Preferred Citation: Bywaters, David. Dryden in Revolutionary England. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.

4 The Poet, Not the Man: Poetry and Prose, 1692–1700

The Poet, Not the Man: Poetry and Prose, 1692–1700

"To My Honour'd Kinsman" is one of the only works on the rhetorical purposes of which Dryden comments in his letters. In the poem he celebrates his cousin's (and by implication his own) scorn of public favor, beginning with a description of happy retreat from public cares:

How Bless'd is He, who leads a Country Life,
Unvex'd with anxious Cares, and void of Strife!
Who studying Peace, and shunning Civil Rage,
Enjoy'd his Youth, and now enjoys his Age.[1]

Effective political action is described not as heroic endeavor, but as untroubled stolidity: because he is "unwilling to be Great" Driden is unusually well qualified to serve in Parliament; and while there he urges the country to retreat from continental military entanglements as he himself has shunned public life.[2] At the end of the poem, Dryden briefly suggests his own indifference to the public: he is recording the actions of his kinsman for posterity, not urging his immediate readers to share his political views. Though in the Preface to Fables he mentions the poem only incidentally, as an "original paper" that is to be judged in comparison with his other poems on the basis of its literary merit, in his letters he is clearly worrying about its political content. He sent it to the Williamite official Charles Montague, so that it might be approved as free of political subversion: Dryden promises him that "nothing relateing to the publique shall stand, without your permission."[3] He declares his description of a parliament man "a Memorial of my own Principles to all Posterity"; but the defiance of contemporary judgment that such a characterization implies is rather weakened by


the following sentence: "I have consulted the Judgment of my Unbyassd [presumably Williamite] friends, who have some of them the honour to be known to you; & they think there is nothing which can justly give offence."[4] During the ensuing months he seems to have worried a good deal about the public reception of the poem. He tells his cousin Mrs. Steward that he has shown the verses on Driden and the Duchess of Ormond to Montague and Dorset, who "are of opinion that I never writt better. My other friends are divided in their Judgments which to preferr: but the greater part are for those to my dear Kinsman; which I have Corrected with so much care, that they will now be worthy of his Sight: & do neither of us any dishonour after our death." In the same letter, Dryden implies that he intended in the poem a more immediate political effect: he expects that "My Cousin Driden, & the Country Party" will oppose a standing army, "for when a Spirit is raisd, 'tis hard conjureing him down again."[5] After the poem's publication in Fables , Dryden repeats that "I always thought my Verses to my Cousin Driden were the best of the whole; & to my comfort the Town thinks them so." In the same letter he mentions the commons' "Entire victory" over the king and lords: and quietly rejoices in the probability of further conflict "whensoever they next meet."[6]

Dryden's demonstrable concern with the rhetorical effect of "To My Honour'd Kinsman" might lead us to suspect a similar concern in other of his last works. However, in analyzing most of Dryden's work in the nineties, especially the translations and long prose treatises that dominate his work after 1692, most critics seem to accept without question Dryden's frequent professions of retirement from public life. The topical allusions that permeate these works are taken as more or less direct embodiments of Dryden's personal feelings and principles, which serve an expressive rather than a rhetorical function. Thus Arthur W. Hoffman observes that in the 1690s "Dryden expresses himself as looking back, reviewing, summing up, imbued with the attitude of a captain at the end of a voyage"; and "to Dryden, in the last decade of his life, the king was nothing. He was, at the end of his career, more willing than ever to leave the world to Caesar; he saw more clearly that Caesar was beguiled." Reuben Brower finds in Dryden's "latest phase" a "poetry of retirement" that anticipates the early Pope. Earl Miner claims that Dryden's conversion gave him


"an increasing sense of isolation that led him . . . to a kind of private allusive style." George Watson finds in Dryden's last work a "secret language" that expresses a "stubborn and dedicated recusancy" more private than any "declaration of Jacobitism." Thomas H. Fujimura sees the Virgil translation as "a record of Dryden's own spiritual crisis and progress over a period of three difficult years."[7] Dryden himself does all he can to encourage this view: but his professions of retirement and isolation are, I think, themselves rhetorical, part of a deliberate and self-conscious presentation of himself and his materials in a certain way to a certain audience.

The methods and aims of Dryden's rhetoric are, however, quite different after 1692 from those that inform his work from The Hind and the Panther to Cleomenes . We have seen that after his conversion he attempts to repair his loss of political authority through an invocation of poetic tradition. This allows him to appear to examine contemporary politics with clear-sighted objectivity and according to standards derived from the heart of European culture. Thus in King Arthur the contemporary is enveloped in a pastiche of literary romance, in The Hind and the Panther in an elaborate and self-consciously traditional structure of fable and allegory. To be sure, in his last works he expresses his political principles no less frequently and deliberately: he praises the subjects of his complimentary verses for escaping the contamination of the age, he discusses purely literary principles and relations in pointed topical metaphors, and he finds ample scope even in his translations for miscellaneous observations on rebellion and revolution, prerogative and property, war and taxation, standing armies, usurpation, and tyranny. Further, his last works are, if anything, even more saturated in cultural and literary tradition: his prose consists primarily of discussion of the classics, his verse of translations of them. But the relation between the traditional and contemporary changes after 1692. In the works written between 1687 and 1692, the traditional functions as a norm against which the contemporary is to be measured: the supposed crimes of William and his party are exposed through romance, fable, farce, or tragedy as deplorable aberrations in the common pursuit of truth and justice. In the later works these crimes, though no less deplorable, come to seem inevitable and therefore less urgently in need of correction. Dryden provides for them a broad historical


context that makes them appear not aberrant but lamentably normal, not avoidable violations of transcendent moral law, but contemporary manifestations of evils endemic to all human society. In this context the questions of right, legitimacy, and justice with which Dryden had been concerned since the Revolution are made almost irrelevant.

Dryden had not, however, abandoned the struggle; he had abandoned only the weapons that seemed to have proven ineffective against William and dangerous to himself, and taken up others in their place. By portraying politics as incorrigibly base and inevitably futile, he at once excuses his own arguably erratic political career and demonstrates his detachment as a poet. Throughout his last works he insistently portrays himself as exclusively concerned with literary matters; the notably discursive structure of these works is designed to suggest a random tour through a mind so richly cultivated that the reader is rewarded at every turn with fresh prospects of literary knowledge and insight. Having established his poetic credentials, Dryden is free to return to political criticism as a poet; the main focus of his attack on William's government is no longer its illegality and injustice, though these continue to appear in general remarks on the behavior of governments in all ages, but rather its failure to support the arts, which, Dryden claims, are alone capable of raising the nation and its rulers above the level of politics and so rescuing them from deserved oblivion.

Rhetorical Definition of Poet and Audience

The historical pessimism of Dryden's last works is well known;[8] it is most clearly expressed in the Dedication of Examen Poeticum : "No Government has been, or ever can be, wherein Time-Servers and Blockheads will not be uppermost. The persons are only chang'd, but the same juglings in State, the same Hypocrisie in Religion, the same Self-Interest, and Mis-management, will remain for ever. Blood and Money will be lavish'd in all Ages, only for the Preferment of new Faces, with old Consciences."[9] Of course, Dryden did not in 1692 suddenly renounce a progressive view of history for a cyclical or a static one. He had used various views in his earlier work for various rhetorical purposes. Annus Mirabilis concludes with a prophecy of English commercial empire, The Medall


with a hypothetical prediction of a new cycle of civil war followed by restoration. The Dedication of Don Sebastian begins, as we have seen, with a vision of eternally recurring revolutions. In these works, however, Dryden is urging his audience to embrace the good or escape the ill he predicts by adopting a certain political policy—support for Charles or resistance to William. In Examen Poeticum we have neither progress nor hypothetical cycles but permanent stasis about which nothing can be done.

When he comes to praise the political behavior of his patrons, he is careful to place it in a historical context that confirms this view. In the Dedication of the Georgics , he compares Chesterfield to Scipio. The Roman retired when the public "began to grow restiff and ungovernable"; and the Englishman, knowing that "Ingratitude is not confin'd to Commonwealths," never entered public business at all.[10] The gesture is familiar from the Dedication of King Arthur , where Halifax is praised for retiring like Cicero in troubled times. But whereas in Halifax's case Dryden's language—"the torrent of the people," "the riot of a multitude"—suggests a specific parallel between the Roman Civil Wars and the English Revolution, here the reference includes a general "ingratitude" that afflicts all political systems in all ages. In the Dedication of the Pastorals , Clifford's constancy is compared with that of his ancestors of "the Ancient House of Cumberland " during the War of the Roses: "Your Forefathers have asserted the Party which they chose 'till death, and dy'd for its defence in the Fields of Battel" (p. 872). Again there is no specific parallel: the seventeenth century is similar to the fifteenth only in providing no less exacting trials of political constancy. Even the more conventional heroism of the duke of Ormond is presented in this dreary universal context: his military skills are praiseworthy "since the perverse Tempers of Mankind, since Oppression on one side, and Ambition on the other, are sometimes the unavoidable Occasions of War" (p. 1441).

Political parallel, Dryden's usual instrument for attacking William's government immediately after the Revolution, fades from his work after 1692. If all political systems are equally vicious, there can be no point in drawing specific comparisons between one's own and those of history, myth, or fable. Instead, Dryden favors general statements that suggest the congruence of politics in his own age with the universal condition. In "To My


Honour'd Kinsman," he remarks that private gentlemen take more pleasure in hunting than "Princes" who "once on slipp'ry Thrones were plac'd; / And chasing, sigh to think themselves are chas'd" (ll. 69–70). Levine sees in these lines an "attitude of near-exhaustion" that "cannot brook weighing the possible differences between reigns—all is of a piece, each age will run the same round."[11] Similarly general remarks are to be found throughout Dryden's late work. As the countess of Abingdon loved her husband and creatures love their god, "So Subjects love just Kings, or so they shou'd."[12] In the Preface to Fables , having anticipated certain points that he had meant to save for later, Dryden compares himself to "most Kings, who love to be in Debt , are all for present Money, no matter how they pay it afterwards" (p. 1450). There are dozens of such brief innuendos, all of which suggest that the crimes of William and his supporters are only contemporary examples of behavior typical of all kings and subjects. This typicality makes Dryden's opponents not less criminal but more contemptible.

Even the more extended passages of historical analysis in Dryden's prose have the same generalizing and belittling effect. His account in the Dedication of the Aeneis of the civil conflicts that led to the destruction of the Roman commonwealth and the rule of Augustus has, as Steven Zwicker has shown, a clear reference to similar conflicts between rebels and royalists, Whigs and Tories, which for Dryden led to the destruction of the English constitution and the usurpation of William.[13] It does not, however, form a political parallel. The civil wars begin when "Marius and Cinna , like Captains of the Mobb, under the specious Pretence of Publick Good, and of doing Justice on the Oppressours of their Liberty, reveng'd themselves, without Form of Law, on their private Enemies" (p. 1012); and Sylla, when he opposed them in the cause of the nobles, also "had nothing but Liberty and Reformation in his Mouth" and similarly "Sacrific'd the Lives, and took the Estates of all his Enemies, to gratifie those who brought him to Power" (p. 1012). Both sides bear some likeness to the rebels of the 1640s, the Whigs of the 1680s, and the Williamites of the 1690s, all of whom, for Dryden, pursued private ends under the pretence of public reforms. But since both sides are equally criminal, it is impossible to associate them with those recent conflicts in which Dryden had eagerly supported what he considered the better side.


He places specific topical allusions within a generalizing frame. After the wars, Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar "found the Sweets of Arbitrary Power" and ruled as "Patriots for their own Interest," until Caesar overthrew Pompey and "became a Providential Monarch" (p. 1013). The operative phrases here, "arbitrary power" and "providential monarch," apply equally to Cromwell and to William, since obedience to both was justified as concurrence in the will of heaven; but the series of events that led to Caesar's dictatorship lack any clear application. Dryden had often enough displayed his talent for adapting the details of history to the present: his failure to do so here is, I think, intentional. His purpose is not to trace correspondences between specific causes and results in the manner of Don Sebastian ; it is rather to suggest that political systems inevitably rise and fall by the operation of the same human passions, are explained and excused by the same shifts and pretences, and so occupy a level far beneath that to which Dryden as a poet wishes to lay claim.

Perhaps the clearest indication of a change in Dryden's rhetorical concerns after 1692 is his last play, Love Triumphant , performed in 1694. Unlike Don Sebastian, King Arthur , and Cleomenes , the action involves no contested throne: Veramond, the cruel king of Arragon, seems to have a successive title. There is a competition between two princes for Veramond's daughter, but unlike the competition between Jupiter and Amphitryon for Alcmena, it is not given political meaning. The unworthy candidate, Garcia, is a relatively minor figure, and the worthy one, Alphonso, is blocked first by the supposition that the woman in question is his sister, then by Veramond's disapproval. Yet a number of passages contrasting the behavior of Veramond and Alphonso do have topical meaning. Veramond and Ramirez, king of Castile, went to war without good reason, and Ramirez has grown contrite:

A trivial accident begot this war;
Some paltry bounds of ill-distinguished earth,
A clod that lay betwixt us unascertained,
And royal pride, on both sides, drew our swords:
Thus monarchs quarrel, and their subjects bleed.[14]

The lesson accords with opposition protest against the war between France and the allies, but it is generalized to include all


monarchs and subjects. Alphonso, who has captured Ramirez in battle, pleads with Veramond for his release:

Think on the slippery state of human things,
The strange vicissitudes, and sudden turns
Of war, and fate recoiling on the proud,
To crush a merciless and cruel victor.
(P. 385)

Veramond is inexorable. He retains over Ramirez

The right of conquest; for, when kings make war,
No laws betwixt two sovereigns can decide,
But that of arms, where fortune is the judge,
Soldiers the lawyers, and the bar the field.
(P. 386)

Alphonso has allowed Ramirez to keep his sword as a "mark of sovereign justice" that should never "be wanting to a monarch"; Veramond again appeals to raw force: "Then, when he lost the power, he lost the claim, and marks of sovereign right."

