extends to both the people and the king, as there is no ground left between his two audiences, Dryden gives up the traditional posture of mediator and the traditional goal of reconciliation. In effect, what Dryden recognizes in the course of this poem is that a poet's advice concerning the responsible exercise of political power means nothing in the face of royal presumption and recurrent
popular rebellion. In sum, what is called for by 1688 is not panegyric, but rather its opposite, polemic.
After 1688, although Dryden occasionally threatens to adopt the stance of the polemicist, he never carries out that threat. Instead, he abandons the role of public orator, forsaking both the prince and the people. In his poem on the death of Eleonora, Dryden formally steps down from the podium he had occupied since the interregnum. In doing so, however, he takes a retrospective look at the genre that—more than any other—illuminates his career as a public poet.
Like most of Dryden's poems of the 1690's, Eleonora is concerned with private rather than public life. There is, nevertheless, a metaphoric relationship between Eleonora and the classical tradition of panegyric that fully explains Dryden's subtitle: A Panegyrical Poem . Metaphorically, the occasion for the poem is a public festival or assembly, which Dryden celebrates in the familiar processional topos .
As when in glory, through the publick place,
The Spoils of conquer'd Nations were to pass,
And but one Day for Triumph was allow'd,
The Consul was constrain'd his Pomp to crowd;
And so the swift Procession hurry'd on,
That all, though not distinctly, might be shown;
So, in the straiten'd bounds of life confin'd,
She gave but glimpses of her glorious Mind:
And multitudes of Vertues pass'd along;
Each pressing foremost in the mighty throng;
Ambitious to be seen, and then make room,
For greater Multitudes that were to come .
The virtues thus publicly displayed are, moreover, specifically those that define the ideal subject and the ideal king. As subject she evinces "Love" (176) and "Obedience" (176) and is guiltless of "Crime" (170). As king she cares for the poor (12–64), manages the economy (65–82), provides a model for the settlement of religious disputes (106–115), loves and educates her subjects (193-239), and thus at death assumes a position as a star near "Heav'ns Imperial Face" (267). These specific virtues are contained by the traditional panegyrical emblem of national harmony, namely marriage. Eleonora as ideal wife is analogous to the ideal subject, Eleonora as parent is analogous to the ideal king.
Dryden's elaboration of these analogies typically involves a pattern of elevation from local to universal, as for example in the passage "Of her prudent Management," where Eleonora is portrayed as king.
Yet was she not profuse; but fear'd to wast,
And wisely manag'd, that the stock might last;
That all might be supply'd; and she not grieve
When Crouds appear'd, she had not to relieve.
Which to prevent, she still increas'd her store;
Laid up, and spar'd, that she might give the more:
So Pharaoh, or some Greater King than he,
Provided for the sev'nth Necessity;
Taught from above, his Magazines to frame;
That Famine was prevented e're it came.
Thus Heav'n, though All-sufficient, shows a thrift
In his Oeconomy, and bounds his gift:
Creating for our Day, one single Light;
And his Reflection too supplies the Night:
Perhaps a thousand other Worlds, that lye
Remote from us, and latent in the Sky,
Are lighten'd by his Beams, and kindly nurst;
Of which our Earthly Dunghil is the worst . (65–82)
Here Dryden unites home economy with national economy and then with the economy inherent in God's universe. As the last lines of this passage indicate, however, the smooth progression from human to divine is undermined by Dryden's perception of the actual world. We find the same progression and the same undercurrent of disillusionment in passages that portray Eleonora as subject.
Love and Obedience to her Lord she bore,
She much obey'd him, but she lov'd him more.
Not aw'd to Duty by superior sway;
But taught by his Indulgence to obey.
Thus we love God as Author of our good;
So Subjects love just Kings, or so they shou'd . (176–181)
Although Eleonora emerges here as the ideal subject to husband, king, and God, all three of whom are encompassed by the word "Lord," the skepticism of the last phrase again evokes the gulf between actual and ideal worlds that panegyric traditionally attempts to bridge.
In this "panegyrical" poem Dryden affirms the verdict of Britannia Rediviva by acknowledging the impossibility of uniting the two domains of the genre. The tension in the poem between the symbol of Dryden's ideals, Eleonora, and the actual world culminates in her fortunate escape to heaven.
Let this suffice: Nor thou, great Saint refuse
This humble Tribute of no vulgar Muse:
Who, not by Cares, or Wants, or Age deprest,
Stems a wild Deluge with a dauntless brest:
And dares to sing thy Praises, in a Clime
Where Vice triumphs, and Vertue is a Crime:
Where ev'n to draw the Picture of thy Mind,
Is Satyr on the most of Humane Kind:
Take it, while yet 'tis Praise; before my rage
Unsafely just, break loose on this bad Age;
So bad, that thou thy self had'st no defence,
From Vice, but barely by departing hence . (359–370)
Dryden, who in 1660 had celebrated the return of justice and the golden age, here brings his career full circle by praising Eleonora, whose Astraea-like flight signifies the advent of a new iron age. The same "wild deluge" that had subsided in To His Sacred Majesty now rises again and Dryden stands alone against it. The pronouns in this passage are indicative of Dryden's new stance; "my" and "thy" have replaced "our" and "you." No longer the voice of a public constituency or public institution, Dryden now speaks as a private man to private individuals, praising them as exceptions to the general and apparently unalterable reign of viciousness and crime.
In tracing the course of Dryden's career as poet-orator, we move from a Renaissance to an Augustan perception of the relationship between literature and politics. To stress the historical significance of the dynamics in Dryden's career as a public poet, we can juxtapose two very
fine assessments of the problem, the first by Arthur W. Hoffman writing on Dryden and the second by Maynard Mack writing on Pope.
In continuation of Renaissance tradition, Dryden, like Milton, conceives his role as a poet as entailing the responsible consideration of those at the head of society and the issues and events in which theirs is the leading role. Throughout his life whether in the vein of satire or of compliment, Dryden undertakes to fulfill this traditional social responsibility of the poet.
The time was past when any serious writer could find his place to stand beside the throne. Dryden had managed this. . . . But for Pope, after the death of Anne, the throne as center of the dream of the civilized community has become absurd. . . .Dryden's angle of vision was no longer available to a serious poet . . .
I wish to suggest that Dryden does not "stand beside the throne," but rather that he stands between the throne and the people—until that position becomes untenable. Dryden preserves the "Renaissance tradition" not "throughout his life" but only as long as he is able. The Renaissance conception of the public poet begins to crumble in the course of Dryden's career. What Pope recognizes after 1714, Dryden had already seen by 1688. Unlike Pope, however, Dryden does not turn
to antigovernment satire. Instead he simply turns away from "the throne as center of the dream of the civilized community."
The celebration of the early panegyrics places Dryden alongside Erasmus, More, and Jonson, if not (as he would have wished) next to Spenser and Milton. The disillusionment of the later panegyrics, on the other hand, anticipates the posture of Pope, of Byron, and of many modern poets who find themselves alienated from the institutional centers of political power.