Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE MEDAL; A SATIRE AGAINST SEDITION, by JOHN DRYDEN



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THE MEDAL; A SATIRE AGAINST SEDITION, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Of all our antic sights and pageantry
Last Line: Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.
Variant Title(s): The Medal: A Satire Against Sedition
Subject(s): Cooper, Anthony (1621-1683); Shaftesbury, 1st Earl Of


Of all our antic sights and pageantry
Which English idiots run in crowds to see,
The Polish Medal bears the prize alone:
A monster, more the favorite of the town
Than either fairs or theaters have shown.
Never did art so well with nature strive,
Nor ever idol seem'd so much alive:
So like the man; so golden to the sight,
So base within, so counterfeit and light.
One side is fill'd with title and with face;
And, lest the king should want a regal place,
On the reverse, a tow'r the town surveys,
O'er which our mounting sun his beams displays.
The word, pronounc'd aloud by shrieval voice,
Lcetamur, which, in Polish, is rejoice.
The day, month, year, to the great act are join'd,
And a new canting holiday design'd.
Five days he sate for every cast and look;
Four more than God to finish Adam took.
But who can tell what essence angels are
Or how long Heav'n was making Lucifer?
O could the style that copied every grace
And plow'd such furrows for an eunuch face,
Could it have form'd his ever-changing will,
The various piece had tir'd the graver's skill!
A martial hero first, with early care
Blown, like a pigmy by the winds, to war.
A beardless chief, a rebel, ere a man,
(So young his hatred to his prince began.)
Next this, (how wildly will ambition steer!)
A vermin wriggling in th' usurper's ear.
Bart'ring his venal wit for sums of gold,
He cast himself into the saintlike mold;
Groan'd, sigh'd, and pray'd, while godliness was gain,
The loudest bagpipe of the squeaking train.
But, as 't is hard to cheat a juggler's eyes,
His open lewdness he could ne'er disguise.
There split the saint: for hypocritic zeal
Allows no sins but those it can conceal.
Whoring to scandal gives too large a scope;
Saints must not trade; but they may interlope.
Th' ungodly principle was all the same;
But a gross cheat betrays his partner's game.
Besides, their pace was formal, grave, and slack;
His nimble wit outran the heavy pack.
Yet still he found his fortune at a stay,
Whole droves of blockheads choking up his way:
They took, but not rewarded, his advice;
Villain and wit exact a double price.
Pow'r was his aim; but, thrown from that pretense,
The wretch turn'd loyal in his own defense,
And malice reconcil'd him to his prince.
Him in the anguish of his soul he serv'd,
Rewarded faster still than he deserv'd.
Behold him, now exalted into trust;
His counsel's oft convenient, seldom just;
Ev'n in the most sincere advice he gave
He had a grudging still to be a knave.
The frauds he learnt in his fanatic years
Made him uneasy in his lawful gears:
At best as little honest as he could,
And, like white witches, mischievously good.
To his first bias longingly he leans,
And rather would be great by wicked means.
Thus, fram'd for ill, he loos'd our Triple hold;
(Advice unsafe, precipitous, and bold.)
From hence those tears! that Ilium of our woe
Who helps a pow'rful friend, forearms a foe.
What wonder if the waves prevail so far,
When he cut down the banks that made the bar?
Seas follow but their nature to invade,
But he by art our native strength betray'd.
So Samson to his foe his force confess'd,
And, to be shorn, lay slumb'ring on her breast.
But, when this fatal counsel, found too late,
Expos'd its author to the public hate;
When his just sovereign, by no impious way.
Could be seduc'd to arbitrary sway;
Forsaken of that hope, he shifts the sail,
Drives down the current with a pop'lar gale;
And shews the fiend confess'd without a veil.
He preaches to the crowd that pow'r is lent,
But not convey'd to kingly government;
That claims successive bear no binding force;
That coronation oaths are things of course;
Maintains the multitude can never err;
And sets the people in the papal chair.
The reason 's obvious: int'rest never lies;
The most have still their int'rest in their eyes;
The pow'r is always theirs, and pow'r is ever wise.
Almighty crowd, thou shorten'st all dispute;
Pow'r is thy essence; wit thy attribute!
Nor faith nor reason make thee at a stay,
Thou leap'st o'er all eternal truths in thy Pindaric way!
Athens no doubt did righteously decide,
When Phocion and when Socrates were tried;
As righteously they did those dooms repent;
Still they were wise, whatever way they went.
Crowds err not, tho' to both extremes they run;
To kill the father and recall the son.
Some think the fools were most, as times went then,
But now the world 's o'erstock'd with prudent men.
