2 Before polygamy was made a sin; 3 When man, on many, multipli'd his kind, 4 Ere one to one was cursedly confin'd: 5 When Nature prompted, and no Law deni'd 6 Promiscuous use of concubine and bride; 7 Then, Israel's monarch, after Heaven's own heart, 8 His vigorous warmth did variously impart 9 To wives and slaves: and, wide as his command, 10 Scatter'd his Maker's image through the land. 11 Michal, of royal blood, the crown did wear; 12 A soil ungrateful to the tiller's care: 13 Not so the rest; for several mothers bore 14 To god-like David, several sons before. 15 But since like slaves his bed they did ascend, 16 No true succession could their seed attend. 17 Of all this numerous progeny was none 18 So beautiful, so brave, as Absalom: 19 Whether, inspir'd by some diviner lust, 20 His father got him with a greater gust; 21 Or that his conscious destiny made way, 22 By manly beauty to imperial sway. 23 Early in foreign fields he won renown, 25 In peace the thoughts of war he could remove, 26 And seem'd as he were only born for love. 27 Whate'er he did, was done with so much ease, 28 In him alone, 'twas natural to please: 29 His motions all accompani'd with grace; 30 And Paradise was open'd in his face. 31 With secret joy, indulgent David view'd 32 His youthful image in his son renew'd: 33 To all his wishes nothing he deni'd; 34 And made the charming Annabel his bride. 35 What faults he had (for who from faults is free?) 36 His father could not, or he would not see. 37 Some warm excesses, which the Law forbore, 38 Were constru'd youth that purged by boiling o'er: 39 And Amnon's murther, by a specious name, 41 Thus prais'd, and lov'd, the noble youth remain'd, 42 While David, undisturb'd, in Sion reign'd. 43 But life can never be sincerely blest: 44 Heav'n punishes the bad, and proves the best. 45 The Jews, a headstrong, moody, murm'ring race, 46 As ever tri'd th'extent and stretch of grace; 47 God's pamper'd people whom, debauch'd with ease, 48 No king could govern, nor no God could please; 49 (Gods they had tri'd of every shape and size, 51 These Adam-wits, too fortunately free, 52 Began to dream they wanted liberty: 53 And when no rule, no precedent, was found 54 Of men, by laws less circumscrib'd and bound, 55 They led their wild desires to woods and caves, 56 And thought that all but savages were slaves. 57 They who, when Saul was dead, without a blow, 58 Made foolish Ishbosheth the crown forego; 60 And, with a general shout, proclaim'd him king: 61 Those very Jews, who, at their very best, 62 Their Humour more than loyalty exprest, 63 Now, wonder'd why, so long, they had obey'd 64 An idol-monarch which their hands had made: 65 Thought they might ruin him they could create; 66 Or melt him to that golden calf, a state. 67 But these were random bolts: no form'd design, 68 Nor interest made the factious crowd to join: 69 The sober part of Israel, free from stain, 70 Well knew the value of a peaceful reign: 71 And, looking backward with a wise afright, 72 Saw seams of wounds, dishonest to the sight: 73 In contemplation of whose ugly scars, 74 They curst the memory of civil wars. 75 The moderate sort of men, thus qualifi'd, 76 Inclin'd the balance to the better side: 77 And, David's mildness manag'd it so well, 78 The bad found no occasion to rebel. 79 But, when to sin our bias'd nature leans, 80 The careful Devil is still at hand with means; 81 And providently pimps for ill desires: 82 The good old cause reviv'd, a plot requires. 83 Plots, true or false, are necessary things, 85 Th' inhabitants of old Jerusalem 86 Were Jebusites: the town so call'd from them; 87 And theirs the native right-- 88 But when the chosen people grew more strong, 89 The rightful cause at length became the wrong: 90 And every loss the men of Jebus bore, 91 They still were thought God's enemies the more. 92 Thus, worn and weaken'd, well or ill content, 93 Submit they must to David's government: 94 Impoverish'd and depriv'd of all command, 95 Their taxes doubled as they lost their land; 96 And, what was harder yet to flesh and blood, 97 Their gods disgrac'd, and burnt like common wood. 98 This set the heathen priesthood in a flame; 99 For priests of all religions are the same: 100 Of whatsoe'er descent their godhead be, 101 Stock, stone, or other homely pedigree, 102 In his defence his servants are as bold, 103 As if he had been born of beaten gold. 104 The Jewish Rabbins though their Enemies, 105 In this conclude them honest men and wise: 106 For 'twas their duty, all the learned think, 107 T'espouse his cause by whom they eat and drink. 108 From hence began that plot, the nation's curse, 109 Bad in itself, but represented worse. 110 Rais'd in extremes, and in extremes decri'd; 111 With oaths affirm'd, with dying vows deni'd. 112 Not weigh'd, or winnow'd by the multitude; 113 But swallow'd in the mass, unchew'd and crude. 114 Some truth there was, but dash'd and brew'd with lies; 115 To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise. 116 Succeeding times did equal folly call, 117 Believing nothing, or believing all. 118 Th' Egyptian rites the Jebusites embrac'd; 119 Where gods were recommended by their taste. 120 Such sav'ry deities must needs be good, 122 By force they could not introduce these gods; 123 For ten to one, in former days was odds. 124 So fraud was us'd, (the sacrificers' trade,) 125 Fools are more hard to conquer than persuade. 126 Their busy teachers mingled with the Jews; 127 And rak'd, for converts, even the court and stews: 128 Which Hebrew priests the more unkindly took, 129 Because the fleece accompanies the flock. 130 Some thought they God's anointed meant to slay 131 By guns, invented since full many a day: 132 Our author swears it not; but who can know 133 How far the Devil and Jebusites may go? 134 This plot, which fail'd for want of common sense, 135 Had yet a deep and dangerous consequence: 136 For, as when raging fevers boil the blood, 137 The standing lake soon floats into a flood; 138 And ev'ry hostile humour, which before 139 Slept quiet in its channels, bubbles o'er: 140 So, several factions from this first ferment, 141 Work up to foam, and threat the government. 142 Some by their friends, more by themselves thought wise, 143 Oppos'd the pow'r, to which they could not rise. 144 Some had in courts been great, and thrown from thence, 145 Like fiends, were harden'd in impenitence. 146 Some by their monarch's fatal mercy grown, 147 From pardon'd rebels, kinsmen to the throne; 148 Were rais'd in pow'r and public office high; 149 Strong bands, if bands ungrateful men could tie. 150 Of these the false Achitophel was first: 151 A name to all succeeding ages curst. 152 For close designs, and crooked counsels fit; 153 Sagacious, bold and turbulent of wit: 154 Restless, unfixt in principles and place; 155 In pow'r unpleas'd, impatient of disgrace. 