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Ode

John Dryden 1631 (Aldwincle) – 1631 (London)

To the Pious Memory of the Accomplished Young Lady, Mrs Anne Killigrew,
Excellent in the Two Sister-arts of Poesy and Painting.

Thou youngest Virgin Daughter of the skies,
Made in the last promotion of the blest;
Whose palms, new-plucked from Paradise,
In spreading branches more sublimely rise,
Rich with immortal green, above the rest:
Whether, adopted to some neighbouring star,
Thou roll'st above us in thy wand'ring race,
Or, in procession fixed and regular
Moved with the heavens' majestic pace;
Or, called to more superior bliss,
Thou tread'st with seraphims the vast abyss:
Whatever happy region be thy place,
Cease thy celestial song a little space;
(Thou wilt have time enough for hymns divine,
Since Heaven's eternal year is thine.)
Hear then a mortal muse thy praise rehearse
In no ignoble verse;
But such as thy own voice did practise here,
When thy first fruits of poesie were given,
To make thyself a welcome inmate there;
While yet a young probationer
And candidate of Heaven.

If by traduction came thy mind,
Our wonder is the less to find
A soul so charming from a stock so good;
Thy father was transfused into thy blood:
So wert thou born into the tuneful strain,
(An early, rich, and inexhausted vein.)
But if thy pre-existing soul
Was formed, at first, with myriads more,
It did through all the mighty poets roll
Who Greek or Latin laurels wore,
And was that Sappho last, which once it was before;
If so, then cease thy flight, O Heav'n-born mind!
Thou hast no dross to purge from thy rich ore:
Nor can thy soul a fairer mansion find
Than was the beauteous frame she left behind:
Return, to fill or mend the choir of thy celestial kind.

May we presume to say that at thy birth
New joy was sprung in Heav'n as well as here on earth?
For sure the milder planets did combine
On thy auspicious horoscope to shine,
And ev'n the most malicious were in trine.
Thy brother-angels at thy birth
Strung each his lyre, and tuned it high,
That all the people of the sky
Might know a poetess was born on earth;
And then if ever, mortal ears
Had heard the music of the spheres!
And if no clust'ring swarm of bees
On thy sweet mouth distilled their golden dew,
'Twas that such vulgar miracles
Heav'n had not leisure to renew:
For all the blest fraternity of love
Solemnized there thy birth, and kept thy holyday above.

O gracious God! how far have we
Profaned thy Heav'nly gift of poesy!
Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,
Debased to each obscene and impious use,
Whose harmony was first ordained above,
For tongues of angels and for hymns of love!
Oh wretched we! why were we hurried down
This lubrique and adult'rate age
(Nay, added fat pollutions of our own)
T' increase the steaming ordures of the stage?
What can we say t' excuse our second fall?
Let this thy vestal, Heav'n, atone for all:
Her Arethusian stream remains unsoiled,
Unmixed with foreign filth and undefiled;
Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child.

Art she had none, yet wanted none,
For nature did that want supply:
So rich in treasures of her own,
She might our boasted stores defy:
Such noble vigour did her verse adorn,
That it seemed borrowed, where 'twas only born.
Her morals too were in her bosom bred
By great examples daily fed,
What in the best of books, her father's life, she read.
And to be read herself she need not fear;
Each test and ev'ry light her muse will bear,
Though Epictetus with his lamp were there.
Ev'n love (for love sometimes her muse expressed)
Was but a lambent-flame which played about her breast,
Light as the vapours of a morning dream;
So cold herself, while she such warmth expressed,
'Twas Cupid bathing in Diana's stream.

Born to the spacious empire of the Nine,
One would have thought she should have been content
To manage well that mighty government;
But what can young ambitious souls confine?
To the next realm she stretched her sway,
For painture near adjoining lay,
A plenteous province, and alluring prey.
A chamber of dependences was framed,
(As conquerers will never want pretence,
When armed, to justify th' offence),
And the whole fief, in right of poetry, she claimed.
The country open lay without defence;
For poets frequent inroads there had made,
And perfectly could represent
The shape, the face, with ev'ry lineament;

And all the large domains which the dumb-sister swayed,
All bowed beneath her government,
Received in triumph wheresoe'er she went.
Her pencil drew whate'er he
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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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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