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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Britannia Rediviva:
A Poem on the Birth of the Prince
 
Born on the 10th of June, 1688.

OUR 1 Vows are heard betimes! and Heaven takes care
To grant, before we can conclude the Pray’r:
Preventing angels met it half the way,
And sent us back to Praise, who came to Pray.
  Just on the Day, when the high mounted Sun        5
Did farthest in his Northern Progress run,
He bended forward and ev’n stretched the Sphere
Beyond the limits of the lengthen’d year;
To view a Brighter Sun in Britaine Born;
That was the Bus’ness of his longest Morn,        10
The Glorious Object seen, t’was time to turn.
  Departing Spring cou’d only stay to shed
Her bloomy beauties on the Genial Bed,
But left the manly Summer in her sted,
With timely Fruit the longing Land to chear        15
And to fulfill the promise of the year.
Betwixt two Seasons comes th’ Auspicious Heir,
This Age to blossom, and the next to bear.
  Last solemn Sabbath 2 saw the Church attend,
The Paraclete in fiery Pomp descend;        20
But when his wondrous Octave 3 rowl’d again,
He brought a Royal Infant in his Train,
So great a Blessing to so good a King
None but th’ Eternal Comforter cou’d bring.
  Or did the Mighty Trinity conspire,        25
As once, in Council to Create our Sire?
It seems as if they sent the New-Born Guest
To wait on the Procession of their feast;
And on their Sacred Anniverse decree’d
To stamp their Image on the promis’d Seed.        30
Three Realms united, and on One bestow’d
An Emblem of their Mystick Union show’d:
The Mighty Trine the Triple Empire shar’d,
As every Person wou’d have One to guard.
  Hail, son of Pray’rs! by holy Violence        35
Drawn down from Heav’n; but long be banish’d thence,
And late to thy Paternal Skyes retire:
To mend our Crimes whole Ages wou’d require,
To change th’ inveterate habit of our Sins,
And finish what thy Godlike Sire begins.        40
Kind Heav’n, to make us English-Men again,
No less can give us than a Patriarchs Reign.
  The Sacred Cradle to your Charge receive
Ye Seraphs, and by turns the Guard relieve;
Thy Father’s Angel and Thy Father joyn        45
To keep Possession, and secure the Line;
But long defer the Honours of thy Fate,
Great may they be like his, like his be late, 4
That James this running Century may view,
And give his Son an Auspice to the New.        50
  Our wants exact at least that moderate stay:
For see the Dragon 5 winged on his way,
To watch the Travail 6 and devour the Prey.
Or, if Allusions may not rise so high,
Thus, when Alcides rais’d his Infant Cry,        55
The Snakes besieg’d his Young Divinity:
But vainly with their forked Tongues they threat;
For Opposition makes a Heroe Great.
To needful Succour all the good will run;
And Jove assert the Godhead of his Son.        60
  O still repining at your present state,
Grudging your selves the Benefits of Fate,
Look up, and read in Characters of Light
A Blessing sent you in your own Despight.
The Manna falls, yet that Cœlestial Bread        65
Like Jews you munch, and murmure while you feed.
May not your Fortune be like theirs, Exil’d,
Yet forty Years to wander in the Wild:
Or if it be, may Moses live at least
To lead you to the Verge of promis’d Rest!        70
  Tho’ Poets are not Prophets, to foreknow
What Plants will take the Blite, and what will grow,
By tracing Heav’n his Footsteps may be found;
Behold! how awfully He walks the round!
God is abroad, and, wondrous in his ways,        75
The Rise of Empires, and their Fall surveys;
More (might I say) than with an usual eye,
He sees his bleeding Church in Ruine lye,
And hears the Souls of Saints beneath his Altar cry.
Already has He lifted high, the Sign, 7        80
Which Crown’d the Conquering Arms of Constantine:
The Moon 8 grows pale at that presaging sight,
And half her Train of Stars have lost their Light.
  Behold another Sylvester, 9 to bless
The Sacred Standard, and secure Success;        85
Large of his Treasures, of a Soul so great
As fills and crowds his Universal Seat.
  Now view at home a second Constantine; 10
(The former too, was of the Brittish line)
Has not his healing Balm your Breaches clos’d,        90
Whose Exile many sought, and few oppos’d?
Or did not Heav’n by its Eternal Doom
Permit those Evils, that this Good might come?
So manifest, that ev’n the Moon-ey’d Sects
See Whom and What this Providence protects.        95
Methinks, had we within our Minds no more
Than that One Shipwrack on the Fatal Ore, 11
That only thought may make us think again,
What Wonders God reserves for such a Reign.
To dream that Chance his Preservation wrought, 12        100
Were to think Noah was preserv’d for nought;
Or the surviving Eight were not design’d
To people Earth, and to restore their Kind.