The good Alphonso acts on a principle exactly opposite to this. When, later in the play, Ramirez advises him to make war on Veramond, he refuses, thus exposing himself to capture and execution:

You've set an image of so vast destruction
Before my sight, that reason shuns the approach,
And dares not view the fearful precipice.
. . . . . . . . . .
What have the people done, the sheep of princes,
That they should perish for the shepherd's fault?
They bring their yearly wool, to clothe their owners;
And yet, when bare themselves, are culled for slaughter.
Should I do this, what could the wolf do more
Than what the master did?
(P. 446)

Many of William's crimes are involved in this contrast: his reliance on force over justice, his prosecution of an expensive, bloody, and unnecessary war; but they are presented within a universal context of kings and people, sovereigns, princes, soldiers, and subjects, the terms of political conflict in all ages.


So far this seems near enough to personal meditation: it may be argued that Dryden could not hope to inspire political opposition to William through a few incidental reflections on kings and subjects. It has, however, a public, rhetorical purpose: its effect is to excuse Dryden's apparently inconsistent political behavior, since sub species aeternitatis politics has little meaning, and more importantly to degrade politics in general and to elevate poetry, to portray the poet Dryden as one who sees all things, including current politics, clearly and completely from on high. Since 1687 Dryden had had to create an audience to replace what he had lost by his conversion and James's misdeeds. In The Hind and the Panther, Don Sebastian , and Amphitryon he writes in the fading hope that his principles will be vindicated by history; he warns the Williamites that their triumph will be brief and contrasts their inconstancy with his own firm adherence to the principles that preserved the nation and the monarchy during the exclusion crisis. In King Arthur and Cleomenes he attempts to regain a place in the national debate without compromising his politics or his religion. After Cleomenes he seems to have realized that as a political writer he was irreparably discredited, and to have abandoned the struggle. As a poet, however, he could still claim his audience's respect and attention; and therefore it is exclusively as a poet that he presents himself after 1692, even in such politically committed works as "To My Honour'd Kinsman." In the Postscript of the Aeneis he appeals directly to those who "without considering the Man, have been Bountiful to the Poet" (p. 1425); the same appeal runs through the whole of his late work. Repeatedly he suggests that his poetic achievement only is permanent and important: in his personal circumstances and political behavior he merely recapitulates patterns inherent in the human condition—as do also William III, his supporters, and his opponents. His pointed references to the crimes of the government are carefully placed within the universal vision that only a poet might claim.

In an interesting series of articles Thomas H. Fujimura has claimed that in his late works Dryden grew "strongly personal, and often private" and that he expressed his "personal anguish" in a "generalized and universalized" form because of his commitment to "neoclassical" literary strategies.[15] Fujimura's sense of Dryden's presentation of personal circumstances in a universalized form is, I think, quite accurate; but the purpose of this self-presentation is


not expressive but rhetorical. Dryden avoids the confessional and invokes the universal not out of some neoclassical reflex, but as part of a deliberate rhetorical strategy. He assumes in his readers a knowledge of his personal circumstances and beliefs and encourages them to place that knowledge in the transcendent context he provides them, in the hope that they will consider the poet rather than the man. All of Dryden's postrevolutionary works are filled with references to his advanced age and broken health, his quixotic loyalty to James, his poverty and his sufferings; but in the works after 1692, these references are placed in a context that aligns all poets in all ages, and so deflects interest from the private man to the public poet. He offers to his patron Clifford "the wretched remainder of a sickly Age, worn out with Study, and oppress'd by Fortune: without other support than the Constancy and Patience of a Christian" (Dedication of Virgil's Pastorals , p. 869). This may seem mere personal complaint; it is, however, prefaced by an elaborate metaphor in which Charles II appears as Augustus, Clifford's father as Pollio, and Dryden as Virgil; and it is followed by a sort of inverted comparison of Dryden's career with Virgil's; Virgil wrote the Pastorals in youth, Dryden translates them at an age more advanced than that at which Virgil died. He places his relations with Clifford in a similarly broad context: among the Romans "Patronage and Clientship always descended from the Fathers to the Sons; and . . . the same Plebeian Houses, had recourse to the same Patrician Line, which had formerly protected them: and follow'd their Principles and Fortunes to the last. So that I am your Lordship's by descent, and part of your Inheritance" (p. 872). In the Dedication of the Georgics , Dryden again mentions his age; then describes the effects of Horace's and Virgil's age on their abilities; then the effects of age on the abilities of mankind in northern climates; and he concludes by applying this observation to Chesterfield, also an old man. These "confessional" passages are aggressively impersonal. Their effect is to correct any tendency in the reader toward considering Dryden as an individual with a particular past and a potentially objectionable set of beliefs: we are to see his life within a pattern that necessarily orders the lives of all poets and all men.

In the remarks on the inevitability of political corruption quoted above from the Dedication of Examen Poeticum , Dryden's main purpose is again to invite us to see him rather as a poet than


a political agent. "Why am I grown Old," he asks, "in seeking so barren a Reward as Fame? The same Parts and Application, which have made me a Poet, might have rais'd me to any Honours of the Gown, which are often given to Men of as little Learning and less Honesty than my self." Dryden then launches his attack on government, and comments,

These Considerations, have given me a kind of Contempt for those who have risen by unworthy ways. I am not asham'd to be Little, when I see them so Infamously Great. Neither, do I know, why the Name of Poet should be Dishonourable to me; if I am truly one, as I hope I am; for I will never do any thing, that shall dishonour it. The Notions of Morality are known to all Men: None can pretend Ignorance of those Idea's which are In-born in Mankind: and if I see one thing, and practise the contrary, I must be Disingenuous, not to acknowledge a clear Truth, and Base to Act against the light of my own Conscience. For the Reputation of my Honesty, no Man can question it, who has any of his own: For that of my Poetry, it shall either stand by its own Merit; or fall for want of it. Ill Writers are usually the sharpest Censors.
(Pp. 363–364)

He proceeds with a lengthy attack on bad critics, who are described as rebels against and usurpers of poetic merit. Dryden suggests that he should be judged not by political standards, but by moral and poetic ones. His renunciation of politics is made to date not from the Revolution, but from his youth, when he chose the poetic vocation over the clerical.

But Dryden's presentation of himself as a poet does more than deflect our interest from his disastrous political career. It serves also to suggest the clarity of his vision and the permanent value of his ideals. His tendency in his earlier postrevolutionary work to claim as a poet a position outside and above the contemporary becomes even more pronounced after 1692. In the Dedication of Eleanora , for example, he presents himself as a sort of Homeric bard. He is one of the "Priests of Apollo" who "must wait till the God comes rushing on us, and invades us with a fury, which we are not able to resist: which gives us double strength while the Fit continues, and leaves us languishing and spent at its departure."[16] In Eleanora he claims to have "prophecy'd beyond my natural power"; he has been "transported by the multitude and variety of my Similitudes" and ignored the restraint of judgment, like "the


inimitable Pindar , who stretches on these Pinnions out of sight, and is carried upward, as it were, into another World" (pp. 231–). This forthrightly vatic persona is, I think, unprecedented in Dryden's prose and very unlike his usual assumption of gentlemanly diffidence and ease. The same sense of elevation pervades the poem itself.[17] To describe something as apparently prosaic as Eleanora's "prudent Management" of her income, Dryden reaches toward the ultralunary:

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 Iye
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.
(ll. 75–82)

The countess of Abingdon's domestic economy is forgotten in this grand vision of transcendence. Indeed the poem gives us no clear idea of Eleanora's personality; the emphasis throughout is on the distance between the earthly and the celestial. Even when Dryden commands his muse to restrict itself to earth, it soon reascends:

Muse, down again precipitate thy flight;
For how can Mortal Eyes sustain Immortal Light!
But as the Sun in Water we can bear,
Yet not the Sun, but his Reflection there,
So let us view her here, in what she was;
And take her Image, in this watry Glass:
Yet look not ev'ry Lineament to see;
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
For where such various Vertues we recite,
'Tis like the Milky-Way, all over bright,
But sown so thick with Stars, 'tis undistinguish'd Light.
(ll. 134–145)

Though he later complains that "Distance and Altitude" conceal from him Eleanora's place in heaven (l. 269), the poetic vocation he describes in the Dedication allows him at least to define that altitude, and by it to measure the world's true littleness.


In the penultimate verse paragraph, Dryden comes down to earth with something of a jolt:

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.
(ll. 359–370)

But despite the violence of attack here, Dryden is careful to preserve his purely literary persona. His diction—"muse," "sing thy praises," "draw the picture of thy mind"—reminds us that this is art rather than polemic; and the tone and subject of the passage are derived, as Miner tells us, from Juvenal's Satire I , and from Donne, whom Dryden cites as the precedent for the form of his poem in his Dedication .[18] Dryden carefully labels this passage in the margin with a piece of literary jargon: it is the "Epiphonema: or close of the Poem ." In Dryden's last works, even the most direct indignation is carefully folded within several layers of literary tradition.

If the poet is privileged to soar into the celestial sphere, he is capable also of looking back on humanity from the timeless perspective of the gods. In the Preface to Fables Dryden claims such an ability for Chaucer. In his Canterbury Tales he provides us with "God's plenty":

We have our Fore-fathers and Great Grand-dames all before us, as they were in Chaucer 's Days; their general Characters are still remaining in Mankind, and even in England , though they are call'd by other Names than those of Moncks , and Fryars , and Chanons , and Lady Abesses , and Nuns : For Mankind is ever the same, and nothing lost out of Nature, though every thing is alter'd.
(P. 1455)


The poet, Dryden suggests, sees through the particular habits and customs to the unchanging truth that lies beneath; from his perspective, distinctions between Catholic and Protestant, Whig and Tory, simply do not matter. Further, the poet who sees the eternal beneath the ephemeral is himself eternal: Chaucer has lived to Dryden's time despite changes in language and customs, and Dryden expects the same for himself. He concludes "To My Honour'd Kinsman," the most topical poem of his last years, with an invocation of poetic immortality:

Praise-worthy Actions are by thee embrac'd;
And 'tis my Praise, to make thy Praises last.
For ev'n when Death dissolves our Humane Frame
The Soul returns to Heav'n, from whence it came;
Earth keeps the Body, Verse preserves the Fame.
(ll. 205–209)

One of the most striking features of Dryden's late works is their extreme allusiveness and digressiveness.[19] Dryden had never written systematic prose criticism, but in his last years his tendency to spontaneous effusions on matters unrelated to his ostensible subject becomes far more pronounced. The long prose treatises are put together seemingly at random, and most of the original poems are so loosely structured as to admit of considerable rearrangement without apparent loss of meaning. Even in the translations, where he must follow the structures of his authors, Dryden introduces his modifications and additions without system; and his arrangement of translated works in the miscellanies and Fables seems arbitrary and unplanned. Dryden himself frequently calls attention to this discursiveness and finds various means of explaining it. In the Discourse of Satire he asks that it be excused as "the tattling Quality of Age, which . . . is always Narrative";[20] and in the Preface to Fables he attributes it to the associative habits of the human mind as described by Hobbes (p. 1446). In the Dedication of the Aeneis he professes to write "in a loose Epistolary way . . . after the Example of Horace, in his First Epistle of the Second Book to Augustus Caesar , and of that to the Piso's , which we call his Art of Poetry . In both of which he observes no Method that I can trace" (p. 1009); and in the Preface to Fables he cites another precedent: "the Nature of a Preface is rambling; never wholly out


of the Way, nor in it. This I have learn'd from the Practice of honest Montaign " (p. 1450). These explanations, however, do more to establish Dryden's presentation of himself (as typical of all men, or of men in old age) and his work (as part of a general literary tradition) than to account for his style.

In fact this style is an important part of Dryden's rhetorical strategy in these years. We are never allowed to forget that we are in the presence of a poet. His ability to wander effortlessly among the literary and historical monuments of all ages suggests the magisterial expertise of a mind enriched by years of literary study. He describes this expertise directly in the Preface to Fables :

What Judgment I had, increases rather than diminishes; and Thoughts, such as they are, come crowding in so fast upon me, that my only Difficulty is to chuse or to reject; to run them into Verse, or to give them the other Harmony of Prose. I have so long studied and practis'd both, that they are grown into a Habit, and become familiar to me.
(Pp. 1446–1447)

Repeatedly in his late work he describes himself as carried away by an inundation of poetic material. In Eleanora he "was transported, by the multitude and variety of my Similitudes; which are generally the product of a luxuriant Fancy; and the wantonness of Wit" (p. 232); in the Dedication of the Aeneis , he must stop himself from falling into a lengthy consideration of the unity of time in drama: "here, my Lord, I must contract also, for, before I was aware, I was almost running into a long digression" (p. 1005); in describing Chaucer's pilgrims in the Preface to Fables he complains of "such a Variety of Game springing up before me, that I am distracted in my Choice, and know not which to follow" (p. 1455). The "practiced ease" that Miner finds in the late poetry is deliberately constructed by Dryden himself.[21]

Further, Dryden invites us to suppose that his mind has been so long and so thoroughly cultivated that his random musings are more pregnant with interest than the comprehensive but plodding systems of scholarly commentators. In his criticism and translations he uses his acknowledged expertise as a poet to differentiate himself from those mere pedants who, while they have knowledge, lack judgment and inspiration. Thus in the Dedication of Examen Poeticum he claims to "have given my Author's Sense, for the most part truly: for to mistake sometimes, is incident to all Men: And


not to follow the Dutch Commentatours alwaies, may be forgiven to a Man, who thinks them, in general, heavy gross-witted Fellows; fit only to gloss on their own dull Poets" (p. 371). Similarly, in comparing Juvenal, Horace, and Persius in the Discourse of Satire , Dryden adjudicates the claims of their scholarly champions:

It had been much fairer, if the Modern Critiques, who have imbark'd in the Quarrels of their favourite Authors, had rather given to each his proper due; without taking from another's heap, to raise their own. There is Praise enough for each of them in particular, without encroaching on his Fellows, and detracting from them, or Enriching themselves with the Spoils of others.
(P. 50)

He implicitly contrasts his own fairness and objectivity with the blind fondness of "Critiques, who, having first taken a liking to one of these Poets, proceed to Comment on him, and to Illustrate him; after which they fall in love with their own Labours . . . they defend and exalt their Author, not so much for his sake as for their own" (p. 49). Similarly, in the Preface to Fables he contrasts his own "common Sense" to the deluded favoritism of Chaucer's latest editor, who "would make us believe . . . that there were really Ten Syllables in a Verse where we find but Nine" (p. 1453).

