Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Extracts from Annus Mirabilis: The Attempt at Berghen
By John Dryden (1631–1700)
 
[From Annus Mirabilis, the Year of Wonders: 1666.]

AND now approached their fleet from India, fraught
  With all the riches of the rising sun,
And precious sand from southern climates brought,
  The fatal regions where the war begun.
 
Like hunted castors conscious of their store,        5
  Their way-laid wealth to Norway’s coasts they bring;
There first the North’s cold bosom spices bore,
  And winter brooded on the eastern spring.
 
By the rich scent we found our perfumed prey,
  Which, flanked with rocks, did close in covert lie;        10
And round about their murdering cannon lay,
  At once to threaten and invite the eye.
 
Fiercer than cannon and than rocks more hard,
  The English undertake the unequal war:
Seven ships alone, by which the port is barred,        15
  Besiege the Indies and all Denmark dare.
 
These fight like husbands, but like lovers those;
  These fain would keep and those more fain enjoy;
And to such height their frantic passion grows
  That what both love both hazard to destroy.        20
 
Amidst whole heaps of spices lights a ball,
  And now their odours armed against them fly:
Some preciously by shattered porcelain fall,
  And some by aromatic splinters die.
 
And though by tempests of the prize bereft,        25
  In Heaven’s inclemency some ease we find;
Our foes we vanquished by our valour left,
  And only yielded to the seas and wind.
 
Nor wholly lost we so deserved a prey,
  For storms repenting part of it restored,        30
Which as a tribute from the Baltic sea
  The British ocean sent her mighty lord.
 
Go, mortals, now and vex yourselves in vain
  For wealth, which so uncertainly must come;
When what was brought so far and with such pain        35
  Was only kept to lose it nearer home.
 
The son who, twice three months on the ocean tost,
  Prepared to tell what he had passed before,
Now sees in English ships the Holland coast,
  And parents’ arms in vain stretched from the shore.        40
 
This careful husband had been long away,
  Whom his chaste wife and little children mourn,
Who on their fingers learned to tell the day
  On which their father promised to return.
 
Such are the proud designs of human kind,        45
  And so we suffer shipwrack everywhere!
Alas, what port can such a pilot find
  Who in the night of Fate must blindly steer!
 
 
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