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This was the fruit the private spirit brought,

Occasioned by great zeal and little thought.
While crowds unlearned, with rude devotion warm,
About the sacred viands buzz and swarm ;
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood
And turns to maggots what was meant for food. * to'
A thousand daily sects rise up and die,
A thousand more the perished race supply :
So all we make of Heaven's discovered will
Is not to have it or to use it ill.
The danger's much the same, on several shelves 425
If others wreck us or we wreck ourselves.

What then remains but, waving each extreme,
The tides of ignorance and pride to stem?
Neither so rich a treasure to forgo
Nor proudly seek beyond our power to know?

Faith is not built on disquisitions vain ; :
The things we must believe are few and plain :
But since men will believe more than they need
And every man will make himself a creed,
In doubtful questions 'tis the safest way. L-

To learn what unsuspected ancients say;
For 'tis not likely we should higher soar.!
In search of Heaven than all the Church before ;
Wor can we be deceived, unless we see ·
The Scripture and the Fathers disagree.

If after all they stand suspected still,
(For no man's faith depends upon his will,)
'Tis some relief, that points not clearly known
Without much hazard may be let alone ;
And after hearing what our Church can say,

If still our reason runs another way,
SThat private reason 'tis more just to curb

Than by disputes the public peace disturb.
For points obscure are of small use to learn
But common quiet is mankind's concern.

Thus have I made my own opinions clear,
Yet neither praise expect nor censure fear;
And this unpolished rugged verse I chose
As fittest for discourse and nearest prose;
For while from sacred truth I do not swerve,

Tom Sternhold's † or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will serve..

* A passage of "Hudibras” was probably in Dryden's mind:

“So, ere the storm of war broke out,

Religion spawned a various rout
Of petulant capricious sects,
The maggots of corrupted texts."

Part 3, canto 2, line 7. + The versifier of the Psalms with Hopkins, See Dryden's contemptuous allusion to this! metrical version of the Psalms in "Absalom and Achitophel,” part 2, line 403.






"Fortunati ambo, si quid imea carmina possunt,
Nulla dies unquam memori vos eximet ævo !"

Virg. En. ix. 417


Charles II. died on February 6, 1685. This poem was published about a month after : the date, March 9, is in manuscript on the title-page in the copy of the first edition in the British Museum, and that was probably the day of publication. Dryden's name and description of himself on the title-page have been printed here with the title of this poem, as his Virgilian motto is connected with the words, “Servant to his late Majesty and to the present King." He had not announced his official position on the title-page of "Religio Laici,nor did he afterwards on that of Britannia Rediviva," the poem written to celebrate the birth of a son to James II. ; in both those title-pages it is simply, Written by Mr. Dryden.Absalom and Achitophel " and the Satires which succeeded it were published anonymously. The title-pages of Annus Mirabilis" and other preceding poems, published before he was Poet Laureat and Historiographer Royal, had borne the author's name as John Dryden, Esquire."

A second edition of this poem appeared in the course of 1685. There were some changes of the text in the second edition, which are mostly improvements, and which, it may be presumed, were all authorised. The poem was next reprinted, after an in. terval of sixteen years, in the folio vo'ume of Dryden's Poems, published in the year after his death, 1701, by Jacob Tonson. It is remarkable that passages, changed in the second edition from the first, reappear in this third edition as they stood in the first: and there is a new altemtion in this third edition which deserves special mention. The two lines in the description of Charles's last moments, 187, 8, which stand in the two editions of 1685.

** And he who most performed and promised less,

Even Short himself forsook the unequal strife," were changed in Tonson's folio volume of 1701 into

And they who most performed and promised less,

Even Short and Hobbes forsook the unequal strife." Hobbes was a surgeon of eminence at the time of Dryden's death, and had attended Dryden in his last illness ; but there is no other known mention of him among the medical men who attended the bedside of Charles II. This is a very suspicious change of the text in Tonson's volume of 1701. The text of 1701 was copied in the edition of the "Miscellany Poems" of 1716 and in Broughton's edition of 1743. The text of the second edition of 1685 is followed here. Tonson's folio volume is printed generally inaccurately.


Thus long my grief has kept me dumb:

Sure there's a lethargy in mighty woe, :

Tears stand congealed and cannot flow,
And the sad soul retires into her inmost room.
Tears for a stroke foreseen afford relief;

But, unprovided for a sudden blow,
Like Niobe we marble grow,

And petrify with grief.
Our British heaven was all serene,

No threatening cloud was nigh,
Not the least wrinkle to deform the sky;

We lived as unconcerned and happily
As the first age in Nature's golden scene ;

Supine amidst our flowing store,
We slept securely and we dreamt of more,

When suddenly the thunder-clap was heard,
It took us unprepared and out of guard, *

Already lost before we feared.
The amazing news of Charles at once were spread,
At once the general voice declared

Our gracious Prince was dead. +
No sickness known before, no slow disease,
To soften grief by just degrees ;
But, like an hurricane on Indian seas,

The tempest rose,
An unexpected burst of woes,
With scarce a breathing space betwixt,
This now I becalmed, and perishing the next.
As if great Atlas from his height
Should sink beneath his heavenly weight,

* "Out of guard," a French phrase, hors de garde.

+ Charles II, was taken suddenly ill on the morning of Monday, February 2, 1685, and on that forenoon immediate death was believed inevitable. But he rallied, and on the morning of the 5th his physicians pronounced him out of danger. There was a relapse the same evening : and on Friday, February 6, he died. Lord Macaulay's elaborate account of Charles's last moments should be read with this poem, I Now, a substantive, for moment. This moment becalmed, and perishing the next."

“ Your good or ill, your infamy or fame,

And all the colour of your life depends
On this important now."

Spanish Friar, act 4, sc. 2.
"She vanished, we can scarcely say she died,
For but a now did heaven and earth divide."

Eleanora, 305.

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