In the Dedication of the Aeneis Dryden structures his attack on plodding commentators so as to take account of his known political principles. There is a hint of anti-Williamite patriotism in his mention of "Dutch commentators" in the Dedication of Examen Poeticum ; and this hint is fully developed in the Dedication of the Aeneis : "I shall," he says, "continue still to speak my Thoughts like a free-born Subject as I am; though such things, perhaps, as no Dutch Commentator cou'd, and I am sure no French -man durst" (p. 1016). Later he contrasts his discursive manner with the style of the French critic Segrais: "his Preface is a perfect piece of Criticism, full and clear, and digested into an exact Method; mine is loose, and, as I intended it, Epistolary. Yet I dwell on many things which he durst not touch: For 'tis dangerous to offend an Arbitrary Master" (p. 1020). By following no one's plan and changing subjects at will, Dryden may assert—in contradistinction to the slavish compatriots of both William and Louis—the freedom from prejudice and restraint which he insists upon as the birthright of an Englishman and the prerogative of a poet.


If the digressiveness and allusiveness of the late work imply the mastery of the poet, they assume the same mastery in the readers who must follow him. In a single paragraph on epic poetry in the Discourse of Satire , he assumes in his readers a detailed knowledge of Homer, Virgil, Statius, Lucan, Ariosto, Tasso, Boiardo, Martial, Owen, Spenser, Fleckno, Waller, the Greek Anthology, LeMoyne, Chapelain, and Scudéry. He need only mention Lucan's "Heat, and Affectation," Ariosto's luxuriousness of style, Tasso's "Episodes of Sophronia, Erminia , and Armida "; his readers, he implies, will draw upon their own experience of these works to confirm Dryden's insights (pp. 13–14). Similarly, the reader of Fables is assumed to have some knowledge of Ovid, Homer, Virgil, and Boccaccio: Dryden's Preface purports not to introduce and explain them to the neophyte, but rather to compare them by alluding to characteristics with which the reader is already familiar. Thus he claims that "the Figures of Chaucer are much more lively [than Ovid's], and set in a better Light: Which though I have not time to prove, yet I appeal to the Reader, and am sure he will clear me from Partiality" (p. 1451). Throughout his late criticism Dryden implies that he and his reader share fluency in five languages and a thorough knowledge of the literature and history of Greece, Rome, Italy, France, and England, which may be brought to the surface by a few brief reminders. By his digressiveness he suggests that we have outgrown the need for systematic treatises and can follow him easily in his explorations of the whole of literary culture. By the subtlest of rhetoric, Dryden flatters us into sharing his implicit view of the irrelevance of his diastrous political affiliations and into recognizing the importance of his literary achievement.

Indeed, in his last works Dryden is no less interested in defining his audience than in defining himself. He had always sought to create for his more rhetorical works an audience capable of being convinced by them—the "more moderate sort," for example, in "To the Reader" of Absalom and Achitophel .[22] But in his last works he creates for his purely literary persona a purely literary audience, one whose learning and tastes place it above the ignorance, prejudice, and pedantry of Dryden's enemies. Despite his abstract critical purposes in the Discourse of Satire and the Dedication of the Aeneis , Dryden is always aware of their status as epistles, and frequently interrupts his criticism to compliment his


fellow poets Dorset and Mulgrave on the insight and expertise that make them peculiarly well qualified to understand him. Less literary patrons also are praised for the breadth of their reading and the depth of their appreciation. Chesterfield enjoys "a foundation of good Sense, and a cultivation of Learning" (p. 917); Clifford has read Virgil "with pleasure, and I dare say, with admiration in the Latine, of which you are a Master. You have added to your Natural Endowments, which without flattery are Eminent, the superstructures of Study, and the knowledge of good Authors" (p. 872). Radcliffe is "a Critick of the Genuine sort, who [has] Read the best Authours, in their own Languages, who perfectly distinguish[es] of their several Merits" (p. 367).

Dryden is not, however, unaware of the potential market for his translations among the less deeply learned; he defines these readers against those plodding and pedantic commentators whose favoritism, ill nature, and subservience contrast with his own benign objectivity and patriotic freedom. Whereas the dully literal Barten Holiday translated Juvenal for scholars,

We write only for the Pleasure and Entertainment, of those Gentlemen and Ladies, who tho they are not Scholars are not Ignorant: Persons of Understanding and good Sense; who not having been conversant in the Original, or at least not having made Latine Verse so much their business, as to be Critiques in it, wou'd be glad to find, if the Wit of our Two great Authors, be answerable to their Fame.
(P. 87)

Similarly, he contrasts the readers of Fables to those "old Saxon Friends" whose superstitious "Veneration for Antiquity" may lead them to dislike his version of Chaucer: "Let them neglect my Version, because they have no need of it. I made it for their sakes who understand Sense and Poetry, as well as they; when that Poetry and Sense is put into Words which they understand" (p. 1459).

Dryden's insistence on the purely literary nature of his audience is not, however, the only rhetorical strategy through which he attempts to avert the potential interference of politics with a proper appreciation of his work. He associates learning and taste with transcendence of political faction, ignorance and pedantry with fanatical devotion to the worst aspects of William and the Revolution. We are familiar with the first of these strategies from the dedications of Don Sebastian, Amphitryon , and King Arthur ,


each of which is addressed to a prominent Williamite who is willing to ignore political differences where they interfere with literary merit. After 1692, this strategy is given added power by a new emphasis on social as well as literary transcendence. Dryden repeatedly associates the noble lineage of his dedicatees with their ability to recognize his merit. Abingdon "may stand aside" from the bad age "with the small Remainders of the English Nobility, truly such, and unhurt your selves, behold the mad Combat" (p. 234). Clifford is descended from "the Ancient House of Cumberland ," Ormond from the Plantagenets, and both have inherited Dryden with their titles and estates (Georgics , p. 872, Fables , p. 1439). In admiring Dryden's work, the less noble reader falls in with "the most Ancient, most Conspicuous, and most Deserving Families in Europe " (Fables , p. 1439).

The literary, the social, and the political are all involved in the threefold division of readers of poetry adapted from Segrais in the Dedication of the Aeneis . The lowest class of readers

like nothing but the Husk and Rhind of Wit; preferr a Quibble, a Conceit, an Epigram, before solid Sense, and Elegant Expression: These are Mobb-Readers: If Virgil and Martial stood for Parliament-Men, we know already who wou'd carry it. But though they make the greatest appearance in the Field, and cry the loudest, the best on 't is, they are but a sort of French Huguenots , or Dutch Boors , brought over in Herds, but not Naturaliz'd: who have not land of two Pounds per Annum in Parnassus , and therefore are not priviledg'd to Poll.
(P. 1052)

William was widely resented for favoring Dutchmen and Huguenots as advisors and generals. In the Preface to Fables , Blackmore's poetic incompetence is associated with his social and political background. He is a "City Bard, or Knight Physician" with "Fanatique Patrons," and so unworthy of serious attention. In the Dedication of Examen Poeticum Dryden's pedantic critics are given a no less damning social and political position. Modern critics (Dryden has Rymer in mind) have "become Rebels of Slaves, and Usurpers of Subjects" (p. 364). Julius Scaliger, a type for Dryden of the pedant, "wou'd needs turn down Homer , and Abdicate him, after the possession of Three Thousand Years" (p. 365). Some critics, by their veneration of the Elizabethan dramatists,


"wou'd thrust out their Lawful Issue, and Govern us themselves, under a specious pretence of Reformation" (p. 366).

Though Dryden's enemies resemble James's in their methods and origin, they differ in their success. In the Dedication of Examen Poeticum they evaporate before the judgment of the noble Radcliffe; and in the Dedication of the Aeneis the highest class of readers eventually defeats the mob by quietly attracting a majority: judicious readers "are few in number, but whoever is so happy as to gain their approbation, can never lose it, because they never give it blindly. Then they have a certain Magnetism in their Judgment, which attracts others to their Sense. Every day they gain some new Proselyte, and in time become the Church" (p. 1053). The literal and figurative levels of this social metaphor blur together as Dryden goes on to apply it to himself and his patron Mulgrave: "Such a sort of Reputation is my aim, though in a far inferiour degree . . . and therefore I appeal to the Highest Court of Judicature, like that of the Peers, of which your Lordship is so great an Ornament" (p. 1053). The common reader who rejects Dryden's poetic claims finds himself outclassed by the likes of Radcliffe and Dorset, and cast into a wilderness of foreigners and pedants, city bards, and party hacks.

Dryden does not in his last works abandon his interest in contemporary politics for abstract speculation on poetry and human nature. His insistence on generality and detachment is itself a rhetorical gesture designed to place him and his audience in a universal and therefore authoritative context that explains and justifies his beliefs and behavior and allows him to reenter politics as a poet. In the Postscript of the Aeneis —his last chance to court those readers upon whose approval the success of over three years of labor depends—Dryden reenacts in summary form the series of gestures that define his public persona throughout the mid- and late nineties. He complains of having undertaken the work in his "Declining Years: strugling with Wants, oppress'd with Sickness, curb'd in my Genius, lyable to be misconstrued in all I write; and my Judges, if they are not very equitable, already prejudic'd against me, by the Lying Character which has been given them of my Morals." Yet he has completed the work "steady to my Principles, and not dispirited with my Afflictions." He claims that he has added something to English literature "in the choice of my


Words , and Harmony of Numbers"; then delivers a brief attack on bad poets, which he quickly interrupts: "Here is a Field of Satire open'd to me: But since the Revolution, I have wholly renounc'd that Talent. For who wou'd give Physick to the Great when he is uncall'd?" (p. 1424). This is an odd transition from literary criticism to political satire, but it allows him to introduce the topic of his political quietism ("'Tis enough for me, if the Government will let me pass unquestion'd") and to define himself again in purely literary terms. There follows a list of prominent Williamites who have been "Bountiful to the Poet" without "considering the Man": "The Earls of Darby and of Peterborough "; "Sir William Trumball , one of the Principal Secretaries of State"; "Gilbert Dolben Esq, the worthy Son of the late Arch-Bishop of York "; and so forth (p. 1425). There is a complex mixture here of bold self-assertion and quiet apology; but it exactly suits Dryden's position in the 1690s, when his enemies were equally willing to attack him as a dangerous subversive if he condemned the government and as an unprincipled opportunist if he did not.

The Political Rhetoric of the Translations

Most of Dryden's verse between 1692 and 1700 is in his translations: the Satires, Virgil , and Fables , and two miscellanies, Examen Poeticum and The Annual Miscellany: For the Year 1694 , were published in these years. The political innuendos in these works have already been extensively annotated;[23] I wish to comment only on their function, which has I think been often mistaken. Most critics have scanned Fables in search of unifying themes, so that they may claim that Dryden has created from these borrowed fragments an original "great work."[24] Judith Sloman has taken this argument furthest, claiming that Dryden "imposes his own personality" on the translations, and uses them as "a form of oblique self-expression."[25] On the contrary, Dryden is, I think, interested in rhetoric rather than self-expression and is attracted to translation because it allows him the rhetorical advantage of appearing before his public as a poet and only a poet. Plot, character, setting—everything that might be susceptible to a political interpretation, or imply a view of the world based on controversial principles—was the work of another poet in another age; Dryden


ostensibly contributed only the diction and the versification, the purely stylistic qualities for which he was almost universally admired. He did sometimes alter his originals in such a manner as to make them appropriate to his own concerns, but with rare exceptions he is careful not to draw attention to himself: he consistently presents these poems as the work of others. In his prose Dryden admits that his translations are not literal, but in doing so he repeatedly assures us that his alterations are purely stylistic. The translators of the Satires have "follow'd our Authors, at greater distance" than Holiday and Stapylton, for "A Noble Authour wou'd not be persu'd too close by a Translator. We lose his Spirit, when we think to take his Body. The grosser Part remains with us, but the Soul is flown away, in some Noble Expression or delicate turn of Words, or Thought" (Discourse , pp. 87–88). Dryden's contribution consists of noble expressions and delicate turns. Similarly in the Dedication of Examen Poeticum he contrasts his translation of Ovid to that of Sandys, who "leaves him Prose, where he found him Verse" (p. 370). Of his Virgil he tells us that his additions "will seem (at least I have Vanity to think so,) not stuck into him, but growing out of him." They are necessary because "Modern Tongues, have more Articles and Pronouns, besides signs of Tenses and Cases" than the Latin. Dryden is forced to "forsake the Brevity" in order to "pursue the Excellence" of Virgil's poetry (p. 1054). The additions to Chaucer in Fables are to be explained by "want of Words in the Beginning of our Language" to give Chaucer's thoughts "their true Lustre" (p. 1457). Indeed, throughout the Preface he implies for his translations a transparency through which the originals are plainly visible: he invites the reader to confirm Chaucer's superiority to Boccaccio by comparing his own translations of a passage from each on the same subject.

Dryden, then, claims responsibility in his translations only for poetic style; social and political criticism is always the work of his originals. If his ideas happen to coincide with theirs, we may attribute the similarity to the fact that poets preserve the same function in all ages. Thus Chaucer's attack on the clergy is part of a general poetic responsibility:

I cannot blame him for inveighing so sharply against the Vices of the Clergy in his Age: Their Pride, their Ambition, their Pomp, their Av-


arice, their Worldly Interest, deserv'd the Lashes which he gave them, both in that, and in most of his Canterbury Tales : Neither has his Contemporary Boccace , spar'd them. Yet both those Poets liv'd in much esteem, with good and holy Men in Orders: For the Scandal which is given by particular Priests, reflects not on the Sacred Function. Chaucer 's Monk , his Chanon , and his Fryar , took not from the Character of his Good Parson . A Satyrical Poet is the Check of the Laymen, on bad Priests.
(Pp. 1453–1454)

Dryden's translations invite us to see his views on politics in his own time as the views of all poets on politics in all ages. His topical innuendos against standing armies, mob rule, war and taxes, tyranny and usurpation, are almost always expressed as general observations applicable equally to Augustan Rome, Renaissance Italy, and ancient and modern England.

