John Dryden

(1631 - 1700 / England)

To The Lord Chancellor Hyde. Presented On New-Year's Day, 1662 - Poem by John Dryden

My Lord,
While flattering crowds officiously appear
To give themselves, not you, an happy year,
And by the greatness of their presents prove
How much they hope, but not how well they love,—
The muses, who your early courtship boast,
Though now your flames are with their beauty lost,
Yet watch their time, that, if you have forgot
They were your mistresses, the world may not.
Decayed by time and wars, they only prove
Their former beauty by your former love;
And now present, as ancient ladies do,
That courted long, at length are forced to woo:
For still they look on you with such kind eyes,
As those, that see the Church's sovereign rise,
From their own order chose, in whose high state
They think themselves the second choice of fate.
When our great monarch into exile went,
Wit and religion suffered banishment.
Thus once, when Troy was wrapped in fire and smoke,
The helpless gods their burning shrines forsook;
They with the vanquished prince and party go,
And leave their temples empty to the foe.
At length the Muses stand, restored again
To that great charge which nature did ordain;
And their loved druids seem revived by fate,
While you dispense the laws, and guide the state.
The nation's soul, our monarch, does dispense,
Through you, to us his vital influence:
You are the channel, where those spirits flow,
And work them higher as to us they go.
In open prospect nothing bounds our eye,
Until the earth seems joined unto the sky:
So in this hemisphere, our utmost view
Is only bounded by our king and you;
Our sight is limited where you are joined,
And beyond that no farther heaven can find.
So well your virtues do with his agree,
That though your orbs of different greatness be,
Yet both are for each other's use disposed,
His to inclose, and yours to be inclosed:
Nor could another in your room have been,
Except an emptiness had come between.
Well may he, then, to you his cares impart,
And share his burden where he shares his heart.
In you his sleep still wakes; his pleasures find
Their share of business in your labouring mind.
So, when the weary sun his place resigns,
He leaves his light, and by reflection shines.
Justice, that sits and frowns where public laws
Exclude soft mercy from a private cause,
In your tribunal most herself does please;
There only smiles because she lives at ease;
And, like young David, finds her strength the more,
When disencumbered from those arms she wore.
Heaven would your royal master should exceed
Most in that virtue, which we most did need;
And his mild father (who too late did find
All mercy vain but what with power was joined)
His fatal goodness left to fitter times,
Not to increase, but to absolve our crimes:
But when the heir of this vast treasure knew
How large a legacy was left to you,
(Too great for any subject to retain)
He wisely tied it to the crown again;
Yet, passing through your hands it gathers more,
As streams, through mines, bear tincture of their ore.
While emp'ric politicians use deceit,
Hide what they give, and cure but by a cheat;
You boldly show that skill which they pretend,
And work by means as noble as your end;
Which should you veil, we might unwind the clue,
As men do nature, till we came to you.
And, as the Indies were not found before
Those rich perfumes, which, from the happy shore,
The winds upon their balmy wings conveyed,
Whose guilty sweetness first their world betrayed;
So, by your counsels, we are brought to view
A rich and undiscovered world in you.
By you our monarch does that fame assure,
Which kings must have, or cannot live secure:
For prosperous princes gain their subjects' heart,
Who love that praise in which themselves have part.
By you he fits those subjects to obey,
As heaven's eternal monarch does convey
His power unseen, and man, to his designs,
By his bright ministers, the stars, inclines.
Our setting sun, from his declining seat,
Shot beams of kindness on you, not of heat;
And, when his love was bounded in a few
That were unhappy, that they might be true,
Made you the favourite of his last sad times,
That is, a sufferer in his subjects' crimes.
Thus, those first favours you received, were sent,
Like heaven's rewards, in earthly punishment:
Yet fortune, conscious of your destiny,
E'en then took care to lay you softly by,
And wrapped your fate among her precious things,
Kept fresh to be unfolded with your king's.
Shown all at once, you dazzled so our eyes,
As new-born Pallas did the gods surprise,
When, springing forth from Jove's new-closing wound,
She struck the warlike spear into the ground;
Which sprouting leaves did suddenly inclose,
And peaceful olives shaded as they rose.
How strangely active are the arts of peace,
Whose restless motions less than war's do cease!
Peace is not freed from labour, but from noise;
And war more force, but not more pains employs.
Such is the mighty swiftness of your mind,
That, like the earth, it leaves our sense behind,
While you so smoothly turn and roll our sphere,
That rapid motion does but rest appear.
For, as in nature's swiftness, with the throng
Of flying orbs while ours is borne along,
All seems at rest to the deluded eye,
Moved by the soul of the same harmony;
So, carried on by your unwearied care,
We rest in peace, and yet in motion share.
Let envy, then, those crimes within you see,
From which the happy never must be free;
(Envy, that does with misery reside,
The joy and the revenge of ruined pride.)
Think it not hard, if, at so cheap a rate,
You can secure the constancy of fate,
Whose kindness sent what does their malice seem,
By lesser ills the greater to redeem;
Nor can we this weak shower a tempest call,
But drops of heat that in the sunshine fall.
You have already wearied Fortune so,
She cannot farther be your friend or foe;
But sits all breathless, and admires to feel
A fate so weighty, that it stops her wheel.
In all things else above our humble fate,
Your equal mind yet swells not into state,
But, like some mountain in those happy isles,
Where in perpetual spring young nature smiles,
Your greatness shows; no horror to affright,
But trees for shade, and flowers to court the sight:
Sometimes the hill submits itself a while
In small descents, which do its height beguile;
And sometimes mounts, but so as billows play,
Whose rise not hinders, but makes short our way.
Your brow, which does no fear of thunder know,
Sees rolling tempests vainly beat below;
And, like Olympus' top, the impression wears
Of love and friendship writ in former years.
Yet unimpaired with labours, or with time,
Your age but seems to a new youth to climb.
Thus heavenly bodies do our time beget,
And measure change, but share no part of it.
And still it shall without a weight increase,
Like this new-year, whose motions never cease:
For, since the glorious course you have begun
Is led by Charles, as that is by the sun,
It must both weightless and immortal prove,
Because the centre of it is above.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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