'The Medal' by John Dryden

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Of all our antic sights and pageantryWhich English idiots run in crowds to see,The Polish Medal bears the prize alone;A monster, more the favourite of the townThan either fairs or theatres have shown.Never did art so well with nature strive,Nor ever idol seemed so much alive;So like the man, so golden to the sight,So base within, so counterfeit and light.One side is filled with title and with face;And, lest the king should want a regal place,On the reverse a tower the town surveys,O'er which our mounting sun his beams displays.The word, pronounced aloud by shrieval voice,Loetamur, which in Polish is Rejoice,The day, month, year, to the great act are joined,And a new canting holiday designed.Five days he sate for every cast and look,Four more days than God to finish Adam took.But who can tell what essence angels areOr how long Heaven was making Lucifer?Oh, could the style that copied every graceAnd ploughed such furrows for an eunuch face,Could it have formed his ever-changing will,The various piece had tired the graver's skill!A martial hero first, with early careBlown, like a pigmy by the winds, to war;A beardless chief, a rebel ere a man,So young his hatred to his Prince began.Next this, (how wildly will ambition steer!)A vermin wriggling in the usurper's ear,Bartering his venal wit for sums of gold,He cast himself into the saint-like mould;Groaned, sighed, and prayed, while godliness was gain,The loudest bag-pipe of the squeaking train.But, as 'tis hard to cheat a juggler's eyes,His open lewdness he could ne'er disguise.There split the saint; for hypocritic zealAllows no sins but those it can conceal.Whoring to scandal gives too large a scope;Saints must not trade, but they may interlope.The ungodly principle was all the same;But a gross cheat betrays his partners' game.Besides, their pace was formal, grave, and slack;His nimble wit outran the heavy pack.Yet still he found hs fortune at a stay,Whole droves of blockheads choking up his way;They took, but not rewarded, his advice;Villain and wit exact a double price.Power was his aim; but thrown from that pretence,The wretch turned loyal in his own defence,And malice reconciled him to his Prince.Him in the anguish of his soul he served,Rewarded faster still than he deserved.Behold him now exalted into trust,His counsels oft convenient, seldom just;Even in the most sincere advice he gaveHe had a grudging still to be a knave.The frauds he learnt in his fanatic yearsMade him uneasy in his lawful gears.At best, as little honest as he could,And, like white witches, mischievously good.To his first bias longingly he leansAnd rather would be great by wicked means.Thus framed for ill, he loosed our triple hold,(Advice unsafe, precipitous, and bold.)From hence those tears, that Ilium was our woe:Who helps a powerful friend forearms a foe.What wonder if the waves prevail so far,When he cut down the banks that made the bar?Seas follow but their nature to invade;But he by art our native strength betrayed.So Samson to his foe his force confest,And to be shorn lay slumbering on her breast.But when this fatal counsel, found too late,Exposed its author to the public hate,When his just sovereign by no impious wayCould be seduced to arbitrary sway,Forsaken of that hope, he shifts his sail,Drives down the current with the popular gale,And shows the fiend confessed without a veil.He preaches to the crowd that power is lent,But not conveyed to kingly government,That claims successive bear no binding force,That coronation oaths are things of course;Maintains the multitude can never err,And sets the people in the papal chair.The reason's obvious, interest never lies;The most have still their interest in their eyes,The power is always theirs, and power is ever wise.Almighty crowd! thou shortenest all dispute.Power is thy essence, wit thy attribute!Nor faith nor reason make thee at a stay,Thou leapst o'er all eternal truths in thy Pindaric way!Athens, no doubt, did righteously decide,When Phocion and when Socrates were tried;As righteously they did those dooms repent;Still they were wise, whatever way they went.Crowds err not, though to both extremes they run;To kill the father and recall the son.Some think the fools were most, as times went then,But now the world's o'erstocked with prudent men.The common cry is even religion's test;The Turk's is at Constantinople best,Idols in India, Popery in Rome,And our own worship is only true at home,And true but for the time; 'tis hard to