  When humbly on the Royal Babe we gaze,
The Manly Lines of a Majestick face        105
Give awful joy: ’Tis Paradise to look
On the fair Frontispiece of Nature’s Book;
If the first opening Page so charms the sight,
Think how th’ unfolded Volume will delight!
See how the Venerable Infant lyes        110
In early Pomp; how through the Mother’s Eyes
The Father’s Soul with an undaunted view
Looks out, and takes our Homage as his due.
See on his future Subjects how He smiles,
Nor meanly flatters, nor with craft beguiles;        115
But with an open face, as on his Throne,
Assures our Birthrights and assumes his own.
  Born in broad Day-light, that th’ ungrateful Rout
May find no room for a remaining doubt:
Truth, which it self is light, does darkness shun,        120
And the true Eaglet safely dares the Sun.
  Fain 13 wou’d the Fiends have made a dubious birth,
Loth to confess the Godhead cloathed in Earth.
But sickned after all their baffled lyes,
To find an Heir apparent of the Skyes:        125
Abandon’d to despair, still may they grudge,
And, owning not the Saviour, prove the Judge.
  Not Great Æneas 14 stood in plainer Day,
When, the dark mantling Mist dissolv’d away,
He to the Tyrians shew’d his sudden face,        130
Shining with all his Goddess Mother’s Grace:
For She her self had made his Count’nance bright,
Breath’d honour on his eyes, and her own Purple Light.
  If our Victorious Edward, 15 as they say,
Gave Wales a Prince on that Propitious Day,        135
Why may not Years revolving with his Fate
Produce his Like, but with a longer Date?
One who may carry to a distant shore
The Terrour that his Fam’d Forefather bore.
But why shou’d James or his Young Hero stay        140
For slight Presages of a Name or Day?
We need no Edward’s Fortune to adorn
That happy moment when our Prince was born:
Our Prince adorns his Day, and Ages hence
Shall wish his Birth-day for some future Prince. 16        145
  Great Michael, Prince of all th’ Ætherial Hosts,
And what e’re In-born Saints our Britain boasts;
And thou, th’ adopted Patron of our Isle, 17
With chearful Aspects on this Infant smile:
The Pledge of Heav’n, which dropping from above        150
Secures our Bliss and reconciles his Love.
  Enough of Ills our dire Rebellion wrought,
When, to the Dregs, we drank the bitter draught;
Then airy Atoms did in Plagues conspire,
Nor did th’ avenging Angel yet retire,        155
But purg’d our still encreasing Crimes with Fire.
Then perjur’d Plots, the still impending Test,
And worse; but Charity conceals the Rest:
Here stop the Current of the sanguine flood;
Require not, Gracious God, thy Martyrs Blood;        160
But let their dying pangs, their living toyl,
Spread a Rich harvest through their Native Soil:
A Harvest ripening for another Reign,
Of which this Royal Babe may reap the Grain.
  Enough of Early Saints one womb has giv’n;        165
Enough encreas’d the Family of Heav’n:
Let them for his and our Attonement go;
And Reigning blest above, leave him to Rule below.
  Enough already has the Year foreslow’d 18
His wonted Course, the Seas have overflow’d,        170
The Meads were floated with a weeping Spring,
And frighten’d birds in Woods forgot to sing;
The Strong-limb’d Steed beneath his harness faints,
And the same shiv’ring sweat his Lord attaints.
When will the Minister of Wrath give o’re?        175
Behold him; at Araunah’s 19 threshing-floor.
He stops, and seems to sheathe his flaming brand;
Pleas’d with burnt Incense, from our David’s hand.
David has bought the Jebusites abode,
And rais’d an Altar to the Living God.        180
  Heav’n, to reward him, make his Joys sincere;
No future Ills, nor Accidents appear
To sully and pollute the Sacred Infants Year.
Five Months to Discord and Debate were giv’n:
He sanctifies the yet remaining Sev’n.        185
Sabbath of Months! henceforth in Him be blest,
And prelude to the Realms perpetual Rest!
  Let his Baptismal Drops for us attone;
Lustrations for Offences not his own. 20
Let Conscience, which is Int’rest ill disguis’d,        190
In the same Font be cleans’d, and all the Land Baptiz’d.
  Un-nam’d 21 as yet; at least unknown to Fame:
Is there a strife in Heav’n about his Name?
Where every Famous Predecessour vies,
And makes a Faction for it in the Skies?        195
Or must it be reserv’d to thought alone?
Such was the Sacred Tetragrammaton. 22
Things worthy silence must not be reveal’d:
Thus the true Name of Rome 23 was kept conceal’d,
To shun the Spells, and Sorceries of those        200
Who durst her Infant Majesty oppose.