156 A fiery soul, which working out its way, 157 Fretted the pigmy-body to decay: 159 A daring pilot in extremity; 160 Pleas'd with the danger, when the waves went high 161 He sought the storms; but for a calm unfit, 162 Would steer too nigh the sands, to boast his wit. 163 Great wits are sure to madness near alli'd; 164 And thin partitions do their bounds divide: 165 Else, why should he, with wealth and honour blest, 166 Refuse his age the needful hours of rest? 167 Punish a body which he could not please; 168 Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease? 169 And all to leave, what with his toil he won 170 To that unfeather'd, two-legg'd thing, a son: 171 Got, while his soul did huddled notions try; 173 In friendship false, implacable in hate: 174 Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state. 175 To compass this, the triple bond he broke; 176 The pillars of the public safety shook: 178 Then, seiz'd with fear, yet still affecting fame, 179 Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name. 180 So easy still it proves in factious times, 181 With public zeal to cancel private crimes: 182 How safe is treason, and how sacred ill, 183 Where none can sin against the people's will: 184 Where crowds can wink; and no offence be known, 185 Since in another's guilt they find their own. 186 Yet, fame deserv'd, no enemy can grudge; 188 In Jewish courts ne'er sat an Abbethdin 189 With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean: 190 Unbrib'd, unsought, the wretched to redress; 191 Swift of dispatch, and easy of access. 192 Oh, had he been content to serve the crown, 193 With virtues only proper to the gown; 194 Or, had the rankness of the soil been freed 195 From cockle, that opprest the noble seed: 196 David, for him his tuneful harp had strung, 197 And heav'n had wanted one immortal song. 198 But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand; 199 And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land: 200 Achitophel, grown weary to possess 201 A lawful fame, and lazy happiness; 202 Disdain'd the golden fruit to gather free, 203 And lent the crowd his arm to shake the tree. 204 Now, manifest of crimes, contriv'd long since, 205 He stood at bold defiance with his prince: 206 Held up the buckler of the people's cause, 207 Against the crown; and skulk'd behind the laws. 208 The wish'd occasion of the plot he takes; 209 Some circumstances finds, but more he makes. 210 By buzzing emissaries, fills the ears 211 Of list'ning crowds, with jealousies and fears 212 Of arbitrary counsels brought to light, 213 And proves the king himself a Jebusite. 214 Weak arguments! which yet he knew full well, 215 Were strong with people easy to rebel. 216 For, govern'd by the moon, the giddy Jews 217 Tread the same track when she the prime renews: 218 And once in twenty years, their scribes record, 219 By natural instinct they change their lord. 220 Achitophel still wants a chief, and none 221 Was found so fit as warlike Absalom: 222 Not, that he wish'd his greatness to create, 223 (For politicians neither love nor hate:) 224 But, for he knew, his title not allow'd, 225 Would keep him still depending on the crowd: 226 That kingly pow'r, thus ebbing out, might be 228 Him he attempts, with studied arts to please, 229 And sheds his venom, in such words as these. 230 Auspicious Prince! at whose nativity 231 Some royal planet rul'd the southern sky; 232 Thy longing country's darling and desire; 233 Their cloudy pillar, and their guardian fire: 234 Their second Moses, whose extended wand 235 Divides the seas, and shows the promis'd land: 236 Whose dawning day, in very distant age, 237 Has exercis'd the sacred prophet's rage: 238 The people's pray'r, the glad diviner's theme, 239 The young men's vision, and the old men's dream! 240 Thee, Saviour, thee, the nation's vows confess; 241 And, never satisfi'd with seeing, bless: 242 Swift, unbespoken pomps, thy steps proclaim, 243 And stammering babes are taught to lisp thy name. 244 How long wilt thou the general joy detain; 245 Starve, and defraud the people of thy reign? 246 Content ingloriously to pass thy days 247 Like one of virtue's fools that feeds on praise; 248 Till thy fresh glories, which now shine so bright, 249 Grow stale and tarnish with our daily sight. 250 Believe me, royal youth, thy fruit must be, 251 Or gather'd ripe, or rot upon the tree. 252 Heav'n has to all allotted, soon or late, 253 Some lucky revolution of their fate: 254 Whose motions if we watch and guide with skill, 255 (For human good depends on human will,) 256 Our fortune rolls, as from a smooth descent, 257 And, from the first impression, takes the bent: 258 But, if unseiz'd, she glides away like wind; 259 And leaves repenting folly far behind. 260 Now, now she meets you, with a glorious prize, 261 And spreads her locks before her as she flies. 262 Had thus Old David, from whose loins you spring, 263 Not dar'd, when fortune call'd him, to be king. 264 At Gath an exile he might still remain; 265 And Heaven's anointing oil had been in vain. 266 Let his successful youth your hopes engage; 267 But shun th'example of declining age: 268 Behold him setting in his western skies, 269 The shadows lengthening as the vapours rise. 270 He is not now, as when on Jordan's sand 271 The joyful people throng'd to see him land, 272 Cov'ring the beach, and black'ning all the strand: 273 But, like the Prince of Angels from his height, 274 Comes tumbling downward with diminish'd light: 275 Betray'd by one poor plot to public scorn: 276 (Our only blessing since his curst return:) 277 Those heaps of people which one sheaf did bind, 278 Blown off, and scatter'd by a puff of wind. 279 What strength can he to your designs oppose, 280 Naked of friends and round beset with foes? 281 If Pharaoh's doubtful succour he should use, 282 A foreign aid would more incense the Jews: 283 Proud Egypt would dissembled friendship bring; 284 Foment the war, but not support the king: 285 Nor would the royal party e'er unite 286 With Pharaoh's arms, t'assist the Jebusite; 287 Or if they should, their interest soon would break, 288 And with such odious aid, make David weak. 289 All sorts of men, by my successful arts, 290 Abhorring kings, estrange their alter'd hearts 291 From David's rule: And 'tis the general Cry, 292 Religion, Common-wealth, and Liberty. 293 If, you, as champion of the public good, 294 Add to their arms a chief of royal blood; 295 What may not Israel hope, and what applause 296 Might such a general gain by such a cause? 297 Not barren praise alone, that gaudy flow'r, 298 Fair only to the sight, but solid pow'r: 299 And nobler is a limited command, 300 Giv'n by the love of all your native land, 301 Than a successive title, long, and dark, 302 Drawn from the mouldy rolls of Noah's Ark. 303 What cannot praise effect in mighty minds, 304 When flattery soothes, and when ambition blinds! 305 Desire of pow'r, on earth a vicious weed, 306 Yet, sprung from high, is of celestial seed: 307 In God 'tis glory: And when men aspire, 308 'Tis but a spark too much of heavenly fire. 309 Th' ambitious youth, too covetous of fame, 310 Too full of angel's metal in his frame; 311 Unwarily was led from virtue's ways; 312 Made drunk with honour, and debauch'd with praise. 313 Half loath, and half consenting to the ill, 314 (For loyal blood within him struggled still) 315 He thus repli'd.--And what pretence have I 316 To take up arms for public liberty? 317 My Father governs with unquestion'd right; 318 The Faith's defender, and mankind's delight: 319 Good, gracious, just, observant of the laws; 320 And Heav'n by wonders has espous'd his cause. 321 Whom has he wrong'd in all his peaceful reign? 322 Who sues for justice to his throne in vain? 323 What millions has he pardon'd of his foes, 324 Whom just revenge did to his wrath expose? 325 Mild, easy, humble, studious of our good; 326 Inclin'd to mercy, and averse from blood. 327 If mildness ill with stubborn Israel suit, 328 His crime is God's beloved attribute. 329 What could he gain, his people to betray, 330 Or change his right, for arbitrary sway? 331 Let haughty Pharaoh curse with such a reign, 332 His fruitful Nile, and yoke a servile train. 333 If David's rule Jerusalem displease, 334 The Dog-star heats their brains to this disease. 335 Why then should I, encouraging the bad, 336 Turn rebel, and run popularly mad? 337 Were he a tyrant who, by lawless might, 338 Oppress'd the Jews, and rais'd the Jebusite, 339 Well might I mourn; but nature's holy bands 340 Would curb my spirits, and restrain my hands: 341 The people might assert their liberty; 342 But what was right in them, were crime in me. 343 His favour leaves me nothing to require; 345 What more can I expect while David lives? 346 All but his kingly diadem he gives: 347 And that: but there he paus'd; then sighing, said, 348 Is justly destin'd for a worthier head. 349 For when my father from his toils shall rest, 350 And late augment the number of the blest: 351 His lawful issue shall the throne ascend; 352 Or the collat'ral line where that shall end. 353 His brother, though oppress'd with vulgar spite, 354 Yet dauntless and secure of native right, 355 Of every royal virtue stands possess'd; 356 Still dear to all the bravest, and the best. 358 His loyalty the king, the world his fame. 359 His mercy ev'n th'offending crowd will find: 360 For sure he comes of a forgiving kind. 361 Why should I then repine at Heaven's decree; 362 Which gives me no pretence to royalty? 363 Yet oh that Fate, propitiously inclin'd, 364 Had rais'd my birth, or had debas'd my mind; 365 To my large soul, not all her treasure lent, 366 And then betray'd it to a mean descent. 367 I find, I find my mounting spirits bold, 368 And David's part disdains my mother's mold. 369 Why am I scanted by a niggard-birth? 370 My soul disclaims the kindred of her earth: 371 And made for empire, whispers me within; 372 Desire of greatness is a god-like sin. 373 Him staggering so when Hell's dire agent found, 374 While fainting virtue scarce maintain'd her ground, 375 He pours fresh forces in, and thus replies: 376 Th'eternal God, supremely good and wise, 377 Imparts not these prodigious gifts in vain; 378 What wonders are reserv'd to bless your reign? 379 Against your will your arguments have shown, 380 Such virtue's only giv'n to guide a throne. 381 Not that your father's mildness I contemn; 382 But manly force becomes the diadem. 383 'Tis true, he grants the people all they crave; 384 And more perhaps than subjects ought to have: 385 For lavish grants suppose a monarch tame, 387 But when should people strive their bonds to break, 388 If not when kings are negligent or weak? 389 Let him give on till he can give no more, 390 The thrifty Sanhedrin shall keep him poor: 391 And every shekel which he can receive, 392 Shall cost a limb of his prerogative. 393 To ply him with new plots, shall be my care; 394 Or plunge him deep in some expensive war; 395 Which, when his treasure can no more supply, 396 He must, with the remains of kingship, buy. 397 His faithful friends, our jealousies and fears 398 Call Jebusites; and Pharaoh's pensioners: 399 Whom, when our fury from his aid has torn, 400 He shall be naked left to public scorn. 401 The next successor, whom I fear and hate, 402 My arts have made obnoxious to the state; 403 Turn'd all his virtues to his overthrow, 404 And gain'd our elders to pronounce a foe. 405 His right, for sums of necessary gold, 406 Shall first be pawn'd, and afterwards be sold: 407 Till time shall ever-wanting David draw, 408 To pass your doubtful title into law: 409 If not; the people have a right supreme 410 To make their kings; for kings are made for them. 411 All empire is no more than pow'r in trust: 412 Which when resum'd, can be no longer just. 413 Succession, for the general good design'd, 414 In its own wrong a nation cannot bind: 415 If altering that, the people can relieve, 416 Better one suffer, than a nation grieve. 417 The Jews well know their pow'r: ere Saul they chose, 418 God was their king, and God they durst depose. 419 Urge now your piety, your filial name, 420 A father's right, and fear of future fame; 421 The public good, the universal call, 422 To which even Heav'n submitted, answers all. 423 Nor let his love enchant your generous mind; 424 'Tis Nature's trick to propagate her kind. 425 Our fond begetters, who would never die, 426 Love but themselves in their posterity. 427 Or let his kindness by th'effects be tri'd, 428 Or let him lay his vain pretence aside. 429 God said he lov'd your father; could he bring 430 A better proof, than to anoint him king? 431 It surely show'd he lov'd the shepherd well, 432 Who gave so fair a flock as Israel. 433 Would David have you thought his darling son? 434 What means he then, to alienate the crown? 435 The name of godly he may blush to bear: 436 'Tis after God's own heart to cheat his heir. 437 He to his brother gives supreme command; 438 To you a legacy of barren land: 439 Perhaps th'old harp, on which he thrums his lays: 440 Or some dull Hebrew ballad in your praise. 441 Then the next heir, a prince, severe and wise 442 Already looks on you with jealous eyes; 443 Sees through the thin disguises of your arts, 444 And marks your progress in the people's hearts. 445 Though now his mighty soul in grief contains, 446 He meditates revenge who least complains; 447 And like a lion, slumb'ring in the way, 448 Or sleep-dissembling, while he waits his prey, 449 His fearless foes within his distance draws; 450 Constrains his roaring and contracts his paws: 451 Till at the last, his time for fury found, 452 He shoots with sudden vengeance from the ground: 453 The prostrate vulgar, passes o'er, and spares; 454 But with a lordly rage, his hunters tears. 455 Your case no tame expedients will afford; 456 Resolve on death, or conquest by the sword, 457 Which for no less a stake than life, you draw; 458 And self-defence is Nature's eldest law. 459 Leave the warm people no considering time; 460 For then rebellion may be thought a crime. 461 Prevail yourself of what occasion gives, 462 But try your title while your father lives: 463 And that your arms may have a fair pretence, 464 Proclaim, you take them in the king's defence: 465 Whose sacred life each minute would expose 466 To plots from seeming friends and secret foes. 467 And who can sound the depth of David's soul? 468 Perhaps his fear, his kindness may control. 469 He fears his brother, though he loves his son, 470 For plighted vows too late to be undone. 471 If so, by force he wishes to be gain'd; 472 Like women's lechery, to seem constrain'd: 473 Doubt not; but when he most affects the frown, 474 Commit a pleasing rape upon the crown. 475 Secure his person to secure your cause; 476 They who possess the prince, possess the laws. 477 He said, and this advice above the rest 478 With Absalom's mild nature suited best; 479 Unblam'd of life, (ambition set aside,) 480 Not stain'd with cruelty, nor puff'd with pride. 481 How happy had he been, if destiny 482 Had higher plac'd his birth, or not so high! 483 His kingly virtues might have claim'd a throne; 484 And blest all other countries but his own: 485 But charming greatness since so few refuse, 486 'Tis juster to lament him, than accuse. 487 Strong were his hopes a rival to remove, 488 With blandishments to gain the public love; 489 To head the faction while their zeal was hot, 490 And popularly prosecute the plot. 491 To farther this Achitophel unites 492 The malcontents of all the Israelites: 493 Whose differing parties he could wisely join, 494 For several ends, to serve the same design. 495 The best, and of the princes some were such, 496 Who thought the pow'r of monarchy too much: 497 Mistaken men, and patriots in their hearts; 498 Not wicked, but seduc'd by impious arts. 499 By these the springs of property were bent, 500 And wound so high, they crack'd the government. 501 The next for interest sought t'embroil the state, 502 To sell their duty at a dearer rate; 503 And make their Jewish markets of the throne; 504 Pretending public good, to serve their own. 505 Others thought kings an useless heavy load, 506 Who cost too much, and did too little good. 507 These were for laying honest David by, 508 On principles of pure good husbandry. 509 With them join'd all th'haranguers of the throng, 510 That thought to get preferment by the tongue. 511 Who follow next, a double danger bring, 512 Not only hating David, but the king; 513 The Solymaean rout; well vers'd of old 514 In godly faction, and in treason bold; 515 Cow'ring and quaking at a conqu'ror's sword, 516 But lofty to a lawful prince restor'd; 517 Saw with disdain an Ethnic plot begun, 518 And scorn'd by Jebusites to be out-done. 519 Hot Levites headed these; who pull'd before 520 From th'Ark, which in the Judges' days they bore, 521 Resum'd their Cant, and with a zealous cry, 522 Pursu'd their old belov'd Theocracy. 523 Where Sanhedrin and Priest enslav'd the nation, 524 And justifi'd their spoils by inspiration: 525 For who so fit for reign as Aaron's race, 526 If once dominion they could found in Grace? 527 These led the pack; though not of surest scent, 528 Yet deepest mouth'd against the government. 529 A numerous host of dreaming saints succeed; 531 'Gainst form and order they their pow'r employ; 532 Nothing to build, and all things to destroy. 533 But far more numerous was the herd of such, 534 Who think too little, and who talk too much. 535 These, out of mere instinct, they knew not why, 536 Ador'd their father's God, and property: 537 And by the same blind benefit of fate, 538 The Devil and the Jebusite did hate: 539 Born to be saved even in their own despite; 540 Because they could not help believing right. 541 Such were the tools; but a whole Hydra more 542 Remains, of sprouting heads too long, to score. 543 Some of their chiefs were princes of the land: 545 A man so various, that he seem'd to be 546 Not one, but all Mankind's Epitome. 547 Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong; 548 Was everything by starts, and nothing long: 549 But in the course of one revolving moon, 550 Was chemist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon: 551 Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking; 552 Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking. 553 Blest madman, who could every hour employ, 554 With something new to wish, or to enjoy! 555 Railing and praising were his usual themes; 556 And both (to show his judgment) in extremes: 557 So over violent, or over civil, 558 That every man, with him, was god or devil. 559 In squandering wealth was his peculiar art: 560 Nothing went unrewarded, but desert. 562 He had his jest, and they had his estate. 563 He laugh'd himself from court; then sought relief 564 By forming parties, but could ne'er be chief: 565 For, spite of him, the weight of business fell 566 On Absalom and wise Achitophel: 567 Thus, wicked but in will, of means bereft, 568 He left not faction, but of that was left. 569 Titles and names 'twere tedious to rehearse 570 Of lords, below the dignity of verse. 571 Wits, warriors, commonwealths-men, were the best: 572 Kind husbands and mere nobles all the rest. 573 And, therefore in the name of dullness, be 574 The well-hung Balaam and cold Caleb free. 575 And canting Nadab let oblivion damn, 577 Let friendship's holy band some names assure: 578 Some their own worth, and some let scorn secure. 579 Nor shall the rascal rabble here have place, 580 Whom kings no titles gave, and God no grace: 582 To mean rebellion, and make treason law. 583 But he, though bad, is follow'd by a worse, 584 The wretch, who Heav'n's Anointed dar'd to curse. 586 Of zeal to God, and hatred to his king; 587 Did wisely from expensive sins refrain, 588 And never broke the Sabbath, but for gain: 589 Nor ever was he known an oath to vent, 590 Or curse, unless against the government. 591 Thus, heaping wealth, by the most ready way 592 Among the Jews, which was to cheat and pray; 593 The city, to reward his pious hate 594 Against his master, chose him magistrate: 596 His neck was loaded with a chain of gold. 597 During his office, treason was no crime. 598 The sons of Belial had a glorious time: 599 For Shimei, though not prodigal of pelf, 600 Yet lov'd his wicked neighbour as himself: 601 When two or three were gather'd to declaim 602 Against the monarch of Jerusalem, 603 Shimei was always in the midst of them. 604 And, if they curst the king when he was by, 605 Would rather curse, than break good company. 606 If any durst his factious friends accuse, 607 He pack'd a jury of dissenting Jews: 608 Whose fellow-feeling, in the godly cause, 609 Would free the suff'ring saint from human laws. 610 For laws are only made to punish those 611 Who serve the king, and to protect his foes. 612 If any leisure time he had from pow'r, 613 (Because 'tis sin to mis-employ an hour;) 614 His bus'ness was, by writing, to persuade, 615 That kings were useless, and a clog to trade: 616 And, that his noble style he might refine, 617 No Rechabite more shunn'd the fumes of wine. 618 Chaste were his cellars; and his shrieval board 619 The grossness of a city feast abhorr'd: 620 His cooks, with long disuse, their trade forgot; 621 Cool was his kitchen, though his brains were hot. 622 Such frugal virtue malice may accuse; 623 But sure 'twas necessary to the Jews: 624 For towns once burnt, such magistrates require 625 As dare not tempt God's providence by fire. 626 With spiritual food he fed his servants well, 627 But free from flesh, that made the Jews rebel: 628 And Moses' laws he held in more account 629 For forty days of fasting in the mount. 630 To speak the rest, who better are forgot, 631 Would tire a well-breath'd witness of the plot: 632 Yet, Corah, thou shalt from oblivion pass; 633 Erect thyself thou monumental brass: 634 High as the serpent of thy metal made, 635 While nations stand secure beneath thy shade. 