Further, these observations arise incidentally from works that vary widely in their subjects and purposes; whatever their immediate ends, Dryden's poets frequently find occasion for remarks on political subjects. In the Virgil , for example, the Pastorals, Georgics , and Aeneis all include versions of usurpation. Threatened with dispossession by army veterans, one of Virgil's shepherds asks,

Or shall we mount again the Rural Throne,
And rule the Country Kingdoms, once our own!

In the third Georgic , the behavior of a bull competing for a heifer is described in the same terms:

Often he turns his Eyes, and, with a groan,
Surveys the pleasing Kingdoms, once his own.
(ll. 353–354)

Aeneas finds in hell

. . . They, who Brothers better Claim disown,
Expel their Parents, and usurp the Throne.

The mob that sells its allegiance appears in a wide variety of contexts:


How goes the Mob, (for that's a Mighty thing?)
When the King's Trump, the Mob is for the King
(Juvenal, Satyr  X, 11. 112–113)

Hosts of Deserters, who their Honour sold,
And basely broke their Faith, for Bribes of Gold.
(Aeneis VI, ll. 832–833)

When Churls rebel against their Native Prince,
I arm their Hands, and furnish the Pretence;
And housing in the Lion's hateful Sign,
Bought Senates, and deserting Troops are mine.
(Palamon and Arcite , III.408–411)

So loyal Subjects often seize their Prince,
Forc'd (for his Good) to seeming Violence,
Yet mean his sacred Person not the least Offence.
(The Cock and the Fox , ll. 790–792)

This was the Way to thrive in Peace and War;
To pay his Army, and fresh Whores to bring:
Who wou'd not fight for such a gracious King!
(Ovid's Art of Love , Book I, ll. 153–155)

Whether concerned to describe the vanity of ambition, the torments of the damned, the blandishments of a flatterer, the powers of a god, or the processes of courtship, Dryden's poets cannot help but remark the venality of those who support illegitimate power for pay.

This sense of universal agreement among poets on political subjects emerges most clearly in Fables , where very different poems are thrown together without apparent order. Recent critics attempting to find thematic unity in this apparently random collection have, I think, missed the point entirely. The very miscellaneousness of the collection has an important rhetorical purpose. The thematic incoherence of Fables suggests even more powerfully than the prose Dryden's communion with poets of all ages and all kinds. Whatever their immediate object, Dryden's authors cannot seem to avoid manifesting their common views on such matters as tyranny and corruption. For example, we can trace through the collection a series of related observations on kings and the use of power that reflect clearly, though apparently by accident, on William and his supporters. Palamon and Arcite contains incidental observations on court corruption, on the king's neglect of the wor-


thy, and on the illegitimate use of force. Arcite invites Palamon to compete with him for Emily "as Courtiers . . . justle for a Grant" (I.346); Dryden makes Chaucer contrast Theseus's patronage of the arts with "Princes" who "now their poets should regard, / But few can write, and fewer can reward" (II.661–662); Palamon's defeat occasions a reflection on power and virtue:

The brave Man seeks not popular Applause,
Nor overpow'r'd with Arms, deserts his Cause;
Unsham'd, though foil'd, he does the best he can;
Force is of Brutes, but Honour is of Man.

The same three topics recur throughout Fables in the form of general observations suggested by the action. In Sigismonda and Guiscardo , Tancred has his guards murder his daughter's lover; and Dryden makes Boccaccio generalize on the acquisition of power through force and purchase:

                   For, (Slaves to Pay)
What Kings decree, the Soldier must obey:
Wag'd against Foes; and, when the Wars are o'er,
Fit only to maintain Despotick Pow'r:
Dang'rous to Freedom, and desir'd alone
By Kings, who seek an Arbitrary Throne.
(ll. 596–601)

Achilles's attack on Agamemnon in The First Book of the Illias is also given a generalized application:

'Tis Death to fight; but Kingly to controul.
Lord-like at ease, with arbitrary Pow'r
To peel the Chiefs, the People to devour.
(ll. 341–343)

In The Cock and the Fox , Chaucer is made to generalize from Reynard's flattery to all princes' patronage of unworthy poets and neglect of worthy ones:

Ye Princes rais'd by Poets to the Gods,
And Alexander'd  up in lying Odes,
Believe not ev'ry flatt'ring Knave's report,
There's many a Reynard  lurking in the Court;


And he shall be receiv'd with more regard
And list'ned to, than modest Truth is heard.
(ll. 659–664)

The processes of love in Cymon and Iphigenia are compared with those of conquering kings:

               my Love disdains the Laws,
And like a King by Conquest gains his Cause:
When Arms take place, all other Pleas are vain,
Love taught me Force, and Force shall Love maintain.
(ll. 300–303)

All of these clearly reflect on William, but they are cast as general observations on the human condition that occur incidentally to various poets in various contexts. Dryden claims responsibility for them only as a poet, giving delicate turns and noble expression in his native language to a common store of political observation that transcends particular ages and nations.

The Relation between Poetry and Politics

Through his general observations on important issues and principles in his own work and in his translations, Dryden reenters contemporary politics not as a representative voice in the political nation, but as a poet who sees such things from above. There is another way in which he uses his poetic status to participate in political debate. As a poet he is fully authorized to comment on matters relating to the perfection of genre or the improvement of language, and in his last years he finds that these literary issues are indivisibly interconnected with political ones. These connections arise from Dryden's view of literary culture as both permanent and progressive. Whereas political history has become meaningless iteration, poetry, though it may move forward in one age and backward in another, is always conceived as part of a continuing tradition in which progress is possible.

Dryden had, of course, advanced this view in his earlier work, most notably in the Essay of Dramatic Poesie and the Defence of the Epilogue , where he is concerned with defending the claims of


his contemporaries to have surpassed in some respects the dramatists of the last age. But the poetry and criticism of the nineties is filled with detailed and elaborate accounts of the growth of literary genres; and these accounts are always organized geographically as well as temporally. Satire, epic, tragedy, and pastoral move from Greece through Rome, Italy, and France to England. Dryden's interest in the growth of national literatures is perhaps clearest in the Preface to Fables , where in comparing Chaucer, Ovid, and Boccaccio he is careful to place each within the literary history of his country: Boccaccio and Chaucer are alike in having "refin'd their Mother-Tongues," but Boccaccio was the heir of Petrarch, while Chaucer was the "Father of English Poetry" worthy to be held in "the same Degree of Veneration as the Grecians held Homer , or the Romans Virgil " (p. 1452). In comparing Chaucer and Ovid he remarks that "with Ovid ended the Golden Age of the Roman Tongue: From Chaucer the Purity of the English Tongue began" (p. 1450).

This theory of poetry has two important consequences. Since poetic endeavor leads to real progress and to achievements of permanent importance, it is inherently more noble than politics, which leads nowhere. The poet has a duty to improve the manners and morals of his age, and with this duty comes the privilege to direct the government's policies or censure its misdeeds. Further, literature contributes to national greatness and international reputation, and therefore those governments that encourage literature preserve their reputation for all time, whereas those that suppress or ignore it are lost in obscurity or descend to posterity as tyrannous and vile. As a poet, Dryden is necessarily a patriot. Though he supports one of the war aims of Louis XIV, as a poet he is obliged by his vocation to honor his country, to purify its language and to increase its reputation. Further, as a poet he can criticize court policy, but he judges it not, as in his earlier work, as a potential source of justice, right, and truth, but as a potential source of patronage, as a servant of poetic progress and achievement. All governments may be vicious, but some are more effective than others in cultivating the arts of peace. By this standard the tyrant Louis and the conqueror Augustus far outshine the usurper William, though his behavior is no more deplorable than the former's, and his title no more dubious than the latter's.


Original Verse

These topics are clearly developed in three of Dryden's most important poems in these years, "To My Dear Friend Mr. Congreve," "To Sir Godfrey Kneller," and Alexander's Feast . All three have received a good deal of excellent critical analysis separately;[26] but together they reveal a consistent approach to the relation between art and politics, an approach that also structures Dryden's late prose criticism. Both of the complimentary poems contain conflicting versions of this relation. On the one hand, art is independent of and superior to politics, the product of a continuous and noble tradition that transcends national boundaries and political disturbances. Thus Congreve is the culmination of two traditions in English drama: he unites the strength of the Jacobean period with the sweetness of the Restoration, or alternatively, the strength of Jonson and Wycherley with the sweetness of Fletcher, Etherege, and Southerne. At the end of the poem Dryden includes himself among the dramatists Congreve has surpassed and asks him to protect his reputation with posterity. Similarly, Kneller is presented as the culmination of a tradition Dryden traces from the prehistoric age through Greece and Rome to Italy: Kneller unites the design of Raphael with the color of Titian. All of this serves to place Dryden and his addressees above the contemporary.

On the other hand, Dryden portrays his addressees and himself as victims of contemporary neglect of the arts of peace. The laurel that should have descended from Dryden to Congreve has been usurped by Shadwell and Rymer. Dryden and Kneller have both lost Charles: they must be content "the first of these inferiour Times to be"; Kneller's genius is

   bounded by the Times like mine,
Drudges on petty Draughts, nor dare design
A more Exalted Work, and more Divine.
(ll. 147–149)

What is described as actual achievement when Dryden is considering the place of his addressees in the great tradition becomes frustrated potential when he describes their place in contemporary England. The conflict is resolved in the Congreve poem by a prophecy that its subject will eventually wear not Dryden's laurel,


but his own; but whatever the reference of this prophecy, it does nothing to counter the criticism of current government patronage implied throughout the poem. In the Kneller poem, the conflict remains unresolved: at the end Dryden predicts that time will mellow Kneller's color and increase his fame, but it cannot add to his design. Further, Dryden's criticism of the government appears in this poem at the expense of appropriateness as well as coherence: Kneller had no cause for complaint against the court. William retained him as court painter and knighted him in 1691.[27] Dryden's purpose in both poems is to present himself within an artistic tradition independent of and superior to contemporary politics and from that position to criticize William's government for its neglect of the arts. He appears before his public in the poetic role in which he knew them most willing to accept and admire him and then uses this role to castigate his political enemies.

The theme of the superiority of poetry to politics recurs throughout Dryden's late works; but it is expressed most directly and schematically in Alexander's Feast . On one side the emperor Alexander sits "Aloft in awful State," on the other the poet-musician Timotheus sits "high / Amid the tuneful Quire." Earl Miner describes their relation in the poem: "in each stanza Timotheus the musician plays upon Alexander, the instrument of his virtuosity. After the first stanza, only the fourth begins with consideration of Alexander . . . rather than Timotheus. The irony directed towards 'Phillip's warlike son' is apparent enough in his being an instrument manipulated at will. But Dryden enjoys making it clearer." Alexander "Assumes the God, / Affects to nod,/ And seems to shake the Spheres"; he "grew vain, / Fought all his battails o'er again" until "At length, with Love and Wine at once oppress'd, / The vanquish'd Victor sunk" upon the breast of his mistress (ll. 39–40, 66–67, 114–115).[28] Howard Erskine-Hill suggests the topical relevance of this superiority of poet to ruler:

In 1697 William III had just triumphed over Louis XIV who supported the fallen cause of James II; and James had, like Darius, been 'Deserted at his utmost Need, / By those his former Bounty fed.' The poem makes a general political allusion which is a part, but a part only, of its meaning; its full greatness lies in the way Dryden, like Timotheus, relentlessly brings out the moral truth behind the worldly triumph he purports to celebrate.[29]


This moral truth lies, I think, in the contrast between the power of art and the emptiness of political achievement. Again Dryden is writing as a poet on the subject of poetry and so entering politics from a position of strength. In the final stanza, Dryden gives another turn to this contrast. He asserts his distance from the action—it happened "long ago"—and elevates it to the eternal perspective that as a poet he enjoys. From this vantage point, Alexander is hardly visible: his heroic triumph means nothing at all. However, Timotheus gains added meaning and importance—he is enrolled in a transcendent artistic tradition. Cecilia's improvements on Timotheus's art do not diminish it: he is all the more admirable in having achieved such success within the "narrow Bounds" of his time, and thus he is able to "divide the Crown" with her. In the transcendent reaches of art to which Dryden declares his allegiance, progress and permanence are not incompatible; in politics, neither is even possible.[30]


In many ways, the Discourse of Satire and the Dedication of the Aeneis seem baffling and disappointing works. As dedications they are disconcertingly fulsome: in placing Dorset and Mulgrave at the peak of contemporary literature Dryden must ignore or pervert the literary standards that he claims as the basis of his criticism. As works of criticism they are almost entirely derivative: we miss in them the insights into satire and heroic verse that we might expect from one of the greatest practitioners of these forms. If we read this late prose only for its direct contribution to literary criticism, Dryden appears as the slave of his times, superior to Rymer and his kind only in the quality of his writing or in his occasional divergence from the narrow road of neoclassical precept. If, however, we read it with close attention to the social and political pressures against which he was forced to define his position, the prose appears as the work of the same complex and sensitive mind that produced the great poems of a decade before. Though rarely the sole object of his attention, the relation between poet and state is never far from Dryden's mind in his late prose: in one guise or another it makes its way into almost every topic of this notoriously miscellaneous body of work. And there emerges from its various manifestations a reasonably clear and unified view of that relation.


Dryden conceives of poetry as part of an unbroken and unassailable tradition, extending from the ancient Greeks to contemporary England and France; politics as a series of accidents and misfortunes—the scene of prosperous villainy and the toy of an inscrutable Providence. For Dryden, it follows that the poet is privileged to censure the state and that the state may to some extent redeem itself by supporting the poet. Throughout his late prose, Dryden carefully defines and redefines his position in contemporary England, suggesting where he can the venality of the victorious government and the ideal bases of his own principles, but never straying far from the purely poetic concerns that formed the basis of his authority with an audience that had rejected those principles.

