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To the Memory of Mr Oldham
by John Dryden

English text, dramatist, literary critic, translator, poet laureate and royal historiographer. Dryden's immense stature upon the literary horizon of his time was so great that his age has often been called 'The Age of Dryden'. His first major works were works of poetry: the Heroique Stanza's (1658) written on the death of Cromwell and the celebrations of King James II's restoration; the Astraea Redux (1660) and the To His Sacred Majesty (1661). These were followed, in 1667, by the thrice celebratory work Annus Mirabilis (1667), written upon the occasion of two English victories over the Dutch fleet and the extinguishing of the Great Fire of London. Other works from Dryden's earlier period were mainly for the theatre. These include heroic works such as The Indian Queen (1664), The Indian Emporer (1665) and The Conquest of Granada (1669); comic works: The Wild Gallant (1663), The Rival Ladies (1664) and An Evening's Love (1668); and tragi-comic works. These latter include Secret Love (1667), Marriage a la Mode (1672) and The Assignation (1672). Dryden also adapted works by Shakespeare - The Tempest (1667) and Troilus and Cressida (1679) - and Milton (Paradise Lost) and wrote a number of critical texts, including Of Dramatick Poesie (1668), A Defence of an Essay (1668) and Of Heroic Plays (1672).


To the Memory of Mr Oldham
by John Dryden

Farewell, too little and too lately known,
Whom I began to think and call my own;
For sure our souls were near allied, and thine
Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.
One common note on either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorred alike.
To the same goal did both our studies drive;
The last set out the soonest did arrive.
Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
While his young friend performed and won the race.
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what Nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
When poets are by too much force betrayed.
Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere their prime,
Still showed a quickness; and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
Once more, hail and farewell! farewell, thou young,
But ah too short, Marcellus of our tongue!
Thy brows with ivy and with laurels bound;
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.


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