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Signature Events. Dryden opens again brilliantly:. The portraits are not devastating solely because of vitriolic lampooning, though there is plenty of that. Even if he were legitimate, Dryden implies, he would never be the heir because he has shown by his character that he could never merit it?
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From the truly rebellious aristocrats implicitly a mere fringe group he selects his old enemy Buckingham, whom he portrays as too inconstant in his moods, postures, and political positions to remain constant to any one—or, by implication, to the king. In a wonderful marriage of sound, sight, and sense, the middle triplet here inserts a third line into the usual couplet form as if in imitation of the insinuation of Antichrist Shimei into the midst of his disciples.
Dryden portrays him with dripping sarcasm:. His Memory, miraculously great, Could Plots, exceeding mans belief, repeat; Which, therefore cannot be accounted Lies, For humane Wit could never such devise. If Shimei perverts the words of Scripture for his interest, Corah perverts words in the very citadel of justice, where oaths are supposed to guarantee the truth. In addition to discrediting his opponents thus, Dryden discredits their political theory. But Dryden appears to take his theory seriously and to approach the question moderately. Rejecting the position of absolute monarchy, Dryden equally rejects the position of social-contract theorists who argue that the people can take their bond back, a secession resulting, for Dryden, in Hobbist political instability:.
The greatest wielder of words in the poem is David himself, who comes forward finally to vindicate his power and position. David becomes more aggressive as he progresses: What then is left but with a Jealous Eye To guard the Small remains of Royalty?
As it was published in November , Shaftesbury was on trial for treason. But that triumph seemed short-lived, for Shaftesbury, to Dryden the archconspirator, got off scot-free, and his supporters cast a medal in his honor. Early in Dryden published another attack on Shaftesbury and his followers, The Medall. A Satyre against Sedition. The controlling fiction of the poem is the two sides of the medal, one with a portrait of Shaftesbury, the other with a portrait of the City of London. Dryden has perceived the inherent danger of bourgeois individualism and incipient capitalism: the selfish, predatory accumulation of wealth by means of fraud and tax evasion.
In both sections of the poem, Dryden satirizes this time he does not pretend to rational debate the political theory of the Whigs. The marvelous irony of the last line works especially well when one reads from the caesura of the penultimate line through the enjambment to fall hard upon the reversed iamb of the last line: the implication is that even He would be forced, like Charles, to declare another son his legitimate heir. Dryden mocks the notion that majority rule is stable, citing historical examples of mistakes resulting in the deaths of heroes, among them Socrates.
Instead of mythologizing the political theory he defends, Dryden attempts to justify it on pragmatic grounds, that their British forefathers attempted to avoid factional civil war by securing peaceful succession of both power and property through primogeniture. God has already tried us, Dryden argues, by giving the republicans what they wanted during the Commonwealth, and look what happened.
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And he predicts a similar cannibalistic civil war if Shaftesbury and his cronies succeed, for all will want a piece of the power, and none will be constrained by law. His concluding prophecy seems a bitter wish-fulfillment:. If as at the end of Absalom and Achitophel Dryden is again collapsing both earthly and heavenly monarch together, his vision has progressed from apotheosis to apocalypse, the ultimate curse of the satirist. He contributed politically satirical prologues and epilogues to several plays.
The original was by a French priest, Richard Simon, and employed emerging modern methods of scholarship to examine the biblical text, its errors and contradictions. Dryden had not really made a radical departure from his concurrent political poems, however. In these poems Dryden engages in some of his most experimental prosody. The poem, like the early elegy to Hastings, closes with no metaphysical consolation, but with these grim, haunting lines:. As poet laureate and historiographer royal, Dryden had to produce an official, public elegy, one that lamented the deceased king, praised his accomplishments, and underwrote the transition to a new king, around whom swirled such tempests of controversy.
In it he continued the metrical experimentations of his translations. In imitative rhythms Dryden delineates the progress of this principle down through British history:. Meanwhile, Dryden himself converted, and he was ordered to defend those Royal Papers, which he did in a pamphlet exchange with prominent Anglican bishop Edward Stillingfleet. Ever since, he has been attacked for insincerity and opportunism. His sons were Catholic, and the youngest was studying to be a priest.
So his conversion may have taken place over a long period of time.
Biographers will never ascertain just why Dryden converted, and critics will probably always accuse him of being an opportunist. But there is a logic to his conversion if one studies his works. They are preoccupied with the need for political stability and the concomitant necessity of loyalty to de jure monarchs, whose titles are inherited through primogenitive patrilinearity. Thus it should come as no surprise that he would finally swear allegiance to Rome.
But it is as if he could not sustain the optimism. There is no final apotheosis, no final apocalypse, no final justice. Instead, he moved to the margins of the new order to carry on his critique. In the meantime, the one event Catholics desired most occurred: James and his queen had a son in June Of course, it was the one event most feared by the Protestants. Almost as Dryden had prophesied, the Protestants invited William and Mary to become cosovereigns, and James fled the country. James Garrison seems right when he argues that Dryden has run out of enabling myth to sustain the Stuarts.
Almost self-pityingly he writes of his eventual loss of his offices of poet laureate and historiographer royal, as well as the income that was supposed to go with them:. At some level Dryden may have believed that, but immediately after the revolution he began to write again for the stage, partly to make money but also partly to assert himself: his talent, even as his nemesis Shadwell was made the new poet laureate; his spirit amid the storm of political conflict; his worth and thus his justifiable fame. Most of the work of his last years was in translation, apparently as a way of achieving a modicum of political and economic.
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He spices couplets with triplets, masculine with feminine endings. He is a past master at the enjambment and particularly of metric variation in the first hemistich. Meanwhile, Dryden continued to write excellent occasional verse, from prologues and epilogues to elegies to verse epistles. Nevertheless, Dryden prophesies,. He had written a less remarkable poem on the subject a decade earlier.