But when his tender strength in time shall rise
To dare ill Tongues, and fascinating eyes;
This Isle, which hides the little Thund’rer’s Fame,
Shall be too narrow to contain his Name:        205
Th’ Artillery of Heav’n shall make him known;
Crete 24 could not hold the God, when Jove was grown.
  As Joves Increase, 25 who from his Brain was born,
Whom Arms and Arts did equally adorn,
Free of the Breast was bred, whose milky taste        210
Minerva’s Name to Venus had debas’d;
So this Imperial Babe rejects the Food
That mixes Monarchs with Plebeian blood:
Food that his inborn Courage might controul,
Extinguish all the Father in his Soul,        215
And for his Estian Race, and Saxon Strain,
Might re-produce some second Richard’s Reign.
Mildness he shares from both his Parents blood:
But Kings too tame are despicably good:
Be this the Mixture of this Regal Child,        220
By Nature Manly, but by Virtue Mild.
  Thus far the Furious Transport of the News
Had to Prophetick Madness fir’d the Muse;
Madness ungovernable, uninspir’d,
Swift to foretel whatever she desir’d;        225
Was it for me the dark Abyss to tread,
And read the Book which Angels cannot read?
How was I punish’d when the sudden blast 26
The Face of Heav’n and our young Sun o’recast!
Fame, the swift Ill, encreasing as she rowl’d,        230
Disease, Despair, and Death at three reprises told:
At three insulting strides she stalk’d the Town,
And, like Contagion, struck the Loyal down.
Down fell the winnow’d Wheat; but mounted high,
The Whirl-wind bore the Chaff, and hid the Sky.        235
Here black Rebellion shooting from below,
(As Earth’s Gigantick brood by moments grow 27)
And here the Sons of God are petrify’d with Woe:
An Appoplex of Grief! so low were driv’n
The Saints, as hardly to defend their Heav’n.        240
  As, when pent Vapours run their hollow round,
Earth-quakes, which are Convulsions of the ground,
Break bellowing forth, and no Confinement brook,
Till the Third settles what the Former shook;
Such heavings had our Souls; till, slow and late,        245
Our life with his return’d, and Faith prevail’d on Fate.
By Prayers the mighty Blessing was implor’d,
To Pray’rs was granted, and by Pray’rs restor’d.
  So e’re the Shunamite 28 a Son conceiv’d,
The Prophet promis’d, and the Wife believ’d;        250
A Son was sent, the Son so much desir’d,
But soon upon the Mother’s Knees expir’d.
The troubled Seer approach’d the mournful Door,
Ran, prayed, and sent his Past’ral-Staff before,
Then stretch’d his Limbs upon the Child, and mourn’d,        255
Till Warmth, and breath, and a new Soul return’d.
  Thus Mercy stretches out her hand, and saves
Desponding Peter sinking in the Waves.
  As when a sudden Storm of Hail and Rain
Beats to the ground the yet unbearded Grain.        260
Think not the hopes of Harvest are destroy’d
On the flat Field, and on the naked void;
The light unloaded stem, from tempest free’d,
Will raise the youthful honours of his head;
And, soon restor’d by native vigour, bear        265
The timely product of the bounteous Year.
  Nor yet conclude all fiery Trials past,
For Heav’n will exercise us to the last;
Sometimes will check us in our full carreer,
With doubtful blessings, and with mingled fear;        270
That, still depending on his daily Grace,
His every mercy for an alms may pass;
With sparing hands will Dyet us to good;
Preventing Surfeits of our pampered blood.
So feeds the Mother-bird her craving young        275
With little Morsels, and delays ’em long.
  True, this last blessing was a Royal Feast,
But where’s the Wedding Garment on the Guest?
Our Manners, as Religion were a Dream,
Are such as teach the Nations to Blaspheme.        280
In Lusts we wallow, and with Pride we swell,
And Injuries, with Injuries repell;
Prompt to Revenge, not daring to forgive,
Our Lives unteach the Doctrine we believe;
Thus Israel Sind, impenitently hard,        285
And vainly thought the present Ark their Guard; 29
But when the haughty Philistims appear,
They fled abandoned to their Foes and fear;
Their God was absent, though his Ark was there.
Ah! lest our Crimes shou’d snatch this Pledge away,        290
And make our Joys the blessing of a day!
For we have sin’d him hence, and that he lives.
God to his promise, not our practice, gives.
Our Crimes wou’d soon weigh down the guilty Scale,
But James, and Mary, and the Church prevail.        295
Nor Amaleck 30 can rout the Chosen Bands,
While Hur and Aaron hold up Moses hands.
  By living well, let us secure his days;
Mod’rate in hopes, and humble in our ways.
No force the Free-born Spirit can constrain,        300
But Charity, and great Examples gain.
Forgiveness is our thanks, for such a day;
’Tis Godlike God in his own Coyn to pay.
  But you, Propitious Queen, translated here
From your mild Heav’n to rule our rugged Sphere,        305
Beyond the Sunny walks and circling Year.
