John Dryden

Here you will find the Long Poem The Medal of poet John Dryden

The Medal

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 favourite of the town 
Than either fairs or theatres have shown. 
Never did art so well with nature strive, 
Nor ever idol seemed so much alive; 
So like the man, so golden to the sight, 
So base within, so counterfeit and light. 
One side is filled with title and with face; 
And, lest the king should want a regal place, 
On the reverse a tower the town surveys, 
O'er which our mounting sun his beams displays. 
The word, pronounced aloud by shrieval voice, 
Loetamur, which in Polish is Rejoice, 
The day, month, year, to the great act are joined, 
And a new canting holiday designed. 
Five days he sate for every cast and look, 
Four more days than God to finish Adam took. 
But who can tell what essence angels are 
Or how long Heaven was making Lucifer? 
Oh, could the style that copied every grace 
And ploughed such furrows for an eunuch face, 
Could it have formed his ever-changing will, 
The various piece had tired 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 the usurper's ear, 
Bartering his venal wit for sums of gold, 
He cast himself into the saint-like mould; 
Groaned, sighed, and prayed, while godliness was gain, 
The loudest bag-pipe of the squeaking train. 
But, as 'tis 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. 
The ungodly principle was all the same; 
But a gross cheat betrays his partners' game. 
Besides, their pace was formal, grave, and slack; 
His nimble wit outran the heavy pack. 
Yet still he found hs 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. 
Power was his aim; but thrown from that pretence, 
The wretch turned loyal in his own defence, 
And malice reconciled him to his Prince. 
Him in the anguish of his soul he served, 
Rewarded faster still than he deserved. 
Behold him now exalted into trust, 
His counsels oft convenient, seldom just; 
Even 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 framed for ill, he loosed our triple hold, 
(Advice unsafe, precipitous, and bold.) 
From hence those tears, that Ilium was our woe: 
Who helps a powerful 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 betrayed. 
So Samson to his foe his force confest, 
And to be shorn lay slumbering on her breast. 
But when this fatal counsel, found too late, 
Exposed its author to the public hate, 
When his just sovereign by no impious way 
Could be seduced to arbitrary sway, 
Forsaken of that hope, he shifts his sail, 
Drives down the current with the popular gale, 
And shows the fiend confessed without a veil. 
He preaches to the crowd that power is lent, 
But not conveyed 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, interest never lies; 
The most have still their interest in their eyes, 
The power is always theirs, and power is ever wise. 
Almighty crowd! thou shortenest all dispute. 
Power is thy essence, wit thy attribute! 
Nor faith nor reason make thee at a stay, 
Thou leapst 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, though 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'erstocked with prudent men. 
The common cry is even religion's test; 
The Turk's is at Constantinople best, 
Idols in India, Popery in Rome, 
And our own worship is only true at home, 
And true but for the