09 August 2013

9 August - John Dryden

One of the Widow’s favorite poets, the English Laureate (and Stuart upholder) John Dryden was born today in 1631 in the village of Aldwincle, Northamptonshire where his grandfather was the Rector.

Besides his poetry (which has beguiled many of Madame’s free hours), and his plays, which, although labeled tragedies, are really quite comic, he is said to be the first person to rule that sentences should not end in prepositions, thus dividing the English-speaking world into those upon whose ears the stranded prepositions grate, and those who couldn’t care less whose ears they grate (and a few sub-categories who, like, really don’t understand what everybody is making a ruckus for, like y’know, who cares if you strand a preposition or dangle a participle?)

Moving along, here is one of my favorites, the song from his play Secret Love; or, The Maiden Queen.

 I feed a flame within which so torments me
That it both pains my heart, and yet contents me:           
’Tis such a pleasing smart, and I so love it,
That I had rather die, then once remove it.           
Yet he, for whom I grieve, shall never know it;
My tongue does not betray, nor my eyes show it.
Not a sigh, nor a tear, my pain discloses,
But they fall silently, like dew on roses.

Thus, to prevent my love from being cruel,
My heart’s the sacrifice, as ’tis the fuel:
And while I suffer thus to give him quiet,
My faith rewards my love, though he deny it.

On his eyes will I gaze, and there delight me;
Where I conceal my love, no frown can fright me:
To be more happy, I dare not aspire;
Nor can I fall more low, mounting no higher.

[Oh, be still my beating heart!]

Now, isn’t that preferable to some neaderthal chanting “You mah bitch… you mah bitch… you mah bitch… oh baby, yeah…”

Artwork: Anonymous, “John Dryden”, c. 1670.  Wikipedia.  I love the studied nonchalance of Restoration undress.

Sir Peter Lely, “Nell Gwyn”, c 1675.  National Portrait Gallery, London.  Wikipedia.   Nell, Charles II's "Protestant Whore" as she called herself, acted in several of Dryden's plays.