The common cry is ev'n religion's test:
The Turk's is at Constantinople best,
Idols in India, Popery at Rome,
And our own worship only true at home.
And true, but for the time; 't is hard to know
How long we please it shall continue so;
This side to-day, and that to-morrow burns;
So all are God-a'mighties in their turns.
A tempting doctrine, plausible and new.
What fools our fathers were, if this be true!
Who, to destroy the seeds of civil war,
Inherent right in monarchs did declare:
And, that a lawful pow'r might never cease,
Secur'd succession, to secure our peace.
Thus property and sovereign sway, at last
In equal balances were justly cast:
But this new Jehu spurs the hot-mouth'o horse;
Instructs the beast to know his native force,
To take the bit between his teeth, and fly
To the next headlong steep of anarchy.
Too happy England, if our good we knew;
Would we possess the freedom we pursue!
The lavish government can give no more;
Yet we repine; and plenty makes us poor.
God tried us once: our rebel fathers fought;
He glutted 'em with all the pow'r they sought,
Till, master'd by their own usurping brave,
The freeborn subject sunk into a slave.
We loathe our manna, and we long for quails;
Ah, what is man, when his own wish prevails!
How rash, how swift to plunge himself in ill;
Proud of his pow'r, and boundless in his will!
That kings can do no wrong we must believe;
None can they do, and must they all receive?
Help, Heav'n! or sadly we shall see an hour,
When neither wrong nor right are in their pow'r!
Already they have lost their best defense,
The benefit of laws which they dispense:
No justice to their righteous cause allow'd;
But baffled by an arbitrary crowd;
And medals grav'd, their conquest to record,
The stamp and coin of their adopted lord.
The man who laugh'd but once, to see an ass
Mumbling to make the crossgrain'd thistles pass,
Might laugh again, to see a jury chaw
The prickles of unpalatable law.
The witnesses that, leech-like, liv'd on blood,
Sucking for them were med'cinally good;
But when they fasten'd on their fester'd sore,
Then justice and religion they forswore,
Their maiden oaths debauch'd into a whore.
Thus men are rais'd by factions, and decried;
And rogue and saint distinguish'd by their side.
They rack ev'n scripture to confess their cause,
And plead a call to preach in spite of laws.
But that's no news to the poor injur'd page,
It has been us'd as ill in every age;
And is constrain'd, with patience, all to take;
For what defense can Greek and Hebrew make?
Happy who can this talking trumpet seize;
They make it speak whatever sense they please!
'T was fram'd at first our oracle t' enquire;
But since our sects in prophecy grow higher,
The text inspires not them, but they the text inspire.
London, thou great emporium of our isle,
O thou too bounteous, thou too fruitful Nile!
How shall I praise or curse to thy desert!
Or separate thy sound, from thy corrupted part!
I call'd thee Nile; the parallel will stand:
Thy tides of wealth o'erflow the fatten'd land;
Yet monsters from thy large increase we find
Engender'd on the slime thou leav'st behind.
Sedition has not wholly seiz'd on thee,
Thy nobler parts are from infection free.
Of Israel's tribes thou hast a numerous band,
But still the Canaanite is in the land.
Thy military chiefs are brave and true,
Nor are thy disenchanted burghers few.
The head is loyal which thy heart commands,
But what 's a head with two such gouty hands?
The wise and wealthy love the surest way,
And are content to thrive and to obey.
But wisdom is to sloth too great a slave;
None are so busy as the fool and knave.
Those let me curse; what vengeance will they urge,
Whose ordures neither plague nor fire can purge;
Nor sharp experience can to duty bring,
Nor angry Heaven, nor a forgiving king!
In gospel-phrase their chapmen they betray;
Their shops are dens, the buyer is their prey.
The knack of trades is living on the spoil;
They boast, ev'n when each other they beguile.
Customs to steal is such a trivial thing,
That 't is their charter to defraud their king.
All hands unite of every jarring sect;
They cheat the country first, and then infect.
They for God's cause their monarchs dare dethrone,
And they 'll be sure to make his cause their own.
Whether the plotting Jesuit laid the plan
Of murd'ring kings, or the French Puritan,
Our sacrilegious sects their guides outgo,
And kings and kingly pow'r would murder too.
What means their trait'rous combination less,
Too plaint' evade, too shameful to confess!
But treason is not own'd when 't is descried;
Successful crimes alone are justified.
The men, who no conspiracy would find,
Who doubts, but had it taken, they had join'd?
Join'd in a mutual cov'nant of defense,
At first without, at last against their prince?