In the panegyric on the Whig courtier Dorset, with which he begins the Discourse of Satire , Dryden prepares us for what follows by defining the nature and relative importance of poetry and politics. Throughout the first ten pages of the Discourse , Dorset is described by a series of monarchical metaphors that together establish poetry as an ideally stable kingdom.[31] Dorset is untouched by the quarrelsome spirit of his subjects—"There are no Factions, tho irreconcilable to one another, that are not united in their Affection to you, and the Respect they pay you" (p. 3)—and he is untroubled by enemies (p. 4). Or, if any rebels to his authority arise, they "must be like the Officer, in a Play, who was call'd Captain, Lieutenant, and Company. The World will easily conclude, whether such unattended Generals can ever be capable of making a Revolution in Parnassus " (p. 6). Nor is Dorset himself a quarrelsome ruler: his realm is so peaceful that his subjects urge him "like some Great Monarch, to take a Town but once a year, as it were for your diversion, though you had no need to extend your Territories" (p. 8). As his power is unopposed, so is his prerogative uncontested. It extends to "the petulant Scriblers of this Age," whom Dryden encourages him to banish or restrain; but he has also a "Prerogative to pardon . . . those things, which are somewhat Congenial, and of a remote Kindred to your own Conceptions" (p. 5). In this he exemplifies a distinctly Jacobite notion of kingship—James was deposed in part for his too liberal interpretation of his prerogative to pardon like-minded subjects. The resemblance extends to the origins of their authority. Dorset's, like James's, is inherent. He is king of poets "by an undisputed Title,"


by which, Dryden says, "I mean not the Authority, which is annex'd to your Office: I speak of that only which is inborn and inherent to your Person: What is produc'd in you by . . . a Masterly and Commanding Genius over all Writers" (p. 9–10). In Parnassus, then, legitimacy is inherent and universally recognized and upheld. This provides an instructive contrast with revolutionary England: by defining literary affairs through political metaphors, Dryden delicately suggests the superiority of the literary to the political.

He is no less careful in defining his own relations with Dorset both within and without the terms of his metaphor. If Dorset is the king of poets, Dryden is his minister:

As a Councellour bred up the knowledge of the Municipal and Statute Laws, may honestly inform a just Prince how far his Prerogative extends, so I may be allow'd to tell your Lordship, who by an undisputed Title, are the King of Poets, what an extent of Power you have, and how lawfully you may exercise it, over the petulant Scriblers of this Age.
(P. 9)

If Dorset is the Messiah of poets, Dryden is his prophet:

'Tis true, I have one Priviledge that is almost particular to my self, that I saw you in the East at your first arising above the Hemisphere: I was as soon Sensible as any Man of that Light, when it was but just shooting out, and beginning to Travel upwards to the Meridian. . . . I was Inspir'd to foretell you to Mankind, as the Restorer of Poetry, the greatest Genius, the truest Judge, and the best Patron.
(Pp. 4–5)

By showing himself Dorset's loyal courtier and constant partisan, Dryden reminds us of his constancy to the real king Dorset resembles; the parallel suggests that this constancy is in both cases equally disinterested and equally justifiable. Dryden extends his allegiance to legitimate authority wherever he finds it, whether in the king of England or the king of Parnassus. If his literary constancy appears more clearly than his political, it is only because of the greater harmony and stability of the former realm.

This subject recurs when, after his digression on epic poetry, Dryden returns to his praise of Dorset; and here he explicitly draws attention to his unswerving loyalty both to James and to


Dorset. He acknowledges his patron's kindness "since this Revolution, wherein I have patiently suffer'd the Ruin of my small Fortune, and the loss of that poor Subsistence which I had from two Kings, whom I serv'd more Faithfully than Profitably to my self" (p. 23). His loyalty to the Stuart cause, though unrewarded, remains. Yet it is not inconsistent with loyalty to William's supporters: "I must not presume to defend the Cause for which I now suffer, because your Lordship is engag'd against it: But the more you are so, the greater is my Obligation to you: For your laying aside all Considerations of Factions and Parties" (p. 23). Further, the source of this mutual esteem, which on both sides transcends the quarrels of factions, is literary. In addition to gratitude, Dryden has "a more particular inclination" to honor and love Dorset:

'Tis no shame to be a Poet, tho' 'tis to be a bad one. Augustus Caesar of old, and Cardinal Richilieu of late, wou'd willingly have been such; and David and Solomon were such. You, who . . . are the best of the present Age in England . . . will receive more Honour in future Ages, by that one Excellency, than by all those Honours to which your Birth has intitl'd you, or your Merits have acquir'd you.
(P. 24)

Though he uses his praise of Dorset to suggest the irreproachable basis of his loyalty to James, Dryden concludes it by again asserting the superiority of the literary over the political: kings and emperors have aspired to poetry without success; and Dorset will be remembered as a poet long after he has been forgotten as a statesman.

It follows from this that Dryden himself has deserved better treatment, and in his long digression on epic poetry, he suggests as much. This digression is framed by contrasting accounts of French and English patronage, which imply that the losses resulting from the neglect of Dryden's potential have fallen more heavily on the country than on the poet himself. He introduces the subject by claiming that "What has been, may be again: Another Homer , and another Virgil may possibly arise from those very Causes which produc'd the first" (p. 11). He remarks that certain ages—Augustan Rome, Renaissance Italy—"have been more happy than others in the production of Great Men" (p. 11). And he offers an English example: "In Tragedy and Satire . . . this Age and the last, particularly in England , have excell'd the Ancients: . . . and I


wou'd instance in Shakespear of the former, in your Lordship of the latter sort" (p. 12). It is difficult to tell how sincere Dryden is in thus exalting Dorset above Horace and Juvenal; certainly his support of a more likely candidate for such an honor is more detailed and enthusiastic:

Thus I might safely confine my self to my Native Country: But if I wou'd only cross the Seas, I might find in France a living Horace and Juvenal , in the Person of the admirable Boileau : Whose Numbers are Excellent, whose Expressions are Noble, whose Thoughts are Just, whose Language is Pure, whose Satire is pointed, and whose Sense is close: What he borrows from the Ancients, he repays with Usury of his own: in Coin as good, and almost as Universally valuable.
(P. 12)

He follows this commendation with an explanation of Boileau's success:

For setting prejudice and Partiality apart, though he is our Enemy, the Stamp of a Louis , the Patron of all Arts, is not much inferiour to the Medal of an Augustus Caesar . Let this be said without entring into the interests of Factions and Parties; and relating only to the Bounty of that King to Men of Learning and Merit: A Praise so just, that even we who are his Enemies, cannot refuse it to him.
(Pp. 12–13)

Once again, literary judgments are able to transcend faction and party; and once again, through his use of the first-person plural and his redundant qualifications of his praise, Dryden reminds us of his patriotism. Indeed, he is so sure of his reputation as an English patriot, that he cuts short a later commendation of Boileau because "it might turn to his Prejudice, if 'twere carry'd back to France " (p. 84). Nonetheless, he cannot call attention to the bounty of the French king without implying the deficiency of his own, and he returns to this matter at the end of his history of epic.

Dryden uses this history both to assert again his patriotism and to place himself within a poetic tradition that transcends time and place: he makes these ends mutually dependent by defining himself as a potential English Horace or Virgil—as a poet who, given a chance, might have equalled the ancients, surpassed the moderns, and so covered in glory his native country. He reviews all considerable attempts at epic poetry since Virgil and finds them all lack-


ing (though he devotes most time and admiration to his compatriots Spenser and Milton); then answers the claim that they have failed because Christianity is incompatible with the genre. He concedes that so far modern poets have indeed failed to use their religion properly in epic: "We cannot hitherto boast, that our Religion has furnish'd us with any such Machines, as have made the Strength and Beauty of the Ancient Buildings" (pp. 18–19). But he claims to have "an Invention of my own, to supply the manifest defect of our new Writers" and goes on to explain it in detail.

Dryden presents all this from the Olympian perspective appropriate to a review of seventeen centuries of literary history, dispensing praise and blame with an easy dogmatism that hardly admits the possibility of dispute. From such a perspective, he can speak to his Protestant patron of "our Religion"; political struggle throughout history within and between nations becomes, from the point of view of the guardian angels who, in Dryden's scheme, protect them, mere "Factious Quarrels, Controversies, and Battels." These are provoked ultimately by God's "Providential Designs for the benefit of his Creatures, for the Debasing and Punishing of some Nations, and the Exaltation and Temporal Reward of others" (p. 20). Such a perspective no doubt had its application for Dryden to contemporary events: if God could allow "the Rise of Alexander and his Successors, who were appointed to punish the Backsliding Jews , and thereby to put them in mind of their Offences" (p. 20), he could allow the rise of William over the English for a similar purpose. But it works primarily to suggest the futility of political effort, and the comparative importance of poetic tradition.

The poet is capable of taking such large views because his natural and acquired abilities place him above his contemporaries: he must be

a Man . . . who to his Natural Endowments, of a large Invention, a ripe Judgment, and a strong Memory, has join'd the knowledge of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, and particularly, Moral Philosophy, the Mathematicks, Geography and History, and with all these Qualifications is born a Poet: knows, and can practice the variety of Numbers, and is Master of the Language in which he Writes; if such a Man, I say, be now arisen, or shall arise, I am vain enough to think, that I have propos'd a Model to him, by which he may build a Nobler, a more


Beautiful and more Perfect Poem, than any yet extant since the Ancients.
(P. 21)

Dryden had apparently considered himself just such a man—his failure to put his model to use was the result, not of his own deficiencies, but of his unfortunate circumstances. He had aimed to "put in practice" this scheme in an epic of his own, which he "had intended chiefly for the Honour of my Native Country, to which a Poet is particularly oblig'd" (p. 22). By casting this assertion in such general terms, Dryden makes it clear that he had chosen an English subject not because, as an Englishman, he found it particularly worthy of epic treatment, but because, as a poet, he is "oblig'd" to do so: the poet reflects honor upon his country, not the other way around. He names two possible subjects for this epic and then describes in further detail his intended method of celebrating his country. He would have interwoven "the Characters of the chiefest English Persons; wherein, after Virgil and Spencer , I wou'd have taken occasion to represent my living Friends and Patrons of the Noblest Families, and also shadow'd the Events of future Ages, in the Succession of our Imperial Line" (p. 23). He no doubt envisioned at that time a rather different succession than he found before him in the 1690s; and he goes on to imply some connection between the interruption of the Stuart line and the frustration of his plans:

But being encourag'd only with fair Words, by King Charles II, my little Sallary ill paid, and no prospect of a future Subsistance, I was then Discourag'd in the beginning of my Attempt; and now Age has overtaken me; and Want, a more insufferable Evil, through the Change of the Times, has wholly disenabl'd me.
(P. 23)

Dryden is as truthful in the first part of this explanation as in the second: we have abundant evidence that he was indeed ill paid under Charles; but he had found it rhetorically useful as early as 1687, in The Hind and the Panther , to remind his readers how little he had profited from his support of the Stuart cause, and his mention of it here serves as a convenient preface to his allusion in the next sentence to his loyal Jacobitism. The second part of the


explanation points clearly to the deficiency of the present government: Boileau has been able to equal Horace and Juvenal through the largesse of Louis XIV; Dryden has received no such support for his far bolder attempt to equal Homer and Virgil. And the loss falls no more heavily on Dryden than on England. He thus presents himself, in his digression on epic, not as the displaced hireling of a discredited court, but as the rightful heir of a transcendent literary tradition. By neglecting him, William's England has, he suggests, not frustrated a potential traitor; it has rather robbed itself of the chance of standing in that tradition alongside Renaissance Italy and Augustan Rome.

Having established a context in which poetry transcends the accidental circumstances of its social and political surroundings, Dryden is at last ready to turn to satire itself, a genre notorious for its close engagement with those circumstances. He may seem, at first, to deny that engagement. He begins by distinguishing invective, which is "Nature, and that deprav'd," from satire, which though it arose from invective, "when it became an Art, it bore better Fruit" (p. 28); and most of his discussion of the genre's origin is directed toward the conclusion that the term "satire" is derived rather from the variety of its form than the lowness of its subject: he firmly rejects its traditional associations with that rustic, lecherous, and ill-natured being, the satyr (pp. 36–38). Along the way he traces its first beginnings to religious worship (p. 32), remarks on its superiority to mere parodies and attacks on individuals (p. 30), and excludes from it all "Wantonness and lubricity" (p. 36). We may sense the motivation behind this predominately formal and aesthetic definition of satire in Dryden's eagerness to distinguish it from libels and lampoons produced by ill-nature and political opportunism, and of which he had so often been the object. This eagerness shows itself quite early in the Discourse : Dryden interrupts his praise of Dorset for an attack on the "multitude of Scriblers, who daily pester the World with their insufferable Stuff":

I complain not of their Lampoons and Libels, though I have been the Publick Mark for many years. . . . But these dull Makers of Lampoons, as harmless as they have been to me, are yet of dangerous Example to the Publick: Some Witty Men may perhaps succeed to their Designs,


and mixing Sence with Malice, blast the reputation of the most Innocent amongst Men, and the most Virtuous amongst Women.
(Pp. 8–9)

Dryden promises to return to the subject "when I come to give the Definition and Character of true Satires" (p. 9); and when he does so return, he is no less eager to condemn lampoons and defend himself against them: "that former sort of Satire, which is known in England by the Name of Lampoon, is a dangerous sort of Weapon, and for the most part Unlawful" (p. 59). He considers two conditions under which personal attack may be excused—when its object has attacked first, and when he is a "public nuisance." The second condition is appropriate to true satire; and I will refer to it in a moment. The first is an offence against "Christian Charity," and Dryden claims to have therefore abstained from revenging himself, despite his innocence.