You, who your Native Clymate have bereft
Of all the Virtues, and the Vices left;
Whom Piety, and Beauty make their boast,
Though Beautiful is well in Pious lost;        310
So lost as Star-light is dissolv’d away,
And melts into the brightness of the day,
Or Gold about the Regal Diadem,
Lost to improve the lustre of the Gem.
What can we add to your Triumphant Day?        315
Let the Great Gift the beautious Giver pay;
For shou’d our thanks awake the rising Sun,
And lengthen, as his latest shadows run,
That, tho’ the longest day, wou’d soon, too soon, be done.
Let Angels voices 31 with their harps conspire,        320
But keep th’ auspicious Infant from the Quire;
Late let him sing above, and let us know
No sweeter Musick than his Cryes below.
  Nor can I wish to you, Great Monarch, more
Than such an annual Income to your store;        325
The Day which gave this Unit, did not shine
For a less Omen, than to fill the Trine.
After a Prince, an Admiral beget,
The Royal Sov’raign wants an Anchor yet.
Our Isle has younger Titles still in store,        330
And when th’ exhausted Land can yield no more,
Your Line can force them from a Foreign shore.
  The Name of Great your Martial mind will suit;
But Justice 32 is your Darling Attribute:
Of all the Greeks, ’twas but one Hero’s 33 due,        335
And, in him, Plutarch Prophecy’d of you.
A Prince’s favours but on few can fall,
But Justice is a Virtue shar’d by all.
  Some Kings the name of Conq’rors have assum’d,
Some to be Great, some to be Gods presum’d;        340
But boundless pow’r and arbitrary Lust
Made Tyrants still abhor the Name of Just;
They shun’d the praise this Godlike Virtue gives,
And fear’d a Title that reproach’d their Lives.
  The Pow’r from which all Kings derive their state,        345
Whom they pretend, at least, to imitate,
Is equal both to punish and reward;
For few wou’d love their God, unless they fear’d.
  Resistless Force and Immortality
Make but a Lame, Imperfect Deity;        350
Tempests have force unbounded to destroy,
And Deathless Being ev’n the Damn’d enjoy,
And yet Heav’ns Attributes both last and first,
One without life, and one with life accurst;
But Justice is Heav’ns self, so strictly He        355
That cou’d it fail, the God-head cou’d not be.
This Virtue is your own; but Life and State
Are One to Fortune subject, One to Fate:
Equal to all, you justly frown or smile,
Nor Hopes, nor Fears your steady Hand beguile;        360
Your self our Ballance hold, the Worlds 34 our Isle.
 
Note 1. Text from the only contemporary edition, 1688, except as noted. [back]
Note 2. Whit Sunday. [back]
Note 3. Trinity-Sunday. [back]
Note 4. late,] late. 1688. [back]
Note 5. Alluding only to the Common-wealth Party, here and in other places of the Poem. [back]
Note 6. Rev. 12. v. 4. [back]
Note 7. The Cross. [back]
Note 8. The Crescent, which the Turks bear for their Arms. [back]
Note 9. The Pope in the time of Constantine the Great, alluding to the present Pope. [back]
Note 10. K. James the Second. [back]
Note 11. The Lemmon Ore. [back]
Note 12. wrought,] wrought; 1688. [back]
Note 13. Alluding to the Temptations in the Wilderness. [back]
Note 14. Virg. Æneid. 1. [back]
Note 15. Edw. the black Prince, Born on Trinity-Sunday. [back]
Note 16. The Motto of the Poem explain’d. [back]
Note 17. St. George. [back]
Note 18. foreslow’d] Some editions absurdly give foreshow’d. [back]
Note 19. Alluding to the passage in 1 Book of Kings, Ch. 24. v. 20th. [back]
Note 20. Original Sin. [back]
Note 21. The Prince Christen’d, but not nam’d. [back]
Note 22. Jehovah, or the name of God unlawful to be pronounc’d by the Jews. [back]
Note 23. Some Authors say, that the true name of Rome was kept a secret; ne hostes incantamentis Deos elicerent. [back]
Note 24. Candie where Jupiter was born and bred secretly. [back]
Note 25. Pallas, or Minerva; said by the Poets, to have been bred up by hand. [back]
Note 26. The sudden false Report of the Prince’s Death. [back]
Note 27. Those Gyants are feign’d to have grown 15 Ells every day. [back]
Note 28. In the second Book of Kings, chap. 4th. [back]
Note 29. Sam. 4th. v. 10th. [back]
Note 30. Exod. 17. v. 8th. [back]
Note 31. voices] voices, 1688. [back]
Note 32. Justice] Justice, 1688. [back]
Note 33. Aristides, see his Life in Plutarch. [back]
Note 34. Worlds] Worlds, 1688. [back]
 
 
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