Category Archives: John Dryden (1631-1700)

John Dryden (1631-1700)

John Dryden was a both a masterful playwright and poet. Enjoy the following taste of his work, including two satires depicting contemporaries as Biblical villains/fools.

From Cymon and Iphigenia, Lines on a Paid Militia

The country rings around with loud alarms,
And raw in the fields the rude militia swarms;
Mouths without hands; maintained at vast expense,
In peace a charge, in war a weak defense:
Stout once a month they march, a blustering band,
And ever, but in times of need, at hand.
This was the morn when, issuing on the guard,
Drawn up in rank and file they stood prepared
Of seeming arms to make a short essay,
Then hasten to be drunk, the business of the day.

Ah, How Sweet

Ah, how sweet it is to love!
Ah, how gay is young desire!
And what pleasing pains we prove
When we first approach love’s fire!
Pains of love are sweeter far
Than all other pleasures are.

Sighs which are but lovers blown
Do but gently leave the heart:
Ee’n the tears they shed alone
Cure, like trickling balm, their smart.
Lovers, when they lose their breath,
Bleed away in easy death.

Love and Time with reverence use,
Treat them like a parting friend;
Nor the golden gifts refuse
Which in youth sincere they send:
For each year their price is more,
And they less simple than before.

Love, like spring-tides full and high,
Swells in every youthful vein;
But each tide does less supply,
Till they quite shrink in again.
If a flow in age appear,
‘Tis but rain, and runs not clear.


Some of their chiefs were princes of the land;
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand;
A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind’s epitome:
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong;
Was everything by starts, and nothing long;
But in the course of one revolving moon,
Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon;
Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.
Blest madman, who could every hour employ,
With something new to wish or to enjoy!
Railing and praising were his usual themes;
And both, to show his judgment, in extremes:
So over-violent or over-civil,
That every man with him was God or Devil.
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
Nothing went unrewarded but desert.
Beggared by fools, whom still he found too late;
He had his jest, and they had his estate.
He laughed himself from court, then sought relief
By forming parties, but could ne’er be chief;
For spite of him, the weight of business well
On Absalom, and wise Achitophel.
Thus, wicked but of will, of means bereft,
He left no faction, but of that was left.


Now stop your noses, readers, all and some,
For here’s a tun of midnight work to come.
Og, from a treason-tavern rolling home
Round as a globe, and liquored every chink,
Goodly and great he sails behind his link:
With all this bulk there’s nothing lost in Og,
For every inch that is not fool is rogue;
A monstrous mass of foul, corrupted matter,
As all the devils had spewed to make the batter.
The midwife laid her hand on his thick skull,
With this prophetic blessing,— “Be thou dull;
Drink, swear, and roar, forbear no lewd delight,
Fit for thy bulk; do anything but write:
Thou art of lasting make, like thoughtless men;
A strong nativity—but for the pen!
Eat opium, mingle arsenic in thy drink,
Still thou mayst live, avoiding pen and ink”:
I see, I see, ‘tis counsel given in vain,
For treason botched in rhyme will be thy bane;
Rhyme is the rock on which thou art to wreck,
‘Tis fatal to thy fame and to thy neck;
Why should thy meter good King David blast!
A psalm of his will surely be thy last.
A double noose thou on thy neck dost pull
For writing treason, and for writing dull.
To die for faction is a common evil,
But to be hanged for nonsense is the devil.