From "Mac Flecknoe"
All human things are subject to decay, And, when Fate summons, monarchs must obey: This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young Was call'd to empire, and had govern'd long: In prose and verse, was own'd, without dispute Through all the realms of Non-sense, absolute. This aged prince now flourishing in peace, And blest with issue of a large increase, Worn out with business, did at length debate To settle the succession of the State: And pond'ring which of all his sons was fit To reign, and wage immortal war with wit; Cry'd, 'tis resolv'd; for nature pleads that he Should only rule, who most resembles me: Shadwell alone my perfect image bears, Mature in dullness from his tender years. Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he Who stands confirm'd in full stupidity. The rest to some faint meaning make pretence, But Shadwell never deviates into sense. Some beams of wit on other souls may fall, Strike through and make a lucid interval; But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray, His rising fogs prevail upon the day: Besides his goodly fabric fills the eye, And seems design'd for thoughtless majesty: Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the plain, And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign. Heywood and Shirley were but types of thee, Thou last great prophet of tautology: Even I, a dunce of more renown than they, Was sent before but to prepare thy way; And coarsely clad in Norwich drugget came To teach the nations in thy greater name. My warbling lute, the lute I whilom strung When to King John of Portugal I sung, Was but the prelude to that glorious day, When thou on silver Thames did'st cut thy way, With well tim'd oars before the royal barge, Swell'd with the pride of thy celestial charge;
From "Absalom and Architophel"
Of these the false Achitophel was first: A name to all succeeding ages curst. For close designs, and crooked counsels fit; Sagacious, bold and turbulent of wit: Restless, unfixt in principles and place; In pow'r unpleas'd, impatient of disgrace. A fiery soul, which working out its way, Fretted the pigmy-body to decay: And o'er inform'd the tenement of clay. A daring pilot in extremity; Pleas'd with the danger, when the waves went high He sought the storms; but for a calm unfit, Would steer too nigh the sands, to boast his wit. Great wits are sure to madness near alli'd; And thin partitions do their bounds divide: Else, why should he, with wealth and honour blest, Refuse his age the needful hours of rest? Punish a body which he could not please; Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease? And all to leave, what with his toil he won To that unfeather'd, two-legg'd thing, a son: Got, while his soul did huddled notions try; And born a shapeless lump, like anarchy. In friendship false, implacable in hate: Resolv'd to ruin or to rule the state. To compass this, the triple bond he broke; The pillars of the public safety shook: And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke. Then, seiz'd with fear, yet still affecting fame, Usurp'd a patriot's all-atoning name. So easy still it proves in factious times, With public zeal to cancel private crimes: How safe is treason, and how sacred ill, Where none can sin against the people's will: Where crowds can wink; and no offence be known, Since in another's guilt they find their own. Yet, fame deserv'd, no enemy can grudge; The statesman we abhor, but praise the judge. In Jewish courts ne'er sat an Abbethdin With more discerning eyes, or hands more clean: Unbrib'd, unsought, the wretched to redress; Swift of dispatch, and easy of access. Oh, had he been content to serve the crown, With virtues only proper to the gown; Or, had the rankness of the soil been freed From cockle, that opprest the noble seed: David, for him his tuneful harp had strung, And heav'n had wanted one immortal song. But wild ambition loves to slide, not stand; And fortune's ice prefers to virtue's land: