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Short poem

John Dryden (1631-1700)

To the Memory of Mr. Oldham

              1Farewell, too little and too lately known,
              2Whom I began to think and call my own;
              3For sure our souls were near ally'd; and thine
              4Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.
              5One common note on either lyre did strike,
              6And knaves and fools we both abhorr'd alike:
              7To the same goal did both our studies drive,
              8The last set out the soonest did arrive.
              9Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
            10While his young friend perform'd and won the race.
            11O early ripe! to thy abundant store
            12What could advancing age have added more?
            13It might (what nature never gives the young)
            14Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
            15But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
            16Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
            17A noble error, and but seldom made,
            18When poets are by too much force betray'd.
            19Thy generous fruits, though gather'd ere their prime
            20Still show'd a quickness; and maturing time
            21But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
            22Once more, hail and farewell; farewell thou young,
            23But ah too short, Marcellus of our tongue;
            24Thy brows with ivy, and with laurels bound;
            25But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.


1] John Oldham (1653-1683) gained fame as a verse satirist, especially through his Satire on the Jesuits, published 1679. His satire is vigorous and witty, but the verse, by comparison with Dryden's, rough and unpolished.

9] Nisus. According to legend, Nisus, when winning a race, slipped in a pool of blood, fell, then rolled into the path of a rival contestant to help his friend win the race.

23] Marcellus: nephew and son-in-law of the Emperor Augustus, who also died, much mourned, at an early age.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Dryden, Poetry, Prose, and Plays, ed. Douglas Grant (Reynard Library edition: Hart-Davis, 1952). PR 3412 G7 1952 ROBA. The base text is John Dryden, Miscellany Poems (1684). B-10 4961 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1684
RPO poem editor: G. G. Falle
RP edition: 3RP 2.32.
Recent editing: 4:2002/4/3

Form: Heroic Couplets

Other poems by John Dryden