By John Dryden
Farewell, too little and too lately known,
Whom I began to think and call my own;
For sure our souls were near ally’d; and thine
Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.
One common note on either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorr’d alike:
To the same goal did both our studies drive,
The last set out the soonest did arrive.
Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
While his young friend perform’d and won the race.
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
When poets are by too much force betray’d.
Thy generous fruits, though gather’d ere their prime
Still show’d a quickness; and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
Once more, hail and farewell; farewell thou young,
But ah too short, Marcellus of our tongue;
Thy brows with ivy, and with laurels bound;
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.
Born in Northamptonshire into a political Puritan family, poet, playwright, and critic John Dryden was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Dryden’s poetry, often shaped by heroic couplets, is steeped in classical and scientific references even as it is grounded in the political landscape of his time. Upon Charles II’s return to power in 1660, Dryden published “Astraea Redux,” a long poem in heroic couplets welcoming the king, the first of many public poems in support of the monarchy. He was appointed poet laureate in 1668, and royal historiographer in 1670.
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