636 What though his birth were base, yet comets rise 637 From earthy vapours e'er they shine in skies. 638 Prodigious actions may as well be done 639 By weaver's issue, as by prince's son. 640 This arch-attestor, for the public good, 641 By that one deed ennobles all his blood. 642 Who ever ask'd the witnesses' high race, 643 Whose oath with martyrdom did Stephen grace? 645 His tribe were God-almighty's gentlemen. 646 Sunk were his eyes, his voice was harsh and loud, 648 His long chin prov'd his wit; his saint-like grace 649 A church vermilion, and a Moses' face. 650 His memory, miraculously great, 651 Could plots exceeding man's belief, repeat; 652 Which therefore cannot be accounted lies, 653 For human wit could never such devise. 654 Some future truths are mingled in his book; 655 But, where the witness fail'd, the Prophet spoke: 656 Some things like visionary flights appear; 657 The spirit caught him up, the Lord knows where: 658 And gave him his rabbinical degree, 660 His judgment yet his mem'ry did excel: 661 Which piec'd his wondrous evidence so well: 662 And suited to the temper of the times; 663 Then groaning under Jebusitic crimes. 664 Let Israel's foes suspect his Heav'nly call, 665 And rashly judge his writ apocryphal; 666 Our laws for such affronts have forfeits made: 667 He takes his life, who takes away his trade. 668 Were I myself in witness Corah's place, 669 The wretch who did me such a dire disgrace, 670 Should whet my memory, though once forgot, 671 To make him an appendix of my plot. 672 His zeal to Heav'n made him his prince despise, 673 And load his person with indignities: 674 But Zeal peculiar privilege affords, 675 Indulging latitude to deeds and words. 678 What others in his evidence did join, 679 (The best that could be had for love or coin,) 680 In Corah's own predicament will fall: 681 For Witness is a common name to all. 682 Surrounded thus with friends of every sort, 683 Deluded Absalom forsakes the court: 684 Impatient of high hopes, urg'd with renown, 685 And fir'd with near possession of a crown: 686 Th' admiring crowd are dazzled with surprise, 687 And on his goodly person feed their eyes: 688 His joy conceal'd, he sets himself to show; 689 On each side bowing popularly low: 690 His looks, his gestures, and his words he frames, 691 And with familiar ease repeats their names. 692 Thus, form'd by Nature, furnish'd out with arts, 693 He glides unfelt into their secret hearts: 694 Then, with a kind compassionating look, 695 And sighs, bespeaking pity e'er he spoke: 696 Few words he said; but easy those and fit: 698 I mourn, my country-men, your lost estate; 699 Though far unable to prevent your fate: 701 Expos'd a prey to arbitrary laws! 702 Yet oh! that I alone could be undone, 703 Cut off from empire, and no more a son! 704 Now all your liberties a spoil are made; 705 Egypt and Tyrus intercept your trade, 706 And Jebusites your sacred rites invade. 707 My father, whom with reverence yet I name, 708 Charm'd into ease, is careless of his fame: 709 And, brib'd with petty sums of foreign gold, 710 Is grown in Bathsheba's embraces old: 711 Exalts his enemies, his friends destroys: 712 And all his pow'r against himself employs. 713 He gives, and let him give my right away: 714 But why should he his own, and yours betray? 715 He, only he can make the nation bleed, 716 And he alone from my revenge is freed. 717 Take then my tears (with that he wip'd his eyes) 718 'Tis all the aid my present pow'r supplies: 719 No court-informer can these arms accuse; 720 These arms may sons against their fathers use; 721 And, 'tis my wish, the next successor's reign 722 May make no other Israelite complain. 723 Youth, beauty, graceful action, seldom fail: 724 But common interest always will prevail: 725 And pity never ceases to be shown 726 To him, who makes the people's wrongs his own. 727 The crowd, (that still believe their kings oppress,) 728 With lifted hands their young Messiah bless: 729 Who now begins his progress to ordain; 731 From East to West his glories he displays: 732 And, like the sun, the Promis'd Land surveys. 733 Fame runs before him, as the Morning-Star; 734 And shouts of joy salute him from afar: 735 Each house receives him as a guardian God; 736 And consecrates the place of his abode: 737 But hospitable treats did most commend 738 Wise Issachar, his wealthy western friend. 739 This moving court, that caught the people's eyes, 740 And seem'd but pomp, did other ends disguise: 741 Achitophel had form'd it, with intent 742 To sound the depths, and fathom where it went, 743 The people's hearts; distinguish friends from foes; 744 And try their strength, before they came to blows. 745 Yet all was colour'd with a smooth pretence 746 Of specious love, and duty to their prince. 747 Religion, and redress of grievances, 748 Two names, that always cheat and always please, 749 Are often urg'd; and good King David's life 750 Endanger'd by a brother and a wife. 751 Thus, in a pageant show, a plot is made; 752 And peace itself is war in masquerade. 753 Oh foolish Israel! never warn'd by ill: 754 Still the same bait, and circumvented still! 755 Did ever men forsake their present ease, 756 In midst of health imagine a disease; 757 Take pains contingent mischiefs to foresee, 758 Make heirs for monarchs, and for God decree? 759 What shall we think! Can people give away 760 Both for themselves and sons, their native sway? 761 Then they are left defenceless to the sword 762 Of each unbounded arbitrary lord: 763 And laws are vain, by which we right enjoy, 764 If kings unquestion'd can those laws destroy. 765 Yet, if the crowd be judge of fit and just, 766 And kings are only officers in trust, 767 Then this resuming cov'nant was declar'd 768 When Kings were made, or is for ever bar'd: 769 If those who gave the sceptre could not tie 770 By their own deed their own posterity, 771 How then could Adam bind his future race? 772 How could his forfeit on mankind take place? 773 Or how could heavenly justice damn us all, 774 Who ne'er consented to our father's fall? 775 Then kings are slaves to those whom they command, 776 And tenants to their people's pleasure stand. 777 Add, that the pow'r for property allow'd, 778 Is mischievously seated in the crowd: 779 For who can be secure of private right, 780 If sovereign sway may be dissolv'd by might? 781 Nor is the people's judgment always true: 782 The most may err as grossly as the few. 783 And faultless kings run down, by common cry, 784 For vice, oppression and for tyranny. 785 What standard is there in a fickle rout, 786 Which, flowing to the mark, runs faster out? 787 Nor only crowds, but Sanhedrins may be 788 Infected with this public lunacy: 789 And share the madness of rebellious times, 790 To murther monarchs for imagin'd crimes. 791 If they may give and take whene'er they please, 792 Not kings alone, (the godhead's images,) 793 But government itself at length must fall 794 To nature's state, where all have right to all. 795 Yet, grant our lords the people kings can make, 796 What prudent men a settled throne would shake? 