knowHow long we please it shall continue so;This side to-day, and that to-morrow burns;So all are God Almighties in their turns.A tempting doctrine, plausible and new;What fools our fathers were, if this be true!Who, to destroy the seeds of civil war,Inherent right in monarchs did declare;And, that a lawful power might never cease,Secured succession to secure our peace.Thus property and sovereign sway at lastIn equal balances were justly cast;But this new Jehu spurs the hot-mounted horse,Instructs the beast to know his native force,To take the bit between his teeth and flyTo the next headlong steep of anarchy.Too happy Engand, if our good we knew,Would we possess the freedom we pursue!The lavish government can give no more;Yet we repine, and plenty makes us poor.God tried us once; our rebel fathers fought;He glutted them with all the power they sought,Till, mastered by their own usurping brave,The free-born subject sunk into a slave.We loathe our manna, and we long for quails;Ah! what is man, when his own wish prevails!How rash, how swift to plunge himself in ill,Proud of his power and boundless in his will!That kings can do no wrong we must believe;None can they do, and must they all receive?Help. Heaven, or sadly we shall see an hourWhen neither wrong nor right are in their power!Already they have lost their best defence,The benefit of laws which they dispense.No justice to their righteous cause allowed,But baffled by an arbitrary crowd;And medals graved, their conquest to record,The stamp and coin of their adopted lord.The man who laughed but once, to see an assMumbling to make the cross-grained thistles pass,Might laugh again to see a jury chawThe prickles of unpalatable law.The witnesses that, leech-like lived on blood,Sucking for them were med'cinally good;But when they fastened on their festered sore,Then justice and religion they forswore,Thus men are raised by factions and decried,And rogue and saint distinguished by their side;They rack even Scripture to confess their causeAnd plead a call to preach in spite of laws.But that's no news to the poor injured page,It has been used as ill in every age,And is constrained with patience all to take,For what defence can Greek and Hebrew make?Happy who can this talking trumpet seize,They make it speak whatever sense they please!'Twas framed at first our oracle to inquire;But since our sects in prophecy grow higher,The text inspires not them, but they the text inspire.London, thou great emporium of our isle,O thou too bounteous, thou too fruitful Nile!How shall I praise or curse to thy desert,Or separate thy sound from thy corrupted part?I called thee Nile; the parallel will stand:Thy tides of wealth o'erflow the fattened land;Yet monsters from thy large increase we findEngendered on the slime thou leavest behind.Sedition has not wholly seized on thee,Thy nobler parts are from infection free.Of Israel's tribes thou hast a numerous band,But still the Canaanite is in the land.Thy military chiefs are brave and true,Nor are thy disenchanted burghers few.The head is loyal which thy heart commands,But what's a head with two such gouty hands?The wise and wealthy love the surest wayAnd are content to thrive and to obey.But wisdom is to sloth too great a slave;None are so busy as the fool and knave.Those let me curse; what vengeance will they urge,Whose ordures neither plague nor fire can purge,Nor sharp experience can to duty bringNor angry Heaven nor a forgiving king!In gospel-phrase their chapmen they betray;Their shops are dens, the buyer is their prey;The knack of trades is living on the spoil;They boast e'en when each other they beguile.Customs to steal is such a trivial thingThat 'tis their charter to defraud their King.All hands unite of every jarring sect;They cheat the country first, and then infect.They for God's cause their monarchs dare dethrone,And they'll be sure to make His cause their own.Whether the plotting Jesuit laid the planOf murdering kings, or the French Puritan,Our sacrilegious sects their guides outgoAnd kings and kingly power would murder too.What means their traitorous combination less,Too plain to evade, too shameful to confess?But treason is not owned when 'tis descried;Successful crimes alone are justified.The men who no consiracy would find,Who doubts but, had it taken, they had joined?Joined in a mutual covenant of defence,At first without, at last against their Prince?If sovereign right by sovereign power they scan,The same bold maxim holds in God and man:God were not safe; his thunder could they shun,He should be