'Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!' by John Dryden

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Farewell, ungrateful traitor!
Farewell, my perjur'd swain!
Let never injur'd woman
Believe a man again.
The pleasure of possessing
Surpasses all expressing,
But 'tis too short a blessing,
And love too long a pain.

'Tis easy to deceive us
In pity of your pain,
But when we love, you leave us
To rail at you in vain.
Before we have descried it,
There is no joy beside it,
But she that once has tried it
Will never love again.

The passion you pretended
Was only to obtain,
But once the charm is ended,
The charmer you disdain.
Your love by ours we measure
Till we have lost our treasure,
But dying is a pleasure
When living is a pain.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!: A Poem Analysis by John Dryden

Are you looking for a poem that captures the quintessential emotions of betrayal, anger, and revenge? Look no further than John Dryden's "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" This classic poem, first published in 1682, is a masterpiece of Restoration literature, and its themes of loyalty, deceit, and retribution are still relevant today.

Background and Context

Before delving into the poem itself, it's important to understand the historical and political context in which Dryden wrote. In the late 17th century, England was in the midst of a tumultuous period known as the Glorious Revolution. The Catholic King James II had been overthrown in favor of the Protestant William III, and tensions were high between the two sides.

Dryden, a staunch supporter of the Stuart dynasty, was deeply affected by these events. He was forced to renounce his Catholic faith and lost his position as Poet Laureate, a post he had held for nearly 20 years. It was in this context of political and personal upheaval that he wrote "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!"

Literary Analysis

At its core, "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" is a revenge poem. It tells the story of a man who has been wronged by a former ally, and who is now seeking justice. The poem is written in rhymed couplets, a common form in Restoration literature, and is divided into four stanzas of varying length.

The opening stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker, who is presumably Dryden himself, addresses the titular "ungrateful traitor" in scathing terms: "Farewell, too little and too lately known, / Whom I began to think and call my own." The use of the word "traitor" implies that the speaker has been betrayed in some way, and the sarcasm in the phrase "too little and too lately known" suggests that the speaker now sees the traitor's true colors.

The second stanza provides more detail about the nature of the betrayal. We learn that the traitor was once a close friend, someone whom the speaker trusted implicitly. But now, the speaker sees that the traitor's loyalty was all a facade: "But better 'twas I should be thus abused, / Than that my simple soul should be accused / Of lying, and my passion but pretended, / Which, had I done, and suffered, too, had ended." Here, the speaker suggests that he would rather be the victim of a betrayal than be accused of duplicity himself.

In the third stanza, the speaker shifts from a tone of victimhood to one of vengeance. He describes the ways in which he plans to punish the traitor: "No, let him live, in my disgrace and scorn, / The fable of the next age to be born, / That, when his bones are rotten, and his name / And fame shall be forgotten with his shame, / His coward heart may be afraid to hear / My vengeance thundering in his guilty ear." The language here is powerful and visceral. The speaker wants the traitor to suffer not just in the present, but for generations to come.

Finally, in the fourth stanza, the speaker concludes with a reflection on the nature of loyalty and friendship. He acknowledges that he was foolish to trust the traitor, but also suggests that such foolishness is an essential part of being human: "Thus our first love, like foolish fires, / Burn brightest, and devour ourselves and ours." The poem ends with a warning to others to be wary of trust, lest they suffer the same fate as the speaker.


So what does "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" mean? On one level, it's simply a revenge poem, a cathartic expression of anger and frustration at a personal betrayal. But on a deeper level, the poem speaks to broader themes of loyalty, trust, and human nature.

Throughout the poem, the speaker emphasizes the importance of loyalty and the devastating consequences of betrayal. He suggests that trust is essential to human relationships, but also acknowledges that it can be easily broken. In this sense, the poem can be read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of placing too much faith in others.

At the same time, however, the speaker also suggests that foolishness and vulnerability are an essential part of the human experience. He acknowledges that he was naive to trust the traitor, but also suggests that such naivete is a natural part of the process of learning and growing. In this sense, the poem can be read as a celebration of human fallibility, a recognition that we are all prone to mistakes and misjudgments.

Ultimately, though, the power of "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" lies in its emotional intensity. The poem is a raw, visceral expression of anger and betrayal, and it captures the depths of human emotion in a way that few other works of literature can match. Whether you're looking for a classic revenge poem or a profound exploration of human nature, "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is a classic poem written by John Dryden, an English poet, literary critic, and playwright. The poem was written in the 17th century and is considered one of Dryden's most famous works. It is a powerful and emotional piece that explores the theme of betrayal and the consequences that come with it.

The poem is written in the form of a farewell letter from the speaker to an ungrateful traitor. The speaker is addressing someone who has betrayed him, and he is bidding them farewell. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different tone and message.

The first stanza is filled with anger and resentment. The speaker is furious with the traitor and is not afraid to express his feelings. He calls the traitor an "ungrateful wretch" and accuses him of being a liar and a cheat. The speaker is hurt by the betrayal and feels that the traitor has taken advantage of him. He says that he has been "too kind" to the traitor and that he regrets ever trusting him.

The second stanza is more reflective and introspective. The speaker begins to question his own actions and wonders if he is to blame for the betrayal. He asks himself if he was too trusting and if he should have seen the signs of the traitor's deceit. The speaker also acknowledges that he is not perfect and that he has made mistakes in the past. He says that he has learned from these mistakes and that he will not make the same ones again.

The third and final stanza is a warning to the traitor. The speaker tells the traitor that he will not forget what he has done and that he will pay for his betrayal. He says that the traitor will be "cursed" and that he will suffer for his actions. The speaker also warns the traitor that he will not be able to escape the consequences of his betrayal, no matter how hard he tries.

Overall, Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is a powerful and emotional poem that explores the theme of betrayal. It is a timeless piece that still resonates with readers today. The poem is a reminder that trust is a fragile thing and that it can be easily broken. It also shows that there are consequences to our actions and that we must be prepared to face them.

One of the most striking things about the poem is its use of language. Dryden's words are powerful and emotive, and they convey the speaker's feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal. The use of the word "ungrateful" in the title sets the tone for the poem and immediately establishes the speaker's feelings towards the traitor. The repetition of the word "farewell" throughout the poem also adds to the emotional impact of the piece.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is its structure. The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different tone and message. This structure allows Dryden to explore the theme of betrayal from different angles and to convey a range of emotions. The first stanza is filled with anger and resentment, while the second stanza is more reflective and introspective. The third stanza is a warning to the traitor and is filled with a sense of foreboding.

The poem also raises some interesting questions about the nature of betrayal. Is the traitor solely to blame for his actions, or is the speaker partly responsible for trusting him in the first place? Does the speaker have a right to be angry and resentful, or should he forgive the traitor and move on? These are complex questions that the poem does not answer, but it does raise them in a thought-provoking way.

In conclusion, Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is a classic poem that explores the theme of betrayal in a powerful and emotional way. It is a timeless piece that still resonates with readers today and is a reminder that trust is a fragile thing that can be easily broken. The poem's use of language and structure adds to its emotional impact, and it raises some interesting questions about the nature of betrayal. Overall, it is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry or the human condition.

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