797 For whatsoe'er their sufferings were before, 798 That change they covet makes them suffer more. 799 All other errors but disturb a state; 800 But innovation is the blow of fate. 801 If ancient fabrics nod, and threat to fall, 802 To patch the flaws, and buttress up the wall, 803 Thus far 'tis duty; but here fix the mark: 804 For all beyond it is to touch our Ark. 805 To change foundations, cast the frame anew, 806 Is work for rebels who base ends pursue: 807 At once divine and human laws control; 808 And mend the parts by ruin of the whole. 809 The tamp'ring world is subject to this curse, 810 To physic their disease into a worse. 811 Now what relief can righteous David bring? 812 How fatal 'tis to be too good a king! 813 Friends he has few, so high the madness grows; 814 Who dare be such, must be the people's foes: 815 Yet some there were, ev'n in the worst of days; 816 Some let me name, and naming is to praise. 818 Barzillai crown'd with honour and with years: 819 Long since, the rising rebels he withstood 820 In regions waste, beyond the Jordan's flood: 821 Unfortunately brave to buoy the state; 822 But sinking underneath his master's fate: 823 In exile with his god-like prince he mourn'd: 824 For him he suffer'd, and with him return'd. 825 The court he practis'd, not the courtier's art: 826 Large was his wealth, but larger was his heart: 827 Which well the noblest objects knew to choose, 828 The fighting warrior, and recording Muse. 829 His bed could once a fruitful issue boast: 830 Now more than half a father's name is lost. 832 By me (so Heav'n will have it) always mourn'd, 833 And always honour'd, snatch'd in manhood's prime 834 B' unequal Fates, and Providence's crime: 835 Yet not before the goal of honour won, 836 All parts fulfill'd, of subject and of son; 837 Swift was the race, but short the time to run. 838 Oh narrow circle, but of pow'r divine, 839 Scanted in space, but perfect in thy line! 840 By sea, by land, thy matchless worth was known; 841 Arms thy delight, and war was all thy own: 842 Thy force infus'd, the fainting Tyrians propp'd: 843 And haughty Pharaoh found his fortune stopp'd. 844 Oh ancient honour, Oh unconquer'd Hand, 845 Whom foes unpunish'd never could withstand! 846 But Israel was unworthy of thy name: 847 Short is the date of all immoderate fame. 848 It looks as Heav'n our ruin had design'd, 849 And durst not trust thy fortune and thy mind. 850 Now, free from earth, thy disencumber'd Soul 851 Mounts up, and leaves behind the clouds and starry pole: 852 From thence thy kindred legions may'st thou bring, 853 To aid the Guardian Angel of thy king. 854 Here stop my Muse, here cease thy painful flight; 855 No pinions can pursue immortal height: 856 Tell good Barzillai thou canst sing no more, 857 And tell thy soul she should have fled before; 858 Or fled she with his life, and left this verse 859 To hang on her departed patron's hearse? 860 Now take thy steepy flight from Heav'n, and see 861 If thou canst find on earth another he; 862 Another he would be too hard to find, 863 See then whom thou canst see not far behind. 864 Zadoc the priest whom, shunning, pow'r and place, 865 His lowly mind advanc'd to David's grace: 867 Of hospitable soul and noble stem; 869 Flows in fit words and heavenly eloquence. 870 The Prophet's sons by such example led, 871 To learning and to loyalty were bred: 872 For colleges on bounteous kings depend, 873 And never rebel was to arts a friend. 874 To these succeed the pillars of the laws, 875 Who best could plead, and best can judge a cause. 876 Next them a train of loyal peers ascend: 878 Himself a Muse:--in Sanhedrin's debate 879 True to his prince; but not a slave of state. 880 Whom David's love with honours did adorn, 883 Endow'd by Nature, and by learning taught 884 To move assemblies, who but only tri'd 885 The worse awhile, then chose the better side; 886 Nor chose alone, but turn'd the balance too; 887 So much the weight of one brave man can do. 889 In public storms of manly steadfastness; 890 By foreign treaties he inform'd his youth; 891 And join'd experience to his native truth. 892 His frugal care suppli'd the wanting throne; 893 Frugal for that, but bounteous of his own: 894 'Tis easy conduct when exchequers flow; 895 But hard the task to manage well the low: 896 For sovereign power is too depress'd or high, 897 When kings are forc'd to sell, or crowds to buy. 898 Indulge one labour more, my weary Muse, 900 Of ancient race by birth, but nobler yet 901 In his own worth, and without title great: 902 The Sanhedrin long time as chief he rul'd, 903 Their reason guided, and their passion cool'd; 904 So dext'rous was he in the crown's defence, 905 So form'd to speak a loyal nation's sense, 906 That as their band was Israel's tribes in small, 907 So fit was he to represent them all. 908 Now rasher charioteers the seat ascend, 909 Whose loose careers his steady skill commend: 910 They, like th'unequal ruler of the day, 911 Misguide the seasons and mistake the way; 912 While he withdrawn at their mad labour smiles, 913 And safe enjoys the sabbath of his toils. 914 These were the chief; a small but faithful band 915 Of worthies, in the breach who dar'd to stand, 916 And tempt th'united fury of the land. 917 With grief they view'd such powerful engines bent, 918 To batter down the lawful government. 919 A numerous faction with pretended frights, 920 In Sanhedrins to plume the regal rights. 921 The true successor from the court remov'd: 922 The plot, by hireling witnesses, improv'd. 923 These ills they saw, and as their duty bound, 924 They show'd the king the danger of the wound: 925 That no concessions from the throne would please; 926 But lenitives fomented the disease: 927 That Absalom, ambitious of the crown, 929 That false Achitophel's pernicious hate, 931 The Council violent, the rabble worse: 932 That Shimei taught Jerusalem to curse. 933 With all these loads of injuries opprest, 934 And long revolving in his careful breast 935 Th'event of things; at last his patience tir'd, 936 Thus from his royal throne, by Heav'n inspir'd, 937 The god-like David spoke; and awful fear 938 His train their Maker in their Master hear. 939 Thus long have I by native mercy sway'd, 940 My wrongs dissembl'd, my revenge delay'd: 941 So willing to forgive th'offending age; 942 So much the father did the king assuage. 943 But now so far my clemency they slight, 944 Th' offenders question my forgiving right. 945 That one was made for many, they contend: 946 But 'tis to rule, for that's a monarch's end. 947 They call my tenderness of blood, my fear: 948 Though manly tempers can the longest bear. 949 Yet, since they will divert my native course, 950 'Tis time to shew I am not good by force. 951 Those heap'd affronts that haughty subjects bring, 952 Are burdens for a camel, not a king: 953 Kings are the public pillars of the state, 954 Born to sustain and prop the nation's weight: 955 If my young Sampson will pretend a call 956 To shake the column, let him share the fall: 957 But oh that yet he would repent and live! 958 How easy 'tis for parents to forgive! 