forced to crown another son.Thus, when the heir was from the vineyard thrown,The rich possession was the murderers' own.In vain to sophistry they have recourse;By proving theirs no plot they prove 'tis worse,Unmasked rebellion, and audiacious force,Which, though not actual, yet all eyes may see'Tis working, in the immediate power to be;For from pretended grievances they riseFirst to dislike and after to dispise;Then, Cyclop-like, in human flesh to deal,Chop up a minister at every meal;Perhaps not wholly to melt down the king,But clip his regal rights within the ring;From thence to asssume the power of peace and warAnd ease him by degrees of public care.Yet, to consult his dignity and fame,He should have leave to exercise the name,And hold the cards while Commons played the game.For what can power give more than food and drink,To live at ease and not be bound to think?These are the cooler methods of their crime,But their hot zealots think 'tis loss of time;On utmost bounds of loyalty they stand,And grin and whet like a Croatian bandThat waits impatient for the last command:Thus outlaws open villainy maintain;They steal not, but in squadrons scour the plain;And if their power the passengers subdue,The most most have right, the wrong is in the few.Such impious axioms foolishly they show,For in some soils Republics will not grow:Our temperate Isle will no extremes sustainOf popular sway or arbitrary reign:But slides between them both into the best,Secure in freedom, in a monarch blest.And, though the climate, vexed with various winds,Works through our yielding bodies on our minds,The wholesome tempest purges what it breedsTo recommend the calmness that succeeds.But thou, the pander of the people's hearts,(O crooked soul and serpentine in arts!)...What curses on thy blasted name will fall,Which age to age their legacy shall call,For all must curse the woes that must descend on all!Religion thou hast none: thy mercuryHas passed through every sect, or theirs through thee.But what thou givest, that venom still remains,And the poxed nation feels thee in their brains.What else inspires the tongues and swells the breastsOf all thy bellowing renegado priests,That preach up thee for God, dispense thy laws,And with thy stum ferment their fainting cause,Fresh fumes of madness raise, and toil and sweat,To make the formidable cripple great?Yet should thy crimes succeed, should lawless powerCompass those ends thy greedy hopes devour,Thy canting friends thy mortal foes would be,Thy god and theirs will never long agree;For thine, if thou hast any, must be oneThat lets the world and human kind alone;A jolly god that passes hours too wellTo promise Heaven or threaten us with Hell,That unconcerned can at rebellion sitAnd wink at crimes he did himself commit.A tyrant theirs; the heaven their priesthood paintsA conventicle of gloomy sullen saints;A heaven, like Bedlam, slovenly and sad,Foredoomed for souls with false religion mad.Without a vision poets can foreshowWhat all but fools by common sense may know:If true succession from our Isle should fail,And crowds profane with impious arms prevail,Not thou nor those thy factious arts engageShall reap that harvest of rebellious rage,With which thou flatterest thy decrepit age.The swelling poison of the several sects,Which, wanting vent, the nation's health infects,Shall burst its bag; and fighting out their way,The various venoms on each other prey.The Presbyter, puffed up with spiritual pride,Shall on the necks of the lewd nobles ride,His brethren damn, the civil power defy,And parcel out republic prelacy.But short shall be his reign; his rigid yokeAnd tyrant power will puny sects provoke,And frogs, and toads, and all the tadpole trainWill croak to Heaven for help from this devouring crane.The cut-throat sword and clamorous gown shall jarIn sharing their ill-gotten spoils of war;Chiefs shall be grudged the part which they pretend;Lords envy lords, and friends with every friendAbout their impious merit shall contend.The surly Commons shall respect denyAnd justle peerage out with property.Their General either shall his trust betrayAnd force the crowd to arbitrary sway,Or they, suspecting his ambitious aim,In hate of kings shall cast anew the frameAnd thrust out Collatine that bore their name.Thus inborn broils the factions would engage,Or wars of exiled heirs, or foreign rage,Till halting vengeance overtook our age,And our wild labours, wearied into rest,Reclined us on a rightful monarch's breast."Pudet hoec opprobria vobisEt dici potuisse et non potuisse refelli."

