After a brief period in government, he turned his attention almost entirely to writing. Dryden was one of the first English writers to make his living strictly by writing, but this meant he had to cater to popular taste. His long career was astonishingly varied, and he turned his exceptional talents to almost all literary forms. Dryden dominated the entire Restoration period as a poet, playwright, and all-round man of letters. He was the third poet laureate of England. In his old age Dryden was virtually a literary "dictator" in England, with an immense influence on eighteenth-century poetry.
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The chambres and the stables weren wyde, And wel we weren esed atte beste. And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, And made forward erly for to ryse, To take oure wey, ther as I yow devyse. But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space, Er that I ferther in this tale pace, Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun To telle yow al the condicioun Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, And whiche they weren and of what degree, And eek in what array that they were inne; And at a Knyght than wol I first bigynne.
At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne; Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne Aboven alle nacions in Pruce. In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce,— No cristen man so ofte of his degree. In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye. At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene, And foughten for oure feith at Tramyssene In lyste thries, and ay slayn his foo.
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also Somtyme with the lord of Palatye Agayn another hethen in Turkye; And evermoore he hadde a sovereyn prys. And though that he were worthy, he was wys, And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde, In al his lyf, unto no maner wight. He was a verray, parfit, gentil knyght. Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse. And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie, And born hym weel, as of so litel space, In hope to stonden in his lady grace. Embrouded was he, as it were a meede Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede. Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day; He was as fressh as is the month of May.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde; Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde; He koude songes make and wel endite, Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write. So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
A sheef of pecock arwes bright and kene, Under his belt he bar ful thriftily— Wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly; His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe— And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene. A forster was he, soothly as I gesse. Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse, That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy; Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte Loy, And she was cleped madame Eglentyne. Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne, Entuned in hir nose ful semely; And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly, After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe. At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle: She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle, Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe.
Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte. Ful semely after hir mete she raughte. But for to speken of hire conscience, She was so charitable and so pitous She wolde wepe if that she saugh a mous Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel breed; But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed, Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte; And al was conscience and tendre herte. Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was; Hire nose tretys, her eyen greye as glas, Hir mouth ful smal and ther-to softe and reed; But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed; It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe; For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war; Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene, And ther-on heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, On which ther was first write a crowned A, And after, Amor vincit omnia. Another Nonne with hire hadde she, That was hire chapeleyne, and Preestes thre. A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie, An outridere, that lovede venerie; A manly man, to been an abbot able. The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit, By-cause that it was old and som-del streit,— This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace, And heeld after the newe world the space.
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men, Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees, Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees,— This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre. But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre; And I seyde his opinioun was good. How shal the world be served? Lat Austyn have his swynk to him reserved. Therfore he was a prikasour aright: Grehoundes he hadde, as swift as fowel in flight; Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas, And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt. He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt; His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed, That stemed as a forneys of a leed; His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat. Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat. He was nat pale, as a forpyned goost: A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye. In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage. He hadde maad ful many a mariage Of yonge wommen at his owene cost. Unto his ordre he was a noble post. Ful swetely herde he confessioun, And plesaunt was his absolucioun. His typet was ay farsed full of knyves And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves.
And certeinly he hadde a murye note: Wel koude he synge and pleyen on a rote; Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris. His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys; Ther-to he strong was as a champioun. And over-al, ther as profit sholde arise, Curteis he was and lowely of servyse. Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous. He was the beste beggere in his hous; [And yaf a certeyn ferme for the graunt, Noon of his brethren cam ther in his haunt;] For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho, So plesaunt was his In principio, Yet wolde he have a ferthyng er he wente: His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
And rage he koude, as it were right a whelpe. Somwhat he lipsed for his wantownesse, To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge; And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe, His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
A Marchant was ther with a forked berd, In motteleye, and hye on horse he sat; Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bevere hat; His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
He wolde the see were kept for any thing Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle. Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle. This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette; Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette, So estatly was he of his gouvernaunce, With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce. For sothe he was a worthy man with-alle, But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle. A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also, That unto logyk hadde longe y-go. As leene was his hors as is a rake, And he nas nat right fat, I undertake, But looked holwe, and ther-to sobrely.
