Cymon And Iphigenia. From Boccace

John Dryden 1631 (Aldwincle) – 1631 (London)



Old as I am, for lady's love unfit,
The power of beauty I remember yet,
Which once inflamed my soul, and still inspires my wit.
If love be folly, the severe divine;
Has felt that folly, though he censures mine;
Pollutes the pleasures of a chaste embrace,
Acts what I write, and propagates in grace,
With riotous excess, a priestly race.
Suppose him free, and that I forge the offence,
He showed the way, perverting first my sense:
In malice witty, and with venom fraught,
He makes me speak the things I never thought.
Compute the gains of his ungoverned zeal;
Ill suits his cloth the praise of railing well.
The world will think that what we loosely write,
Though now arraigned, he read with some delight;
Because he seems to chew the end again,
When his broad comment makes the text too plain,
And teaches more in one explaining page
Than all the double meanings of the stage.

What needs he paraphrase on what we mean?
We were at worst but wanton; he's obscene.
I nor my fellows nor my self excuse;
But Love's the subject of the comic Muse;
Nor can we write without, nor would you
A tale of only dry instruction view.
Nor love is always of a vicious kind,
But oft to virtuous acts inflames the mind,
Awakes the sleepy vigour of the soul,
And, brushing o'er, adds motion to the pool.
Love, studious how to please, improves our parts
With polished manners, and adorns with arts.
Love first invented verse, and formed the rhyme,
The motion measured, harmonized the chime;
To liberal acts enlarged the narrow-souled,
Softened the fierce, and made the coward bold;
The world, when waste, he peopled with increase,
And warring nations reconciled in peace.
Ormond, the first, and all the fair may find,
In this one legend to their fame designed,
When beauty fires the blood, how love exalts the mind.
In that sweet isle, where Venus keeps her court,
And every grace, and all the loves, resort;
Where either sex is formed of softer earth,
And takes the bent of pleasure from their birth;
There lived a Cyprian lord, above the rest
Wise, wealthy, with a numerous issue blest.

But, as no gift of fortune is sincere,
Was only wanting in a worthy heir:
His eldest born, a goodly youth to view,
Fair, tall, his limbs with due proportion joined,
But of a heavy, dull, degenerate mind.
His soul belied the features of his face;
Beauty was there, but beauty in disgrace.
A clownish mien, a voice with rustic sound,
And stupid eyes that ever loved the ground,
He looked like Nature's error, as the mind
And body were not of a piece designed,
But made for two, and by mistake in one were joined.

The ruling rod, the father's forming care,
Were exercised in vain on wit's despair;
The more informed, the less he understood,
And deeper sunk by floundering in the mud.
Now scorned of all, and grown the public shame,
The people from Galesus changed his name,
And Cymon called, which signifies a brute;
So well his name did with his nature suit.

His father, when he found his labour tost,
And care employed that answered not the cost,
Chose an ungrateful object to remove,
And loathed to see what Nature made him love;
So to his country-farm the fool confined;
Rude work well suited with a rustic mind.
Thus to the wilds the sturdy Cymon went,
A squire among the swains, and pleased with banishment.
His corn and cattle were his only care,
And his supreme delight a country-fair.

It happened on a summer's holiday,
That to the greenwood-shade he took his way;
For Cymon shunned the church, and used not much to pray.
His quarter-staff, which he could ne'er forsake,
Hung half before and half behind his back.
He trudged along, unknowing what he sought,
And whistled as he went, for want of thought.

By chance conducted, or by thirst constrained,
The deep recesses of the grove he gained;
Where, in a plain defended by the wood,
Crept through the matted grass a crystal flood,
By which an alabaster fountain stood;
And on the margin of the fount was laid,
Attended by her slaves, a sleeping maid;
Like Dian and her nymphs, when, tired with sport,
To rest by cool Eurotas they resort.
The dame her self the goddess well expressed,
Not more distinguished by her purple vest
Than by the charming features of her face,
And, even in slumber, a superior grace:
Her comely limbs composed with decent care,
Her body shaded with a slight cymarr;
Her bosom to the view was only bare:
For yet their places were but signified:
The fanning wind upon her bosom blows,
To meet the fanning w
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 17, 2023

4:02 min read
99

Quick analysis:

Scheme AXABBCCCCXDDXXEEXXFF GGXXHHIIXXJJKKAXLLIIIMMNNOO PQHRICCSSIIR QQTUVVWW AXXXIIXXQQ XXXXXDD YYTUTZZMMOOCCQPQXXH
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,352
Words 800
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 20, 27, 12, 8, 10, 7, 19

John Dryden

John Dryden was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who was made Poet Laureate in 1668. more…

All John Dryden poems | John Dryden Books

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