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Medal: A Masterpiece of Satirical Poetry by John Dryden


Satire has been a prominent tool for writers to criticize and ridicule societal practices and norms. One such example of a masterpiece of satire is John Dryden's poem "The Medal." Published in 1682, "The Medal" is a poem that criticizes the Whig Party's opposition to the Tory Government's policies. The poem is a response to the Whig Party's decision to celebrate their leader, the Duke of Monmouth, by striking a gold medal in his honor. Dryden, a Tory supporter, takes this opportunity to respond to the Whig Party's decision and criticize their leader's character.

The poem is divided into three parts, the first two consisting of twenty stanzas each, and the last consisting of only sixteen. Dryden employs various literary techniques such as allusions, metaphors, and irony to convey his message effectively. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will analyze and interpret the poem's various themes and literary devices.


Form and Structure

The poem's form is that of a heroic couplet, consisting of two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter. Each stanza has ten lines, making the poem a total of 56 stanzas. The first two parts of the poem have the same number of stanzas, while the last part has a reduced number. This reduction in the number of stanzas in the last part symbolizes the reduction in the Whig Party's power.

The poem's structure is that of a narrative, as Dryden takes the reader through his thought process and reasons for his criticism of the Whig Party. Each stanza builds on the previous one, creating a coherent argument against the Whig Party.


The poem's central theme is the criticism of the Whig Party's opposition to the Tory Government's policies. Dryden uses the image of the gold medal struck in the Duke of Monmouth's honor to criticize the Whig Party's leader's character. Dryden argues that the Duke of Monmouth's character is not deserving of such an honor, as he is a traitor to his country.

The poem also criticizes the Whig Party's political practices and their disregard for the monarchy. Dryden suggests that the Whig Party is a group of anarchists who seek to overthrow the monarchy and the established order.

Literary Devices

Dryden employs various literary devices to convey his message effectively. One such device is allusion, as Dryden alludes to various historical events and figures to make his argument. For example, in stanza 3, Dryden alludes to the biblical story of King David and Bathsheba to criticize the Duke of Monmouth's moral character.

Dryden also uses irony throughout the poem to create a sense of mockery and ridicule towards the Whig Party. For example, in stanza 22, Dryden ironically suggests that the Whig Party's medal is a symbol of loyalty to the monarchy, when in fact, it represents their opposition to the monarchy.

Another literary device that Dryden employs is metaphors. In stanza 30, Dryden uses the metaphor of a fever to describe the Whig Party's passion for power. This metaphor suggests that the Whig Party's thirst for power is like a disease that consumes them.


Dryden's poem "The Medal" is a masterpiece of satire that criticizes the Whig Party's opposition to the Tory Government's policies. Dryden uses various literary devices such as allusions, metaphors, and irony to effectively convey his message.

The poem's central theme is the criticism of the Whig Party's leader's character, as Dryden argues that the Duke of Monmouth is not deserving of the honor of a gold medal. Dryden also criticizes the Whig Party's political practices and their disregard for the monarchy.

Overall, Dryden's "The Medal" is a powerful poem that serves as a reminder of the importance of political stability and order. The Whig Party's actions and beliefs, as depicted in the poem, are a warning against the dangers of political radicalism and the need for a strong and stable government.


In conclusion, John Dryden's poem "The Medal" is a masterpiece of satirical poetry that criticizes the Whig Party's opposition to the Tory Government's policies. The poem's themes of political stability and order are as relevant today as they were in Dryden's time. It is a powerful reminder that the need for a strong and stable government is essential to maintaining peace and prosperity.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Medal by John Dryden is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a satirical piece that was written in 1682, during a time of political turmoil in England. The poem is a commentary on the political climate of the time, and it is a scathing critique of those who were involved in the political machinations of the day.

The poem is structured as a dialogue between two characters, Bayes and Johnson. Bayes is a poet who is trying to write a poem in honor of the Duke of York, who was the brother of King Charles II. Johnson is a friend of Bayes who is trying to help him with his poem. The poem is a satire of the political climate of the time, and it is a scathing critique of those who were involved in the political machinations of the day.

The poem begins with Bayes trying to come up with a subject for his poem. He decides that he will write a poem in honor of the Duke of York, who was the brother of King Charles II. Bayes is convinced that the Duke of York is a great man, and he wants to write a poem that will do him justice.

Johnson, however, is not so sure. He points out that the Duke of York is not universally loved, and that there are many people who do not think highly of him. Bayes dismisses Johnson's concerns, and he begins to write his poem.

As Bayes writes his poem, Johnson offers suggestions and critiques. He points out that Bayes is using too many cliches, and that his language is too flowery. Bayes, however, is convinced that his poem is great, and he refuses to listen to Johnson's advice.

The poem then takes a turn, and Bayes begins to attack his critics. He accuses them of being jealous of his talent, and he suggests that they are only criticizing him because they are envious of his success. Johnson tries to reason with Bayes, but he is unable to get through to him.

The poem ends with Bayes declaring that he will continue to write his poem, no matter what anyone else thinks. He is convinced that his poem is great, and he is determined to see it through to the end.

The Medal is a powerful poem that is still relevant today. It is a commentary on the dangers of political power, and it is a warning against the dangers of blind loyalty. The poem is a reminder that we must always be vigilant against those who would use their power to oppress others.

In conclusion, The Medal by John Dryden is a classic poem that is still relevant today. It is a powerful commentary on the political climate of the time, and it is a warning against the dangers of blind loyalty. The poem is a reminder that we must always be vigilant against those who would use their power to oppress others.

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