All of this may seen unconvincing, coming as it does from the author of Absalom and Achitophel and MacFlecknoe ; yet Dryden does not attempt in the Discourse to conceal his authorship of these works. He refers quite proudly to both of them but in a rather different context. They appear as modern examples of certain formal qualities of satire; and they serve once again to establish Dryden's place in a venerable literary tradition. After concluding his review of the origins of satire, Dryden promises to show that "out of all these, sprung two several Branches of new Roman Satire; like different Cyens from the same Root" (p. 42). The first proceeds from Livius Andronicus and Ennius through Pacuvius, Lucilius, Horace, Persius, and Juvenal. The second, Varronian satire, begins with Menippus and Varro, and includes the following writers:

Petronius Arbiter , whose Satire, they say, is now Printing in Holland . . . . Many of Lucian 's Dialogues may also properly be call'd Varronian Satires; particularly his True History ; And consequently the Golden Ass of Apuleius , which is taken from him. Of the same stamp is the Mock Deification of Claudius , by Seneca : And the Symposium or Caesars of Julian the Emperour. Amongst the Moderns we may reckon the Encomium Moriae of Erasmus, Barclay's Euphormio , and a Volume of German Authors, which my ingenious Friend Mr. Charles Killigrew once lent me. In the English I remember none, which are


mix'd with Prose, as Varro 's were; But of the same kind is Mother Hubbard's Tale in Spencer ; and (if it be not too vain, to mention anything of my own) The Poems of Absalom , and Mac Fleckno .
(P. 48)

These works appear, then, not as invectives or polemics, but as the heirs of an unbroken tradition that extends back to ancient Greece. When he later considers Absalom and Achitophel in detail, he treats it again as an exclusively formal object, an example of the "fine Raillery" in which "the nicest and most delicate touches of Satire" consist and by which Horace is most distinguished:

How easie it is to call Rogue and Villain, and that wittily! But how hard to make a Man appear a Fool, a Blockhead, or a Knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms. . . . This is the Mystery of that Noble Trade: which yet no Master can teach to his Apprentice: He may give the Rules, but the Scholer is never the nearer in his practice. . . . I wish I cou'd apply it to my self, if the Reader wou'd be kind enough to think it belongs to me. The Character of Zimri in my Absalom , is, in my Opinion, worth the whole Poem: 'Tis not bloody, but 'tis ridiculous enough. And he for whom it was intended, was too witty to resent it as an injury. If I had rail'd, I might have suffer'd for it justly: But I manag'd my own Work more happily, perhaps more dextrously. I avoided the mention of great Crimes, and apply'd my self to the representing of Blind-sides, and little Extravagancies: To which, the wittier a Man is, he is generally the more obnoxious.
(P. 71)

Dryden's most overtly political poem becomes in the Discourse exclusively literary, the latest manifestation of a genre whose history reaches back to the beginning of civilization; and he himself appears as the modern counterpart of a Petronius or Horace.

Dryden is, then, eager to describe satire throughout the Discourse primarily as an aesthetic form, independent of the particular social and political conditions by which individual satires so often seem to have been provoked. Yet, though careful to provide for satire's greater dependence on higher inspiration than private quarrels or political factions, he nonetheless includes, as one of the formal requirements of the genre, a political program suited to the poet's times. Dryden advances as his principal innovation over other histories of satire his derivation of the genre not from the


rude Roman farces, but from Greek Old Comedy, by way of the freed Greek slave Livius Andronicus:

I will adventure . . . to advance another Proposition, which I hope the Learned will approve . . . that having read the Works of those Grecian Wits, his Countrymen, [Livius Andronicus] imitated not only the ground-work, but also the manner of their Writing. And how grave soever his Tragedies might be, yet in his Comedies he express'd the way of Aristophanes, Eupolis , and the rest, which was to call some Persons by their own Names, and to expose their Defects to the laughter of the People: the Examples of which we have in the foremention'd Aristophanes , who turn'd wise Socrates into Ridicule; and is also very free with the management of Cleon, Alcibiades , and other Ministers of the Athenian Government.
(Pp. 40–41)

Andronicus's plays provided in turn a model for Ennius, the first Roman satirist, who in "abstracting" satire from the plays "preserv'd the Ground-work of their Pleasantry, their Venom, and their Raillery on particular Persons, and general Vices" (p. 42). Thus, attacks on public individuals are a distinguishing generic trait of the very first satires; later satirists, in attacking the "public nuisances" among their contemporaries, preserve the structure of a genre that transcends their times. Dryden returns to the subject of personal attacks in true satires when he considers the second of the two purposes for which they may be employed. The first of these, revenge, is not, as we have seen, justifiable; but the second, exemplary punishment, is not only justifiable, it is the satirist's moral duty:

the second Reason, which may justifie a Poet, when he writes against a particular Person . . . is, when he is become a Publick Nuisance. All those whom Horace in his Satires, and Persius and Juvenal have mention'd in theirs, with a Brand of infamy, are wholly such. 'Tis an Action of Virtue to make Examples of vicious Men. They may and ought to be upbraided with their Crimes and Follies: Both for their own amendment, if they are not yet incorrigible; and for the Terrour of others, to hinder them from falling into those Enormities, which they see are so severly punish'd, in the Persons of others. The first Reason is only an Excuse for Revenge: But this second is absolutely of a Poet's Office to Perform.
(P. 60)


Having once established the nobility of satire and its transcendence of the merely topical, Dryden gives it a political purpose that arises naturally from literary imperatives. Satirists are compelled to expose the crimes of public figures by both the formal requirements of the genre and the moral imperatives of their vocation.

This understanding of satire informs the comparison of Persius, Horace, and Juvenal with which Dryden follows his history of the genre. Of the three, Juvenal is the most successful in fulfilling his public duty; and this success accounts for the ability of his satires to give more pleasure than Horace's:

The Meat of Horace is more nourishing; but the Cookery of Juvenal more exquisite; so that, granting Horace to be the more general Philosopher; we cannot deny, that Juvenal was the greater Poet, I mean in Satire. His Thoughts are sharper, his Indignation against Vice is more vehement; his Spirit has more of the Commonwealth Genius; he treats Tyranny, and all the Vices attending it, as they deserve, with the utmost rigour: And consequently, a Noble Soul is better pleas'd with a Zealous Vindicator of Roman Liberty; than with a Temporizing Poet, a well Manner'd Court Slave, and a Man who is often afraid of Laughing in the right place: Who is ever decent, because he is naturally servile.
(P. 65)

The cookery metaphor suggests once again that the end of satire is primarily aesthetic; its use here reminds us that the genre's political engagement is one of the means to this end. The effect of this argument is to elevate satire above its political occasion; and Dryden goes on to present Domitian's tyranny not as provoking Juvenal's satire and therefore somehow limiting its meaning, but as presenting that poet with fortunate opportunities for increasing the purely aesthetic effectiveness of his satire:

After all, Horace had the disadvantage of the Times in which he liv'd; they were better for the Man, but worse for the Satirist. 'Tis generally said, that those Enormous Vices, which were practis'd under the Reign of Domitian , were unknown in the Time of Augustus Caesar : That therefore Juvenal had a larger Field, than Horace . Little Follies were out of doors, when Oppression was to be scourg'd instead of Avarice: It was no longer time to turn into Ridicule, the false Opinions of Philosophers; when the Roman Liberty was to be asserted. There was more need of a Brutus in Domitian 's Day, to redeem or mend, than of


a Horace , if he had then been Living, to Laugh at a Fly-Catcher. This Reflection at the same time excuses Horace , but exalts Juvenal .
(Pp. 65–66)

By emphasizing the formal and aesthetic function of political engagement, Dryden does not entirely neglect its moral value. Later in the Discourse , he shows that Juvenal's attack on Domitian arises naturally from his moral purpose of exposing vice: "His was an Age that deserv'd a more severe Chastisement. Vices were more gross and open, more flagitious, more encourag'd by the Example of a Tyrant; and more protected by his Authority" (p. 69). Persius wrote against lewdness as "the Predominant Vice in Nero 's Court, at the time when he publish'd his Satires" (p. 69). The government, as the source of the nation's moral character, capable of encouraging and protecting vice, is the natural object of satiric attack. But again, the political is rigorously subordinated to the literary: the crimes of Domitian are mainly important insofar as they contribute to Juvenal's exquisite cookery.

The importance to satire of political engagement is rather confirmed than contradicted by Horace's lack of such engagement. As we have seen, Dryden at first excuses Horace, as denied by the virtue of his times the rhetorical opportunities and moral imperatives that enrich the work of Persius and Juvenal. Later, however, Dryden suggests that Horace's times were not altogether so innocent as they had been represented:

When Horace writ his Satires, the Monarchy of his Caesar was in its newness; and the Government but just made easie to the Conquer'd People. They cou'd not possibly have forgotten the Usurpation of that Prince upon their Freedom, nor the violent Methods which he had us'd, in the compassing of that vast Design: They yet remember'd his Proscriptions, and the Slaughter of so many Noble Romans , their Defendors. . . . His Adulteries were still before their Eyes, but they must be patient, where they had not power.
(P. 66)

Horace rather overlooked than wanted opportunities to write on subjects appropriate to satire: "Horace , as he was a Courtier, comply'd with the Interest of his Master, and avoiding the Lashing of greater Crimes, confin'd himself to the ridiculing of Petty Vices, and common Follies" (p. 68). For this reason, "the Subjects which


Horace chose for Satire, are of a lower nature than those of which Juvenal has written" (p. 69). The satirist has an active duty to direct his art against the vices of the government under which he lives; and when he fails to fulfill that duty, his work suffers both aesthetically and morally.

This account of Augustus's disguised tyranny brings up another relation between poetry and the state that is no less applicable to Dryden and his times, though he is necessarily less direct here than in his account of patronage. In his less attractive features, Augustus suggests Jacobite caricatures of William III. In William's times, as in Augustus's, "the Government had just been made easie to the Conquer'd People" who "cou'd not possibly have forgotten the Usurpation of that Prince upon their Freedom" (p. 66). From the Jacobite point of view, the English people were no less than the Roman "entertain'd with publick Shows, and Donatives, to make them more easily digest their lost Liberty" (p. 66). From this account of Augustus's usurpation, Dryden moves to a consideration of his repression of poetry:

Augustus , who was conscious to himself, of so many Crimes which he had committed, thought in the first place to provide for his own Reputation, by making an Edict against Lampoons and Satires, and the Authors of those defamatory Writings, which my Author Tacitus . . . calls Famosos libellos .

In the first Book of his Annals, he gives the following Account of it, . . . Augustus was the first, who under the colour of that Law took Cognisance of Lampoons; being provok'd to it, by the petulancy of Cassius Severus . . . . The Law to which Tacitus refers, was Lex laesae Majestatis ; commonly call'd, for the sake of brevity Majestas ; or as we say, High Treason. . . . Augustus was the first, who restor'd that intermitted Law. By the words, under colour of that Law , [Tacitus] insinuates that Augustus caus'd it to be Executed, on pretence of those Libels, which were written by Cassius Severus , against the Nobility; But in Truth, to save himself, from such defamatory Verses.
(Pp. 66–67)

Persius and Juvenal must evade similar attempts at repression, Persius by obscurity (p. 51), Juvenal through a sort of parallel: "wheresoever Juvenal mentions Nero , he means Domitian , whom he dares not attack in his own Person, but Scourges him by Proxy" (p. 69). But the association of the subtlest and most effective


means of repression with the usurper Augustus is a particularly appropriate one for the author of Don Sebastian .

Dryden uses his comparison of the three satirists to explore the potentially adversarial relations between poetry and state; at the end of the Discourse he turns again to those potentially harmonious relations that William's government has been unwilling to foster. He once again asserts his position in literary history and reminds us of the government's failure to support that position. In rejecting Heinsius's definition of satire, he claims that as Horace's manner is surpassed by Juvenal's, and Homer's by Virgil's, so Donne's is surpassed by that of Dryden and his contemporaries (p. 78). His review of versification meanders from Waller and Denham through Milton and Spenser, and their study respectively of Homer and Virgil, to examples from Virgil and Ovid. And, like his account of modern epic, it ends by dashing the hopes of equalling the ancients which it briefly arouses:

we have yet no English Prosodia , not so much as a tolerable Dictionary, or a Grammar; so that our Language is in a manner Barbarous; and what Government will encourage any one, or more, who are capable of Refining it, I know not. But nothing under a Publick Expence can go through with it. And I rather fear a declination of Language, than hope an advancement of it in the present Age.
(P. 86)

English poetry, advancing by such hopeful stages in recent times, is likely to regress under a government so little mindful of its obligations to literature as William's.

"A HEROICK Poem, truly such, is undoubtedly the greatest Work which the Soul of Man is capable to perform": thus Dryden begins his Dedication of the Aeneis with large claims for the importance of his subject. The soul of an epic poet must be "sent into the World with great advantages of Nature, cultivated with the liberal Arts and Sciences, conversant with Histories of the Dead, and enrich'd with Observations on the Living" (p. 1004). The moral responsibilities of such a poet are no less ponderous: he must "form the Mind to Heroick Virtue by Example." Dryden amplifies this point through a comparison of the moral operations of epic and tragedy. Both cure the moral distempers of mankind: epic corrects the manners, tragedy the passions. The medicinal


metaphor is familiar from the preface to Absalom and Achitophel , but there is an important difference in Dryden's development of it here. The poet does not step in to perform an essential surgical operation during a crisis in the health of the body politic; instead he provides "Diet, good Air, and moderate Exercise" that harden the soul to virtue (p. 1007). In the Dedication of the Aeneis Dryden wants to advance his own set of morals, many of them pointedly topical; but he is careful always to advance them as a poet, as one concerned with the constant rules and conditions which govern mankind in all ages. This insistence on the nobility of his vocation and the generality of his concerns allows him to enter politics in a guise acceptable to his audience.