But al be that he was a philosophre, Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; But al that he myghte of his freendes hente On bookes and on lernynge he it spente, And bisily gan for the soules preye Of hem that yaf hym wher-with to scoleye. Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede.
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche; And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche. A Sergeant of the Lawe, war and wys, That often hadde been at the Parvys, Ther was also, ful riche of excellence. Discreet he was, and of greet reverence— He semed swich, his wordes weren so wise. Justice he was ful often in assise, By patente, and by pleyn commissioun. For his science and for his heigh renoun, Of fees and robes hadde he many oon. So greet a purchasour was nowher noon: Al was fee symple to hym in effect; His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas, And yet he semed bisier than he was. In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle That from the tyme of kyng William were falle. Ther-to he koude endite and make a thyng, Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng; And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote, Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale; Of his array telle I no lenger tale. A Frankeleyn was in his compaignye. Whit was his berd as is the dayesye; Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn; To lyven in delit was evere his wone, For he was Epicurus owene sone, That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit Was verraily felicitee parfit. An housholdere, and that a greet, was he; Seint Julian he was in his contree. His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon; A bettre envyned man was nowher noon. Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous, Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous, It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke, Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke, After the sondry sesons of the yeer; So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe, And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe. Wo was his cook but if his sauce were Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere. His table dormant in his halle alway Stood redy covered al the longe day. At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire; Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire. An anlaas, and a gipser al of silk, Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour; Was nowher such a worthy vavasour. Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was; Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras, But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys To sitten in a yeldehalle, on a deys. It is ful fair to been y-cleped Madame, And goon to vigilies al bifore, And have a mantel roialliche y-bore.
A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones, To boille the chiknes with the marybones, And poudre-marchant tart, and galyngale.
Wel koude he knowe a draughte of Londoun ale. But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me, That on his shyne a mormal hadde he; For blankmanger, that made he with the beste. A Shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste; For aught I woot he was of Dertemouthe. He rood upon a rouncy, as he kouthe, In a gowne of faldyng to the knee. A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun. The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun; And certeinly he was a good felawe.
Ful many a draughte of wyn hadde he y-drawe Fro Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleep. Of nyce conscience took he no keep. If that he faught and hadde the hyer hond, By water he sente hem hoom to every lond. But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes, His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides, His herberwe and his moone, his lode-menage, Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
AURENG-ZEBE. A TRAGEDY
The chambres and the stables weren wyde, And wel we weren esed atte beste. And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, That I was of hir felaweshipe anon, And made forward erly for to ryse, To take oure wey, ther as I yow devyse. But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space, Er that I ferther in this tale pace, Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun To telle yow al the condicioun Of ech of hem, so as it semed me, And whiche they weren and of what degree, And eek in what array that they were inne; And at a Knyght than wol I first bigynne. At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne; Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne Aboven alle nacions in Pruce. In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce,— No cristen man so ofte of his degree. In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye.
His father, Sha-Jehan, had four sons, to each of whom he delegated the command of a province. It happened, that Sha-Jehan being exhausted by the excesses of the Haram, a report of his death became current in the provinces, and proved the signal for insurrection and discord among his children. Morat Bakshi possessed himself of Surat, after a long siege, and Sultan-Sujah, having declared himself independent in Bengal, advanced as far as Lahor, with a large army. Dara-Sha, the legitimate successor of the crown, was the only son of Sha-Jehan, who preferred filial duty to the prospect of aggrandisement. He dispatched an army against Sultan-Sujah, checked his progress, and compelled him to retreat. But Aureng-Zebe, the third and most wily of the brethren, had united his forces to those of Morat Bakshi, and advancing against Dara-Sha, totally defeated him, and dissipated his army. Aureng-Zebe availed himself of the military reputation and treasures, acquired by his success, to seduce the forces of Morat Bakshi, whom he had pretended to assist, and, seizing upon his person at a banquet, imprisoned him in a strong fortress.