If sovereign right by sovereign pow'r they scan,
The same bold maxim holds in God and man:
God were not safe; his thunder could they shun,
He should be forc'd to crown another Son.
Thus, when the heir was from the vineyard thrown,
The rich possession was the murd'rers' own.
In vain to sophistry they have recourse:
By proving theirs no plot, they prove 't is worse;
Unmask'd rebellion, and audacious force;
Which tho' not actual, yet all eyes may see
'T is working in th' immediate pow'r to be;
For from pretended grievances they rise,
First to dislike, and after to despise;
Then, Cyclop-like, in human flesh to deal,
Chop up a minister at every meal;
Perhaps not wholly to melt down the king,
But clip his regal rights within the ring.
From thence t' assume the pow'r of peace and war;
And ease him by degrees of public care.
Yet, to consult his dignity and fame,
He should have leave to exercise the name,
And hold the cards while commons play'd the game.
For what can pow'r give more than food and drink,
To live at ease, and not be bound to think?
These are the cooler methods of their crime,
But their hot zealots think 't is loss of time:
On utmost bounds of loyalty they stand,
And grin and whet like a Croatian band,
That waits impatient for the last command.
Thus outlaws open villainy maintain,
They steal not, but in squadrons scour the plain;
And, if their pow'r the passengers subdue,
The most have right, the wrong is in the few.
Such impious axioms foolishly they show,
For in some soils republics will not grow:
Our temp'rate isle will no extremes sustain
Of pop'lar sway or arbitrary reign,
But slides between them both into the best;
Secure in freedom, in a monarch blest.
And tho' the climate, vex'd with various winds,
Works thro' our yielding bodies on our minds,
The wholesome tempest purges what it breeds,
To recommend the calmness that succeeds.
But thou, the pander of the people's hearts,
(O crooked soul, and serpentine in arts!)
Whose blandishments a loyal land have whor'd,
And broke the bonds she plighted to her lord;
What curses on thy blasted name will fall!
Which age to age their legacy shall call;
For all must curse the woes that must descend on all.
Religion thou hast none; thy mercury
Has pass'd thro' every sect, or theirs thro thee.
But what thou giv'st, that venom still remains;
And the pox'd nation feels thee in their brains.
What else inspires the tongues and swells the breasts
Of all thy bellowing renegado priests,
That preach up thee for God; dispense thy laws;
And with thy stum ferment their fainting cause?
Fresh fumes of madness raise, and toil and sweat
To make the formidable cripple great?
Yet should thy crimes succeed, should lawless pow'r
Compass those ends thy greedy hopes devour,
Thy canting friends thy mortal foes would be,
Thy God and theirs will never long agree;
For thine (if thou hast any) must be one
That lets the world and humankind alone;
A jolly god, that passes hours too well
To promise heav'n, or threaten us with hell;
That unconcern'd can at rebellion sit,
And wink at crimes he did himself commit.
A tyrant theirs; the heav'n their priesthood paints
A conventicle of gloomy sullen saints;
A heav'n like Bedlam, slovenly and sad,
Foredoom'd for souls with false religion mad.
Without a vision poets can foreshow
What all but fools by common sense may know:
If true succession from our Isle should fail
And crowds profane with impious arms prevail,
Not thou, nor those thy factious arts engage
Shall reap that harvest of rebellious rage,
With which thou flatter'st thy decrepit age
The swelling poison of the sev'ral sects,
Which, wanting vent, the nation's health infects,
Shall burst its bag; and, fighting out their way,
The various venoms on each other prey.
The presbyter, puff'd up with spiritual pride.
Shall on the necks of the lewd nobles ride,
His brethren damn, the civil pow'r defy,
And parcel out republic prelacy.
But short shall be his reign; his rigid yoke
And tyrant pow'r will puny sects provoke,
And frogs and toads, and all the tadpole train,
Will croak to Heav'n for help from this devouring crane.
The cut-throat sword and clamorous gown shall jar,
In sharing their ill-gotten spoils of war;
Chiefs shall be grudg'd the part which they pretend,
Lords envy lords, and friends with every friend
About their impious merit shall contend.
The surly commons shall respect deny,
And justle peerage out with property.
Their gen'ral either shall his trust betray,
And force the crowd to arbitrary sway;
Or they, suspecting his ambitious aim,
In hate of kings shall cast anew the frame;
And thrust out Collatine that bore their name.
Thus inborn broils the factions would engage,
Or wars of exil'd heirs, or foreign rage,
Till halting vengeance overtook our age;
And our wild labours wearied into rest,
Reclin'd us on a rightful monarch's breast.
Pudet haec opprobria, vobis
Et dici potuisse, et non potuisse refelli.





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