959 With how few tears a pardon might be won 960 From Nature, pleading for a darling son! 961 Poor pitied youth, by my paternal care, 962 Rais'd up to all the heights his frame could bear: 963 Had God ordain'd his fate for empire born, 964 He would have giv'n his soul another turn: 966 Is one that would by law supplant his prince: 968 Never was patriot yet, but was a fool. 969 Whence comes it that religion and the laws 970 Should more be Absalom's than David's cause? 971 His old instructor, e'er he lost his place, 972 Was never thought endued with so much grace. 973 Good heav'ns, how faction can a patriot paint! 974 My rebel ever proves my people's saint; 975 Would they impose an heir upon the throne? 976 Let Sanhedrins be taught to give their own. 977 A king's at least a part of government; 978 And mine as requisite as their consent: 979 Without my leave a future king to choose, 980 Infers a right the present to depose; 981 True, they petition me t'approve their choice: 983 My pious subjects for my safety pray, 984 Which to secure they take my pow'r away. 985 From plots and treasons Heav'n preserve my years 986 But save me most from my petitioners. 987 Unsatiate as the barren womb or grave; 988 God cannot grant so much as they can crave. 989 What then is left but with a jealous eye 990 To guard the small remains of royalty? 991 The law shall still direct my peaceful sway, 992 And the same law teach rebels to obey: 993 Votes shall no more establish'd pow'r control, 994 Such votes as make a part exceed the whole: 995 No groundless clamours shall my friends remove, 996 Nor crowds have pow'r to punish ere they prove: 997 For gods, and god-like kings their care express, 998 Still to defend their servants in distress. 999 Oh that my pow'r to saving were confin'd: 1000 Why am I forc'd, like Heav'n, against my mind, 1001 To make examples of another kind? 1002 Must I at length the sword of justice draw? 1003 Oh curst effects of necessary law! 1004 How ill my fear they by my mercy scan, 1005 Beware the fury of a patient man. 1006 Law they require, let law then show her face; 1007 They could not be content to look on grace, 1009 To tempt the terror of her front, and die. 1010 By their own arts 'tis righteously decreed, 1011 Those dire artificers of death shall bleed. 1012 Against themselves their witnesses will swear, 1013 Till viper-like their mother plot they tear: 1014 And suck for nutriment that bloody gore 1015 Which was their principle of life before. 1016 Their Belial with the Belzebub will fight; 1017 Thus on my foes, my foes shall do me right: 1018 Nor doubt th'event: for factious crowds engage 1019 In their first onset, all their brutal rage; 1020 Then, let 'em take an unresisted course: 1021 Retire and traverse, and delude their force: 1022 But when they stand all breathless, urge the fight, 1023 And rise upon 'em with redoubled might: 1024 For lawful pow'r is still superior found, 1025 When long driv'n back, at length it stands the ground. 1026 He said. Th' Almighty, nodding, gave consent; 1027 And peals of thunder shook the firmament. 1028 Henceforth a series of new time began, 1029 The mighty years in long procession ran: 1030 Once more the god-like David was restor'd, 1031 And willing nations knew their lawful lord. Notes 1] The text is that of the second edition, which appeared in the same year (1681) as the first, but to which Dryden made important additions: the twelve lines on Shaftesbury, beginning "So easy still it proves in factious times" (180-91), and the four on Monmouth, beginning "But oh that yet he would repent and live!" (957-60).
The occasion of the poem was as follows: England in 1678 was suddenly plunged into fearful confusion by the Popish Plot. Titus Oates, the perjurer, warned the administration, and deposed on oath before a London magistrate, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, that the Roman Catholics were plotting to murder the King and establish the supremacy of their religion by force of foreign arms. Godfrey's murder, a few weeks after Oates's deposition, seemed to confirm the accusations and the country was thrown into a state of panic. The men arraigned by Oates were seized and tried, and fifteen of them were executed. Oates's collection of brazen lies was dashed with just enough truth to make it plausible to a bewildered and frightened people.
The Earl of Shaftesbury, the leader of the Whig party, quickly became Oates's patron. He shrewdly realized that the intense popular feeling roused against the Catholics by Oates's disclosures could be used to force the King to exclude his brother, James, Duke of York, an avowed Catholic, from the succession to the throne. He proposed to replace the Duke of York by the King's illegitimate but personable son, James, Duke of Monmouth. He attempted to secure his aim by introducing into Parliament in 1680 the Exclusion Bill. The Bill easily passed the Commons but was narrowly defeated in the Lords. Its defeat was primarily due to the eloquence of the Earl of Halifax--the Jotham of this poem--who had supported Shaftesbury until the danger of his extreme policy had become obvious. The Court, who knew that at bottom Halifax was an enemy of the Duke of York, was thankful but not grateful to him for his intervention, and Dryden, faithfully reflecting the Court's sentiments, gave him only cursory praise.
The King prorogued, and then dissolved, Parliament in January 1681, in order to save his brother, but he knew that as soon as he summoned a new Parliament, which he must do quickly were he to obtain supplies essential to government, the Exclusion Bill would be introduced again by the Whigs. He could only defend himself against this threatened attack by finding an alternative source of revenue; and, in March 1681, immediately before the meeting of the new Parliament, he concluded a secret agreement with Louis XIV by which he obtained a subsidy in return for his acquiescence in French foreign policy. Shaftesbury prepared for the new Parliament by stirring up popular agitation and even by plotting an armed rising, which, he hoped, would force the King's hand if he still proved recalcitrant. Parliament met at Oxford--a place chosen by the King to prevent Shaftesbury's London mobs from intimidating the members--but after it had sat for a few days, the King, freed from dependence on it by Louis's subsidy, and rightly judging that the Whigs' excesses had alienated every moderate sentiment in the country, dissolved it without warning on March 28.
This dextrous stroke destroyed Shaftesbury's ascendancy. The Whig leader was arrested and sent to the Tower on July 2, and while he lay there waiting trial on a charge of high treason, Dryden, it is said at the King's suggestion, wrote this poem. It appeared on about November 17 and its obvious intention was to prejudice the people against Shaftesbury. It was eagerly read but it did not affect the issue. The bill of indictment against Shaftesbury on a charge of high treason was brought before, and thrown out by, a London jury on November 24, 1681.
Dryden adapts for his poem the biblical story of David and Absalom (II Samuel 13-18), transposing English events and characters into biblical or pseudobiblical ones. The chief transcriptions are indicated in the following key. The use of a biblical Concordance will show the aptness of many of his parallels.
