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UPON THE DEATH
OF HIS LATE HIGHNESS, OLIVER,
LORD PROTECTOR OF ENGLAND, SCOTLAND,
This is the third poem of Dryden, in order of composition, the two of earlier date being that on the Death of Lord Hastings and the lines addressed to John Hoddesdon. This is Dryden's first poem of any pretension, and was written when he was twenty. seven, towards the end of 1658. The date on the title-page of the first edition is 1659. There are two editions of that year, the first being probably that in "Three Poems upon the Death of his late Highness, Oliver, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, written by Mr. Edm. Waller, Mr. Jo. Dryden, Mr. Sprat of Oxford: London, Printed by William Wilson, and are to be sold in Well-yard, near Little St. Bartholomew's Hospital : 1659." Dryden's poem is printed first in this collection, with the separate heading of “Heroic Stanzas, consecrated to the glorious Memory of his most Serene and Renowned Highness, Oliver, late Lord Protector of this Commonwealth, &c. written after the celebration of his Funeral." In the other edition of 1659, which has the same publisher's name, the poem is printed by itself. The titles given here are verbatim from this edition, which was probably revised by Dryden, and which may be presumed to be later than the other, as the spelling is more modern. There is no difference between the two, except of spelling and punctuation. The “ Three Poems” were reprinted in 1682, without variation, except in the title-page, where “late Usurper” was substituted for the honours before given to Cromwell's name. This reprint naturally did not proceed from Dryden or any friend of his: he had then lately published " Absalom and Achitophel" and " The Medal," and was in full swing of fame and favour as the Court's champion. In the reign of William, Jacob Tonson, Dryden's publisher of his later years, re-issued the poem, in 1695, from the separate edition of 1659. Il afterwards appeared in the first volume of the “ State Poems," with several corruptions of the text, all or some of which are to be found in all subsequent editions. The corrupt copy of the “ State Poems” was followed in the edition of the “Miscellany Poems ” of 1716 ; and in that and in subsequent editions of the poem a few more mistakes crept in. In Scott's edition, most but not all of these corruptions were corrected.
CONSECRATED TO THE MEMORY OF HIS HIGHNESS, OLIVER,
LATE LORD PROTECTOR OF THIS COMMONWEALTH, &c.
WRITTEN AFTER THE CELEBRATING OF HIS FUNERAL.
And now 'tis time ; for their officious haste
Who would before have borne him to the sky,
Did let too soon the sacred eagle fly.*
Though our best notes are treason to his fame
Joined with the loud applause of public voice,
Hath rendered too authentic by its choice;
Though in his praise no arts can liberal be,
Since they, whose Muses have the highest flown, men
But do an act of friendship to their own ;
Yet 'tis our duty and our interest too
Such monuments as we can build to raise, Lest all the world prevent what we should do . And claim a title in him by their praise.
+ Cromwell died September 3, 1658; his funeral obsequies were celebrated with great splendour
vember 27 The opening lines are intended to justify the poet's having waited till after the funeral, and do not refer, as Scott supposes, to premature reports of Cromwell's death. At the close of the funeral ceremonies of a Roman emperor, which were regarded as his consecration or apotheosis, an eagle was let fly from the top of the building in which his effigy was burnt; and the bird mounting to the skies was thought to carry the deceased emperor's soul to heaven. Herodianus minutely describes these ceremonies in the 4th Book of his “Roman Histories," on occasion of the consecration of the Emperor Severus.