The relation between the poet and the state in Dryden's discussion of Homer's and Virgil's morals is somewhat different from that implied in the account of epic poetry in the Discourse . There the poet celebrates the achievements and improves the language of his country; in the Dedication the poet serves a specific political program. Though Homer's moral is more "noble" than Virgil's, both poets are concerned more with political utility than with nobility; thus Virgil 's moral "was as useful to the Romans of his Age, as Homer 's was to the Grecians of his." Homer recommends to his audience a strong defensive alliance: "Homer 's Moral was to urge the necessity of Union, and of a good understanding betwixt Confederate States and Princes engag'd in a War with a mighty Monarch" (p. 1101). He "liv'd when the Median Monarchy was grown formidable to the Grecians : and . . . the joint Endeavours of his Countrymen, were little enough to preserve their common Freedom, from an encroaching Enemy" (p. 1012). Virgil's moral is even more closely tied to the details of his audience's political concerns: it was "To infuse an awful Respect into the People" towards Augustus through a parallel with Aeneas, "By that respect to confirm their Obedience to him; and by that Obedience to make them Happy" (p. 1015). Both morals are derived from Le Bossu, but whereas the French critic writes generally of Greek disunity, and of the foundation of the Roman empire, Dryden provides a detailed set of historical conditions.[32]

His purpose in doing so may be explained by the relevance of both morals to contemporary English politics. Like the Greeks, the English were engaged in a military alliance against an encroaching monarchy; like the Romans they had recently received a new gov-


ernment. In general these resemblances suggest the potential usefulness of poetry to the court, of Dryden to William. But Dryden soon dismisses Homer's moral as "not adapted to the times in which the Roman poet liv'd" (p. 1012); and he so develops Virgil's as to draw out a number of contrasts between poetry, politics, and the relations among them in Virgil's time and his own. Dryden describes Augustus's rise to power in much the same terms he had employed in the Discourse . The Roman constitution was destroyed by competing politicians under the guise of "Liberty and Reformation." Caesar "found the Sweets of Arbitrary Power" and made himself "a Providential Monarch" (p. 1012–1013). But though this account implies, as we have seen, a number of Jacobite lessons, Dryden is careful to preserve his rhetorical detachment: he suggests that he is merely tracing in Roman history the inevitable effects of universal laws. The destruction of the Commonwealth is described as a necessary consequence of such laws: "So the Fabrique of consequence must fall betwixt them: And Tyranny must be built upon their Ruines. This comes of altering Fundamental Laws and Constitutions" (p. 1012). Dryden extracts from Roman history the lesson of Absalom and Achitophel, The Hind and the Panther , and Don Sebastian , but in doing so he stands at least as far outside the history of his own country as that of Rome. His rhetorical distance is so great that he appears not to be raising an arguable political point; he is merely rehearsing matters long familiar to his learned readers: he introduces his account of Caesar's dictatorship by promising "Not to trouble your Lordship with the Repetition of what you know" (p.1013).

This similarity between Rome and England forms the basis for Dryden's main concern, which here as in the Discourse is the relation between poet and state. His most pointed criticism of contemporary England arises from his consideration of the bonds of patronage and service that unite the greatest Roman emperor and the greatest Roman poet.[33] Like Dryden's, Virgil's political principles differed from those of his government: "he was still of Republican Principles in his Heart"; but he supported Augustus because he "saw . . . that the Commonwealth was lost without ressource" (p. 1013–1014). Having stated the basic fact of Virgil's relation to Augustus, Dryden provides for it (with very little supportive evidence) a context that both generalizes to all writers and points specifically to his own position. Virgil, Montaigne, and


Dryden all hold that "an Honest Man ought to be contented with that Form of Government, and with those Fundamental Constitutions of it, which he receiv'd from his Ancestors, and under which himself was Born" (p. 1014). We are invited to see Dryden's political behavior as congruent with that of two great writers and all honest men—the universal context adds meaning and importance to a futile and personally disastrous course of action. His explanation of Virgil's deviation from this standard jusifies as well Dryden's adherence to it:

I say that Virgil having maturely weigh'd the Condition of the Times in which he liv'd: that an entire Liberty was not to be retriev'd: that the present Settlement had the prospect of a long continuance in the same Family, or those adopted into it: that he held his Paternal Estate from the Bounty of the Conqueror, by whom he was likewise enrich'd, esteem'd, and cherish'd: that this Conquerour, though of a bad kind, was the very best of it: that the Arts of Peace flourish'd under him: that all Men might be happy if they would be quiet: that now he was in possession of the whole, yet he shar'd a great part of his Authority with the Senate: That he would be chosen into the Ancient Offices of the Commonwealth, and Rul'd by the Power which he deriv'd from them; and Prorogu'd his Government from time to time: Still, as it were, threatning to dismiss himself from Publick Cares, which he exercis'd more for the common Good, than for any delight he took in greatness: These things, I say, being consider'd by the Poet, he concluded it to be the Interest of his Country to be so Govern'd.
(Pp. 1014–1015)

The very length of this catalogue reinforces Dryden's suggestion that the normal and commendable course is that of constancy to fundamental constitutional principles which he himself pursued and that any divergence from this constancy can be justified only by very peculiar conditions. And every one of these conditions may be pointedly contrasted with the Jacobite view of those of Dryden's own time. In England in 1697, a return to the ancient system of government might be easily achieved by the restoration of James; the "present Settlement" had no prospect of continuance in the Nassau family, and the Jacobites, though at the moment discouraged, might in the future dispossess the descendants of Anne Hyde; Dryden himself was neither enriched, nor esteemed, nor cherished by the conqueror; William, far from encouraging the arts of peace, cultivated nothing but war; he shared as little au-


thority as he could with Parliament; and for the Jacobites he ruled only to promote his own greatness and that of his Dutch and Huguenot favorites.

For Dryden's purposes, the most important of Augustus's qualities was his promotion of the arts. His relations with Virgil and Horace suggest an ideal standard of patronage and service. The moral of Virgil's poem was "Honest in the Poet, Honourable to the Emperour, whom he derives from a Divine Extraction; and reflecting part of that Honour on the Roman People, whom he derives also from the Trojans ; and not only profitable, but necessary to the present Age; and likely to be such to their Posterity" (p. 1015). In a well-ordered state, the poet reflects honor upon himself, his king, and his country and provides essential service to the people and their posterity. And as the poet serves his sovereign, so the sovereign preserves his poet: "I doubt not but it was one Reason, why Augustus should be so passionately concern'd for the preservation of the Aeneis , which its Author had Condemn'd to be Burnt . . . was, because it did him a real Service as well as an Honour; that a Work should not be lost where his Divine Original was Celebrated in Verse, which had the Character of Immortality stamp'd upon it" (p.1015).

Dryden goes on to generalize the application of this point to patrons and poets in all ages and simultaneously to focus it specifically upon himself. The "great Roman families" of Virgil's time were "no less oblig'd by him than the Emperour" (p. 1015). He celebrates his favorite families as captains, leaders, and winners of games, and attacks his enemies as losers: "For genus irritabile Vatum , as Horace says. When a Poet is throughly provok'd, he will do himself Justice, however dear it cost him. . . . I think these are not bare Imaginations of my own, though I find no trace of them in the Commentatours: But one Poet may judge of another by himself. The Vengeance we defer, is not forgotten" (p. 1016). Virgil's praise of his countrymen is no less the common property of poets than his blame: Spenser derives the English from Aeneas; French poets derive their nation from Hector; "the Heroe of Homer was a Grecian , of Virgil a Roman , of Tasso an Italian " (p. 1016).

If we are in doubt about the place of Dryden and his age in this universal context, Dryden makes it sufficiently clear in the next paragraph. Augustus, he tells us, is "still shadow'd in the Person


of Aeneas," and he will "prepare the Subject by shewing how dext'rously he mannag'd both the Prince and People, so as to displease neither, and to do good to both, which is the part of a Wise and Honest Man: And proves that it is possible for a Courtier not to be a Knave. I shall continue still to speak my Thoughts like a free-born Subject as I am; though such things, perhaps, as no Dutch Commentator cou'd, and I am sure no French -man durst" (p. 1016). The positioning here of Dutch and French, William and Louis on one side, and the English Dryden on the other, is itself polemical; and the sudden and apparently irrelevant assertion of political freedom alerts us to the topical implications of Virgil's courtiership: Dryden implies that only an audience familiar with William's government would be surprised that a courtier need not be a knave. Dryden continues by reiterating the main point of contrast between his relations with William and Virgil's with Augustus: "I have already told your Lordship my Opinion of Virgil ; that he was no Arbitrary Man. Oblig'd he was to his Master for his Bounty, and he repays him with good Counsel, how to behave himself in his new Monarchy" (p. 1016).

This counsel is embodied in a series of parallels between Augustus and Aeneas that Dryden goes on to develop at some length. Aeneas has no claim to the Trojan crown except through his wife Creusa, the daughter of Priam, and this is barred by Helenus, a surviving son of Priam. Similarly, he has no claim on the Latin crown except through his wife Lavinia (pp. 1016–1017). In all this, as Zwicker and others have shown, Aeneas's title resembles William's to the English throne.[34] But, significantly, he differs from William in his behavior: he makes no claim to the Trojan crown, and he does not assume the Latin crown during the life of his father-in-law Latinus, a benevolent "King by inheritance." Dryden is careful, however, to embed these topical allusions within a discussion of the exemplary relations between Augustus and his poets: Virgil's portrait of Aeneas both advances Augustus's fame and checks his bad impulses by reminding him of defects in his title that can be overcome only by generous treatment of his people. Similarly, Horace wrote an ode "on purpose to deter" Augustus from his unpopular resolve to rebuild Troy: "by this, my Lord, we may conclude that he had still his Pedigree in his Head; and had an Itch of being thought a Divine King, if his Poets had not given


him better Counsel" (p. 1018). Ideally, the poet encourages his sovereign's best qualities and restrains his worst ones.

In discussing Aeneas's manners, Dryden finds another parallel to Augustus which, while it continues his discussion of the relation between poetry and politics, directs us to a rather different, but no less important, set of topical applications. Whereas Aeneas's title refers to William's, his manners refer to James's: "Those Manners were Piety to the Gods, and a dutiful Affection to his Father; Love to his Relations; Care of his People; Courage and Conduct in the Wars; Gratitude to those who had oblig'd him; and Justice in general to Mankind" (p. 1018). Of these virtues, Dryden gives fullest treatment to piety, which "takes place of all, as the chief part of his Character" (p. 1018). This is, of course, the distinguishing trait of that other avatar of James, Don Sebastian; and there is much to suggest the parallel in both the preparations for and the substance of Dryden's discussion of Aeneas's manners. He promises "to vindicate my Divine Master to your Lordship, and by you to the Reader" (p. 1019), and prepares the ground by defining the character of his own patriotism. He will enlist the aid of the French critic Segrais, "For, impartially speaking, the French are as much better Criticks than the English , as they are worse Poets. Thus we generally allow that they better understand the management of a War, than our Islanders; but we know we are superiour to them, in the day of Battel. They value themselves on their Generals; we on our Souldiers" (p. 1019). The great general of the English forces was William himself: Dryden here reconciles his belief in the French cause against William with his love of his country and so justifies his appeal to French aid for the defense of his Master.

When he returns to Aeneas's manners, he has narrowed the issue in such a way as to emphasize the reference to James. "Virgil is Arraign'd for placing Piety before Valour; and making that Piety the chief Character of his Heroe" (p. 1020). He excuses Virgil first by reminding us of the political purpose of the Aeneid . Homer and Tasso were free to create imperfect heroes, "But Virgil , who design'd to form a perfect Prince, and would insinuate, that Augustus , whom he calls Aeneas in his Poem, was truly such, found himself oblig'd to make him without blemish; thoroughly Virtuous; and a thorough Virtue both begins and ends in Piety"


(p. 1020). He demonstrates the superiority of piety to valor in a paragraph that he twice insists is "Translated literally from Segrais " :

Virgil had consider'd that the greatest Virtues of Augustus consisted in the perfect Art of Governing his People; which caus'd him to Reign for more than Forty Years in great Felicity. He consider'd that his Emperour was Valiant, Civil, Popular, Eloquent, Politick, and Religious. He has given all those Qualities to Aeneas . But knowing that Piety alone comprehends the whole Duty of Man towards the Gods, towards his Country, and towards his Relations, he judg'd, that this ought to be his first Character, whom he would set for a Pattern of Perfection. In reality, they who believe that the Praises which arise from Valour, are superior to those, which proceed from any other Virtues, have not consider'd (as they ought,) that Valour, destitute of other Virtues, cannot render a Man worthy of any true esteem. That Quality which signifies no more than an intrepid Courage, may be separated from many others which are good, and accompany'd with many which are ill. A Man may be very Valiant, and yet Impious and Vicious. But the same cannot be said of Piety; which excludes all ill Qualities, and comprehends even Valour it self, with all other Qualities which are good. Can we, for example, give the praise of Valour to a Man who shou'd see his Gods prophan'd, and shou'd want the Courage to defend them? To a Man who shou'd abandon his Father, or desert his King in his last Necessity?
(Pp. 1020–1021)

The application of this passage grows clearer as it proceeds. Dryden adds to Segrais only in the final phrase, which he expands from "à un homme qui abandonnerait son Roy & son pére."[35] James may have lacked Augustus's "perfect Art of Governing," but in the far more important virtue of piety, he was no less a pattern of perfection. William was for Dryden a sad proof that a valiant man might be vicious and impious. The two examples with which the passage concludes refer more pointedly to James and William. James lost his throne by his overeager defense of his gods; William abandoned his father-in-law, and his supporters deserted their king in his last necessity.

Throughout his discussion of Virgil's moral and Aeneas's manners, then, Dryden reflects upon the crimes of William and the virtues of James. He is, however, careful rather to allow these lessons to arise incidentally from his material than to arrange them


in a coherent parallel. And he places this political commentary in the general frame of a discussion of the exemplary relations between the court poet Virgil and his imperial patron Augustus. In the remainder of his defense of the Aeneid , though specific topical references grow less frequent, he continues to reflect upon the general relation between poetry and politics in such a manner as to explain and elevate his own present position. He interrupts his account of the Dido episode to demonstrate the poet's superiority to the truths of history. A poet may be partial to the cause of his native country:

for he is not ty'd to truth, or fetter'd by the Laws of History. Homer and Tasso are justly prais'd for chusing their Heroes out of Greece and Italy; Virgil indeed made his a Trojan , but it was to derive the Romans , and his own Augustus from him; but all three Poets are manifestly partial to their Heroes, in favour of their Country. For Dares Phrygius reports of Hector , that he was slain Cowardly; Aeneas according to the best account, slew not Mezentius , but was slain by him: and the Chronicles of Italy tell us little of that Rinaldo d'Estè who Conquers Jerusalem in Tasso . He might be a Champion of the Church; but we know not that he was so much as present at the Siege.
(P. 1029)

As in the Discourse , Dryden elevates poetry and so himself above the unfortunate accidents of politics, by which a Mezentius triumphs over an Aeneas, and a William over a James. Poetry constitutes an ideal realm, where false pretenders are easily exposed, and real virtue wins out.