A Key to
Absalom and Achitophel Aaron's Race, The Clergy. Abbethdin, Lord Chancellor. Absalom, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleugh (1649-1685), the natural son of Charles II and Lucy Walters, who took the name of Scott upon his marriage with Annabel. Achitophel, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683). Adriel, John Sheffeld, Earl of Mulgrave (1648-1721). Agag, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (1621-1678). Amiel, Edward Seymour (1633-1708). Annabel, Anne Scott, Countess of Buccleugh in her own right, and wife of Absalom. Balaam, Theophilus Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon (1650-1701). Barzillai, James Butler, Earl of Ormonde (1610-1688). Bathsheba, Louise Renée de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth and Aubigny (1649-1734), Charles II's mistress. Caleb, Forde, Lord Grey of Werke (d. 1701). Corah, Titus Oates (1649-1705). David, Charles II. Egypt, France. Ethnic Plot, Popish Plot. Gath, Brussels. Hebrew Priests, Church of England clergy. Hebron, Scotland. Hushai, Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester (1641-1711). Ishbosheth, Richard Cromwell (1626-1712). Israel, England. Issachar, Thomas Thynne of Longleat (1648-1682), known on account of his wealth as "Tom of Ten Thousand." Jebusites, Roman Catholics. Jerusalem, London. Jewish Rabbins, Doctors of the Church of England. Jonas, Sir William Jones (1631-1682). Jordan, The English seas or, as "Jordan's Flood," the Irish Channel. Jotham, George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695). Levites, The Presbyterian ministers displaced by the Act of Uniformity. Michal, Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705), the childless Queen of Charles II. Nadab, William, Lord Howard of Escrick (1626?-1694). Pharaoh, Louis XIV of France. Sagan of Jerusalem, Bishop of London. Sanhedrin, Parliament. Saul, Oliver Cromwell. Shimei, Slingsby Bethel (1617-1697). Sion, London. Solymean rout, London mob. Tyre, Holland. Zadoc, William Sancroft (1617-1693), Archbishop of Canterbury. Zimri, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (1628-1687). Back to Line 24] Monmouth had commanded the British troops serving under the French against the Dutch in 1672-73, and under the Dutch against the French in 1678. He gained distinction in both campaigns. Back to Line 40] This may be a reference to the attack made on Sir John Coventry (d. 1682) in 1670 at the instigation of Monmouth. Coventry reflected on the King's affairs with actresses in a debate in the Commons, and was later waylaid and had his nose slit to the bone with a penknife. Back to Line 50] A reference to the proliferation of religious sects. Back to Line 59] Charles II was crowned King in Scotland in 1651 but not in England until 1661: therefore, although he entered England in 1660 from the Continent, Dryden can say that his people brought him from Scotland. Back to Line 84] "Commonwealth" is here used, of course, with memories of Cromwell's rule. Back to Line 121] A gibing reference to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Back to Line 158] Shaftesbury was a man of poor physique and sickly constitution. "Inform'd" is used here in the Aristotelian sense. Back to Line 172] Shaftesbury's son, the second Earl, was entirely without character or ability. Back to Line 177] Shaftesbury was a signatory to the second Treaty with France in 1670 which ended the Triple Alliance of 1667 between England, Sweden, and Holland, directed against France. He was ignorant of the first Treaty with France of 1670 by which Charles II pledged himself to re-establish Roman Catholicism in England. Back to Line 187] Shaftesbury was Lord Chancellor in 1672-73 but was dismissed from office. Back to Line 227] "Democracy" is used here, as usually before the modern period, to mean mob rule. Back to Line 344] "Prevent" is used in its early sense of "anticipate." Back to Line 357] The courage of James, Duke of York (later James II), and his success as a naval commander had been celebrated by Dryden in Annus Mirabilis (1667). Back to Line 386] "Wit," in its general sense of intelligence. Back to Line 530] "Enthusiastic" is usually in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a derogatory term, denoting one with a delusory sense of being divinely inspired. Back to Line 544] The Duke of Buckingham, poet, wit, and politician, was a man of brilliant gifts but of unstable and profligate character. He was at this time a supporter of Shaftesbury. He had superbly ridiculed Dryden and his plays in the comedy of The Rehearsal, 1671. Dryden had thus a double reason for satirizing him. Back to Line 576] Lord Howard was said to have taken the Sacrament in "lamb's wool," a concoction of ale, sauce, and roasted apples, instead of in wine. Back to Line 581] Sir William Jones, as Attorney-General, conducted the prosecutions of the Popish Plot but resigned office in order to support Shaftesbury. He secured the passage through the Commons in 1680 of the Bill--which he may have drawn up--to exclude the Duke of York from the succession. Back to Line 585] Slingsby Bethel, a wealthy merchant and conspicuous republican, was elected sheriff of London in 1680 but his mean state during his term of office offended many citizens. Back to Line 595] "Vare," from the Spanish vara, means a wand. Back to Line 644] Titus Oates had taken orders in the Church of England following his father's lead who, after being a ribbon-weaver and an Anabaptist minister, was also a Church of England clergyman. Back to Line 647] The ruddy complexion of a clergyman and a shining expression like Moses's when he came down from Mount Sinai. Back to Line 659] Oates claimed to have received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Salamanca, a place which he is known never to have visited. Back to Line 676] Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, the London magistrate before whom Oates deposed on oath his story of the Popish Plot, was murdered on Primrose Hill on October 12, 1678. The Protestants accused the Catholics of his murder and the Catholics retaliated by accusing the Whigs of murdering him in order to give substance to the Plot. Back to Line 700] Monmouth had been sent out of the country by the King in September 1679 but returned without permission in November. He was ordered to leave the country again and, when he disobeyed, was deprived of all his offices and banished from the Court. Back to Line 730] Monmouth made a royal progress through western England after his banishment from Court and his attractive personality gained him and the Whigs many supporters. Back to Line 817] The Duke of Ormonde, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, was an ardent royalist, and a man of remarkable purity and integrity of character, who, after being defeated in Ireland during the Civil War, was in exile until the Restoration, when he was restored to the offices he had held under Charles I. Back to Line 831] Ormonde's eldest son was Thomas, Earl of Ossory (1614-1680), who, in John Evelyn's words, "deserved all that a sincere friend, a brave soldier, a virtuous courtier, a loyal subject, an honest man, a bountiful master, and good christian, could deserve of his prince and country." Back to Line 866] The Bishop of London was Henry Compton (1632-1713), who had superintended the education of the Duke of York's daughters, Mary and Anne. Back to Line 868] A reference to John Dolben (1625-1686), Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster. The "Western dome" is Westminster Abbey, and the "Prophet's Sons," the boys of Westminster School. Back to Line 877] The Earl of Mulgrave was both a poet and a particular friend and patron of Dryden. Back to Line 881] Mulgrave was invested with some of the offices taken from Monmouth in 1679. Back to Line 882] The Marquis of Halifax had once supported Shaftesbury but, alarmed at his excess, had become a supporter of the Court. It was entirely by his eloquence that the Exclusion Bill was defeated in the Lords in 1680. See also the Introductory Note. Back to Line 888] Laurence Hyde was an ardent royalist, a confidant of the Duke of York, and a patron of Dryden. He was first commissioner of the treasury and an important power in the Administration. Back to Line 899] Edward Seymour, who had been Speaker of the House of Commons from 1673 to 1678, was re-elected as Speaker in 1679, but the King refused to accept him. A Tory and Churchman, he opposed the Exclusion Bill in 1680. Back to Line 930] "Turn'd" in the same sense as in "wood-turner"--"shaped" or "manufactured"--as well as in the usual sense. Back to Line 965] Compare Johnson's "Patriotism: the last refuge of a scoundrel." The term "patriot" remained disreputable through most of the eighteenth century, chiefly from being assumed by rabble-rousers. Back to Line 967] "Brave" (more commonly "Bravo") denotes a swaggering bully rather than a true hero. Back to Line