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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Epistles and Complimentary Addresses
To my Dear Friend, Mr. Congreve, on his Comedy called The Double-Dealer
 
WELL 1 then, the promis’d Hour is come at last;
The present Age of Wit obscures the past:
Strong were our Syres, and as they fought they Writ,
Conqu’ring with Force of Arms and Dint of Wit:
Theirs was the Giant Race 2 before the Flood;        5
And thus, when Charles Return’d, our Empire stood.
Like Janus, he the stubborn Soil manur’d,
With Rules of Husbandry the Rankness cur’d:
Tam’d us to Manners, when the Stage was rude,
And boistrous English Wit 3 with Art indu’d.        10
Our Age was cultivated thus at length,
But what we gain’d in Skill we lost in Strength.
Our Builders were with Want of Genius curst;
The second Temple was not like the first;
Till you, the best Vitruvius, come at length,        15
Our Beauties equal, but excel our Strength.
Firm Dorique Pillars found Your solid Base,
The fair Corinthian crowns the higher Space;
Thus all below is Strength, and all above is Grace.
In easie Dialogue is Fletcher’s Praise:        20
He mov’d the Mind, but had no 4 Pow’r to raise.
Great Johnson did by Strength of Judgment please,
Yet, doubling Fletcher’s Force, he wants his Ease.
In diff’ring Talents both adorn’d their Age,
One for the Study, t’other for the Stage.        25
But both to Congreve justly shall submit,
One match’d in Judgment, both o’er-match’d in Wit.
In Him all Beauties of this Age we see,
Etherege his Courtship, Southern’s Purity,
The Satyre, Wit, and Strength of Manly Wycherly.        30
All this in blooming Youth you have Atchiev’d;
Nor are your foil’d Contemporaries griev’d;
So much the Sweetness of your Manners move,
We cannot Envy you, because we Love.
Fabius might joy in Scipio, when he saw        35
A Beardless Consul made against the Law,
And join his Suffrage to the Votes of Rome,
Though he with Hannibal was overcome.
Thus old Romano bow’d to Raphael’s Fame,
And Scholar to the Youth he taught, became.        40
  O that your Brows my Lawrel had sustain’d,
Well had I been depos’d, if you had reign’d!
The Father had descended for the Son,
For only Your are lineal to the Throne.
Thus, when the State one Edward did depose,        45
A greater Edward in his Room arose:
But now, not I, but Poetry is curst;
For Tom the Second reigns like Tom the First.
But let ’em not mistake my Patron’s Part
Nor call his Charity their own Desert.        50
Yet this I Prophesie; Thou shalt be seen,
(Tho’ with some short Parenthesis between:)
High on the Throne of Wit; and, seated there,
Nor mine (that’s little) but thy Lawrel wear,
Thy first Attempt an early Promise made;        55
That early Promise this has more than paid.
So bold, yet so judiciously you dare,
That your least Praise, is to be Regular.
Time, Place, and Action may with Pains be wrought,
But Genius must be born, and never can be taught.        60
This is Your Portion, this Your Native Store:
Heav’n, that but once was Prodigal before,
To Shakespear gave as much; she cou’d not give him more.
  Maintain your Post: that’s all the Fame you need;
For ’tis impossible you shou’d proceed.        65
Already I am worn with Cares and Age,
And just abandoning th’ ungrateful Stage:
Unprofitably kept at Heav’n’s Expence,
I live a Rent-charge on his Providence:
But You, whom ev’ry Muse and Grace adorn,        70
Whom I foresee to better Fortune born,
Be kind to my Remains; and oh defend,
Against your Judgment, your departed Friend!
Let not th’ insulting Foe my Fame pursue;
But shade those Lawrels which descend to You:        75
And take for Tribute what these Lines express;
You merit more; nor cou’d my Love do less.

John Dryden.    
 
Note 1. Text from the original published with the play, 1694. [back]
Note 2. Race] Race, 1694. [back]
Note 3. Wit] Wit, 1694. [back]
Note 4. no] The editors give not. [back]
 
 
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