In discussing the freedom of poets from chronology, Dryden places the specific issues of James's reign within this general conception of poetry and politics. Virgil "might make this Anacronism , by superseding the mechanick Rules of Poetry, for the same Reason, that a Monarch may dispense with, or suspend his own Laws, when he finds it necessary so to do; especially if those Laws are not altogether fundamental" (p. 1031). Zwicker, explaining the allusion to James's use of his dispensing power to elude the Test Act, sees this as politics "under the guise of poetics."[36] But the discussion of poetics that occasions not only this allusion but the whole Dedication is crucial to Dryden's meaning. He is not merely conducting political commentary under cover of literary criticism, he is defining the relation between poetry and


politics in such a way as to display the untroubled permanence and importance of the one, and the unredeemable and unending folly of the other, and so to advance both his political attack on William and the rehabilitation of his public image.

Though at the beginning of the Dedication the poet appears as the physician of the state, inculcating in the people important lessons and helping to establish political stability, the poetic duty that appears most frequently in Dryden's essay is patriotism. Patriotic celebration is for the poet more important than historic truth: "To love our Native Country, and to study its Benefit and its Glory, to be interessed in its Concerns, is Natural to all Men, and is indeed our common Duty. A Poet makes a farther step; for endeavouring to do honour to it, 'tis allowable in him even to be partial in its Cause" (p. 1028–1029). Indeed, such partiality is for Dryden the most important source of poetic originality. In defending Virgil from the charge of imitating Homer, he employs an analogy of painters whose approach to the same subject—the fall of Troy—differs according to their nationality: "Apelles wou'd have distinguish'd Pyrrhus . . . because he was a Grecian , and he wou'd do Honour to his Country. Raphael , who was an Italian , and descended from the Trojans , wou'd have made Aeneas the Heroe of his piece" (p. 1035). This principle is repeated throughout the Dedication , and in Dryden's concluding discussion of his own translation it provides a means of understanding his place within classic and native literary tradition.

His relation to both traditions is apparent in the claim of unique appreciation of Virgillian diction and prosody that begins his account of the style of his translation: he may not have equalled Virgil, "but I have endeavour'd to follow the Example of my Master: And am the first Englishman , perhaps, who made it his design to copy him in his Numbers, his choice of Words, and his placing them for the sweetness of the sound" (p. 1046). He corroborates this claim with a technical discussion of Latin and English prosody which, however brief in itself, implies that he is drawing on vast resources of knowledge and experience; and he soon refers to the source of this expertise: "I have long had by me the Materials of an English Prosodia , containing all the Mechnical Rules of Versification, wherein I have treated with some exactness of the Feet, the Quantities, and the Pauses." This work would raise English verse above its competitors: "The French and Italians know noth-


ing of the two first; at least their best Poets have not practis'd them"; and it would finally identify the source of sweetness in Denham's famous lines on the Thames. But for a number of reasons—the difficulty of the project, personal modesty, the weakness of his fellow poets, and Mulgrave's advice against it—Dryden will at present keep this work to himself (pp. 1047–1948).

This is not, as we have seen, Dryden's first mention of an English prosodia. In the Discourse of Satire he attributes the lack of such a work to governmental neglect (p. 86). In the Dedication of Examen Poeticum he is even more vehement. He claims that the faults of English poets

with care and observation, might be amended. For after all, our Language is both Copious, Significant, and Majestical; and might be reduc'd into a more harmonious sound. But for want of Publick Encouragement, in this Iron Age , we are so far from making any progress in the improvement of our Tongue, that in few years, we shall Speak and Write as Barbarously as our Neighbours.
(P. 372)

The same complaint about state patronage of the arts in William's England is implicit in his account of English prosody in the Dedication . He could hardly say that he was withholding his work on prosody until he could find sponsorship for its proposals in a government more favorable to him than William's, but the discussion of English and French poetry and patronage that follows suggests as much. The French, who lack genius, enjoy court patronage: "The want of Genius, of which I have accus'd the French , is laid to their Charge by one of their own great Authors. . . . If Rewards cou'd make good Poets, their great Master has not been wanting on his part in his bountiful Encouragements: For he is wise enough to imitate Augustus , if he had a Maro " (p. 1049). The reference to Augustus introduces a digression on the ideally reciprocal relations between poet and sovereign; and this serves to place Dryden's discussion of contemporary England and France within the universal context of such relations that he establishes at the beginning of the essay: "The Triumvir and Proscriber had descended to us in a more hideous form than they now appear, if the Emperour had not taken care to make Friends of him and Horace " (p. 1049). When he returns to England, he suggests the application of this lesson to the modern counterparts of Virgil and Augustus: "But


Heroick Poetry is not the growth of France , as it might be of England , if it were Cultivated. Spencer wanted only to have read the Rules of Bossu : for no Man was ever Born with a greater Genius, or had more Knowledge to support it" (p. 1049). Dryden has just traced his own descent from "Virgil in Latine, and Spencer in English" (p. 1048). The French have patronage but lack genius; the English have genius—and the implication is that they lack the patronage with which to cultivate it, and that Dryden himself, as the successor of Spenser and a follower of Bossu, is the genius who might best have received such patronage. Further, the loss is not only literature's, but the nation's and the king's. England will lose an opportunity of surpassing its cultural rivals France and Italy, and William will descend to posterity without the blessing of his poets.

Throughout the remainder of the Dedication , Dryden continues to define the English literary tradition; its continuity with the classics, its potential superiority to the continental, and his own important function in sustaining and advancing both these qualities. He excuses his high opinion of his work as an expression of patriotism: "What I have said, though it has the face of arrogance, yet is intended for the honour of my Country; and therefore I will boldly own, that this English Translation has more of Virgil's Spirit in it, than either the French , or the Italian "(p. 1051). He praises the accomplishments of other English poets who have attempted parts of Virgil—Mulgrave, Roscommon, Denham, Waller, and Cowley—and hopes that he has equalled their success despite having to bear "the weight of a whole Author on my shoulders." He has followed the great English writers of the past by imitating the Romans: "Spencer and Milton are the nearest in English to Virgil and Horace in the Latine; and I have endeavour'd to form my Stile by imitating their Masters" (p. 1051). He finds evidence for the superiority of English verse to continental in the former's use of triplets and alexandrines:

Spencer is my Example for both these priviledges of English Verses. And Chapman has follow'd him in his Translation of Homer . Mr. Cowley has given in to them after both: And all succeeding Writers after him. I regard them now as the Magna Charta of Heroick Poetry; and am too much an English -man to lose what my Ancestors have


gain'd for me. Let the French and Italians value themselves on their Regularity: Strength and Elevation are our Standard.
(P. 1055)

All of this has a clear application to Dryden's political position in the nineties. By claiming to uphold his country's greatness, he counteracts the taint associated with Jacobitism of treasonous correspondence with the French, and by connecting poetic irregularity with English liberty, exactitude with foreign domination, he not only appropriates the libertarian language of the Williamites but suggests their own association with foreign power and their surrender to William of those native privileges their ancestors had gained.

It is, however, important to remember that Dryden is talking about poetry as well as politics; and he repeatedly suggests that the poetic tradition that sustains English greatness is repressed by malign political influences. The poetry of Cowley, for example, is marred by impurity of diction, "For through the Iniquity of the times, he was forc'd to Travel, at an Age, when, instead of Learning Foreign Languages, he shou'd have studied the Beauties of His Mother Tongue" (p. 1056). Dryden's diction in his translation forms the basis of an extended metaphor that explores the relative value to the nation of contemporary poetic and political achievements:

Words are not so easily Coyn'd as Money: And yet we see that the Credit not only of Banks, but of Exchequers cracks, when little comes in, and much goes out. Virgil call'd upon me in every line for some new word: And I paid so long, that I was almost Banckrupt. . . . What had become of me, if Virgil had tax'd me with another Book? I had certainly been reduc'd to pay the Publick in hammer'd Money for want of Mill'd; that is in the same old Words which I had us'd before: And the Receivers must have been forc'd to have taken any thing, where there was so little to be had.
(P. 1058)

Zwicker has fully described the reference here to the coinage crisis and the public debt caused by William's expensive continental wars.[37] In comparing his own lack of words to England's lack of money, Dryden suggests the consequences for literature of the gov-


ernment's neglect of the arts of peace. When he resumes the metaphor, he gives it a rather different turn:

If sounding Words are not of our growth and Manufacture, who shall hinder me to Import them from a Foreign Country? I carry not out the Treasure of the Nation, which is never to return: but what I bring from Italy , I spend in England : Here it remains, and here it circulates; for if the Coyn be good, it will pass from one hand to another. I Trade both with the Living and the Dead, for the enrichment of our Native Language.
(P. 1059)

Dryden combines an assertion of his own place in poetic tradition with one of the superiority of his poetry, which enriches the nation, to William's policies, which impoverish it. He concludes the discussion with an observation by which he contrasts his patriotic Jacobitism with the treason of the Williamites: poets should "use this License very sparingly, for if too many Foreign Words are pour'd in upon us, it looks as if they were design'd not to assist the Natives, but to Conquer them" (p. 1060). Dryden uses foreign assistance to advance the glory of England; his opponents bring it into inglorious subjection.

The set of topics that inform the Discourse and Dedication make a final appearance in the Preface to Fables , where the presence of Chaucer allows Dryden to display even more clearly his poetic status and his place in the English tradition. He claims to have given Ovid's fables

the same Turn of Verse, which they had in the Original; and this, I may say without vanity, is not the Talent of every Poet: He who has arriv'd the nearest to it, is the Ingenious and Learned Sandys , the best Versifier of the former Age; if I may properly call it by that Name, which was the former Part of this concluding Century. For Spencer and Fairfax both flourish'd in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth : Great Masters in our Language; and who saw much farther into the Beauties of our Numbers, than those who immediately followed them. Milton was the Poetical Son of Spencer , and Mr. Waller of Fairfax ; for we have our Lineal Descents and Clans, as well as other Families: Spencer more than once insinuates, that the Soul of Chaucer was transfus'd into his Body; and that he was begotten by him Two hundred years after his Decease. Milton has acknowledg'd to me, that Spencer was his Orig-


inal; and many besides my self have heard our famous Waller own, that he deriv'd the Harmony of his Numbers from the Godfrey of Bulloign , which was turn'd into English by Mr. Fairfax .
(P. 1445)

Dryden appears only at the beginning of this account, as the superior of Sandys; but he would surely forgive us for seeing him as the rightful heir of both the traditions he describes.

His repeated expressions of admiration for Chaucer emphasize again his participation in native tradition and the patriotism to which he is obliged as an English poet. He translates Chaucer "to promote the Honour of my Native Country" and confesses partiality for "my Country-man, and Predecessor in the Laurel" (p. 1445). He holds Chaucer "in the same Degree of Veneration as the Grecians held Homer , or the Romans Virgil " (p. 1452). He protests that "no Man ever had, or can have, a greater Veneration for Chaucer , than my self" (p. 1459). He considers the Knight's Tale "perhaps not much inferiour to the Ilias or the Aeneis " (p. 1460). His modifications of Chaucer, far from suggesting any disrespect, are the effect of his close identification with his great predecessor:

I have not ty'd my self to a Literal Translation; but have often omitted what I judg'd unnecessary, or not of Dignity enough to appear in the Company of better Thoughts. I have presum'd farther in some Places, and added somewhat of my own where I thought my Author was deficient, and had not given his Thoughts their true Lustre, for want of Words is the Beginning of our Language. And to this I was the more embolden'd, because (if I may be permitted to say it of my self) I found I had a Soul congenial to his, and that I had been conversant in the same Studies. Another Poet, in another Age, may take the same Liberty with my Writings; if at least they live long enough to deserve Correction.
(P. 1457)

Despite the humility of the last clause, Dryden clearly asserts his place in an English tradition extending far into both the past and the future.

Further, he brings Chaucer into the same system of patronage and service that Virgil enjoyed and from which Dryden had been wrongfully excluded:


He was employ'd abroad, and favour'd by Edward the Third, Richard the Second, and Henry the Fourth, and was Poet, as I suppose, to all Three of them. In Richard's Time, I doubt, he was a little dipt in the Rebellion of the Commons; and being Brother-in-Law to John of Ghant , it is no wonder if he follow'd the Fortunes of that Family; and was well with Henry the Fourth when he had depos'd his Predecessor. Neither is it to be admir'd, that Henry , who was a wise as well as a valiant Prince, who claim'd by Succession, and was sensible that his Title was not sound, but was rightfully in Mortimer , who had married the Heir of York ; it was not to be admir'd, I say, if that great Politician should be pleas'd to have the greatest Wit of those Times in his Interests, and to be the Trumpet of his Praises. Augustus had given him the Example, by the Advice of Maecenas , who recommended Virgil and Horace to him; whose Praises help'd to make him Popular while he was alive, and after his Death have made him Precious to Posterity.
(P. 1453)

Augustus and Henry IV, conscious that their titles were not sound, entrusted their reputations to Virgil and Chaucer; William III had ignored Dryden's conciliatory gestures in King Arthur and Cleomenes , and so missed an opportunity that his wiser predecessors had eagerly cultivated. The loss falls more heavily on William than on Dryden; as a poet of established reputation writing in the great tradition, as the English Virgil, the modern Chaucer, his position with posterity is assured, and his view of English politics will survive when the shams of William's supporters are forgotten.


4 The Poet, Not the Man: Poetry and Prose, 1692–1700

Preferred Citation: Bywaters, David. Dryden in Revolutionary England. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.