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 Absalom and Achitophel: Doeg and Og
By John Dryden (1631–1700)
 
[Part II; November, 1682.]

DOEG, 1 though without knowing how or why,
Made still a blundering kind of melody;
Spurred boldly on, and dashed through thick and thin,
Through sense and nonsense, never out nor in;
Free from all meaning, whether good or bad,        5
And, in one word, heroically mad,
He was too warm on picking-work to dwell,
But faggoted his notions as they fell,
And, if they rhymed and rattled, all was well.
Spiteful he is not, though he wrote a satire,        10
For still there goes some thinking to ill-nature;
He needs no more than birds and beasts to think,
All his occasions are to eat and drink.
If he call rogue and rascal from a garret,
He means you no more mischief than a parrot;        15
The words for friend and foe alike were made,
To fetter them in verse is all his trade.
Let him be gallows-free by my consent,
And nothing suffer, since he nothing meant;
Hanging supposes human soul and reason,        20
This animal’s below committing treason:
Shall he be hanged who never could rebel?
That ’s a preferment for Achitophel.
Railing in other men may be a crime,
But ought to pass for mere instinct in him;        25
Instinct he follows and no farther knows,
For to write verse with him is to transprose; 2
’Twere pity treason at his door to lay
Who makes heaven’s gate a lock to its own key;
Let him rail on, let his invective Muse        30
Have four and twenty letters to abuse,
Which if he jumbles to one line of sense,
Indict him of a capital offence.
In fire-works 3 give him leave to vent his spite,
Those are the only serpents he can write;        35
The height of his ambition is, we know,
But to be master of a puppet-show; 4
On that one stage his works may yet appear,
And a month’s harvest keeps him all the year.
 
  Now stop your noses, readers, all and some,        40
For here ’s a tun of midnight work to come,
Og 5 from a treason-tavern rolling home.
Round as a globe, and liquored every chink,
Goodly and great he sails behind his link.
With all this bulk there ’s nothing lost in Og,        45
For every inch that is not fool is rogue:
A monstrous mass of foul corrupted matter,
As all the devils had spewed to make the batter.
When wine has given him courage to blaspheme,
He curses God, but God before cursed him;        50
And if man could have reason, none has more,
That made his paunch so rich and him so poor.
With wealth he was not trusted, for Heaven knew
What ’twas of old to pamper up a Jew;
To what would he on quail and pheasant swell        55
That even on tripe and carrion could rebel?
But though Heaven made him poor, with reverence speaking,
He never was a poet of God’s making;
The midwife laid her hand on his thick skull,
With this prophetic blessing—Be thou dull;        60
Drink, swear, and roar, forbear no lewd delight
Fit for thy bulk, do anything but write.
Thou art of lasting make, like thoughtless men,
A strong nativity—but for the pen;
Eat opium, mingle arsenic in thy drink,        65
Still thou mayest live, avoiding pen and ink.
I see, I see, ’tis counsel given in vain,
For treason, botched in rhyme, will be thy bane;
Rhyme is the rock on which thou art to wreck,
’Tis fatal to thy fame and to thy neck.        70
Why should thy metre good king David blast?
A psalm of his will surely be thy last.
Darest thou presume in verse to meet thy foes,
Thou whom the penny pamphlet foiled in prose?
Doeg, whom God for mankind’s mirth has made,        75
O’ertops thy talent in thy very trade;
Doeg to thee, thy paintings are so coarse,
A poet is, though he ’s the poet’s horse.
A double noose thou on thy neck dost pull
For writing treason and for writing dull;        80
To die for faction is a common evil,
But to be hanged for nonsense is the devil.
Hadst thou the glories of thy King exprest,
Thy praises had been satires at the best;
But thou in clumsy verse, unlicked, unpointed,        85
Hast shamefully defied the Lord’s anointed:
I will not rake the dunghill of thy crimes,
For who would read thy life that reads thy rhymes?
But of king David’s foes be this the doom,
May all be like the young man Absalom;        90
And for my foes may this their blessing be,
To talk like Doeg and to write like thee.
 
Note 1. Doeg = Elkanah Settle. [back]
Note 2. Settle had written a reply to the First Part of Absalom and Achitophel, entitled Absalom Senior, or Achitophel Transprosed. The next line but one is cited from this poem. [back]
Note 3. The allusion is to the burning of the Pope in a pageant at Temple Bar, superintended by the City Poet. [back]
Note 4. This taunt was verified when Settle acted the Dragon in an adaption of his operatic spectacle, The Siege of Troy, for Mrs. Mynn’s booth at Bartholomew Fair. [back]
Note 5. Og = Shadwell. [back]
 
 
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