'Ode' by John Dryden

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To the Pious Memory of the Accomplished Young Lady, Mrs Anne Killigrew,
Excellent in the Two Sister-arts of Poesy and PaintingThou youngest Virgin Daughter of the skies,
Made in the last promotion of the blest;
Whose palms, new-plucked from Paradise,
In spreading branches more sublimely rise,
Rich with immortal green, above the rest:
Whether, adopted to some neighbouring star,
Thou roll'st above us in thy wand'ring race,
Or, in procession fixed and regular
Moved with the heavens' majestic pace;
Or, called to more superior bliss,
Thou tread'st with seraphims the vast abyss:
Whatever happy region be thy place,
Cease thy celestial song a little space;
(Thou wilt have time enough for hymns divine,
Since Heaven's eternal year is thine.)
Hear then a mortal muse thy praise rehearse
In no ignoble verse;
But such as thy own voice did practise here,
When thy first fruits of poesie were given,
To make thyself a welcome inmate there;
While yet a young probationer
And candidate of Heaven.If by traduction came thy mind,
Our wonder is the less to find
A soul so charming from a stock so good;
Thy father was transfused into thy blood:
So wert thou born into the tuneful strain,
(An early, rich, and inexhausted vein.)
But if thy pre-existing soul
Was formed, at first, with myriads more,
It did through all the mighty poets roll
Who Greek or Latin laurels wore,
And was that Sappho last, which once it was before;
If so, then cease thy flight, O Heav'n-born mind!
Thou hast no dross to purge from thy rich ore:
Nor can thy soul a fairer mansion find
Than was the beauteous frame she left behind:
Return, to fill or mend the choir of thy celestial kind.May we presume to say that at thy birth
New joy was sprung in Heav'n as well as here on earth?
For sure the milder planets did combine
On thy auspicious horoscope to shine,
And ev'n the most malicious were in trine.
Thy brother-angels at thy birth
Strung each his lyre, and tuned it high,
That all the people of the sky
Might know a poetess was born on earth;
And then if ever, mortal ears
Had heard the music of the spheres!
And if no clust'ring swarm of bees
On thy sweet mouth distilled their golden dew,
'Twas that such vulgar miracles
Heav'n had not leisure to renew:
For all the blest fraternity of love
Solemnized there thy birth, and kept thy holyday above.O gracious God! how far have we
Profaned thy Heav'nly gift of poesy!
Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,
Debased to each obscene and impious use,
Whose harmony was first ordained above,
For tongues of angels and for hymns of love!
Oh wretched we! why were we hurried down
This lubrique and adult'rate age
(Nay, added fat pollutions of our own)
T' increase the steaming ordures of the stage?
What can we say t' excuse our second fall?
Let this thy vestal, Heav'n, atone for all:
Her Arethusian stream remains unsoiled,
Unmixed with foreign filth and undefiled;
Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child.Art she had none, yet wanted none,
For nature did that want supply:
So rich in treasures of her own,
She might our boasted stores defy:
Such noble vigour did her verse adorn,
That it seemed borrowed, where 'twas only born.
Her morals too were in her bosom bred
By great examples daily fed,
What in the best of books, her father's life, she read.
And to be read herself she need not fear;
Each test and ev'ry light her muse will bear,
Though Epictetus with his lamp were there.
Ev'n love (for love sometimes her muse expressed)
Was but a lambent-flame which played about her breast,
Light as the vapours of a morning dream;
So cold herself, while she such warmth expressed,
'Twas Cupid bathing in Diana's stream.Born to the spacious empire of the Nine,
One would have thought she should have been content
To manage well that mighty government;
But what can young ambitious souls confine?
To the next realm she stretched her sway,
For painture near adjoining lay,
A plenteous province, and alluring prey.
A chamber of dependences was framed,
(As conquerers will never want pretence,
When armed, to justify th' offence),
And the whole fief, in right of poetry, she claimed.
The country open lay without defence;
For poets frequent inroads there had made,
And perfectly could represent
The shape, the face, with ev'ry lineament;And all the large domains which the dumb-sister swayed,
All bowed beneath her government,
Received in triumph wheresoe'er she went.
Her pencil drew whate'er her soul designed,
And oft the happy draught surpassed the image in her mind.
The sylvan scenes of herds and flocks,
And fruitful plains and barren rocks;
Of shallow brooks that flowed so clear,
The bottom did the top appear;
Of deeper too and ampler floods
Which as in mirrors showed the woods;
Of lofty trees, with sacred shades,
And perspectives of pleasant glades,
Where nymphs of brightest form appear,
And shaggy satyrs standing near,
Which them at once admire and fear.
The ruins too of some majestic piece,
Boasting the pow'r of ancient Rome or Greece,
Whose statues, friezes, columns, broken lie,
And, though defaced, the wonder of the eye;
What nature, art, bold fiction, e'er durst frame,
Her forming hand gave feature to the name.
So strange a concourse ne'er was seen before,
But when the peopled ark the whole creation bore.The scene then changed; with bold erected look
Our martial king the sight with rev'rence strook:
For, not content t' express his outward part,
Her hand called out the image of his heart,
His warlike mind, his soul devoid of fear,
His high-designing thoughts were figured there,
As when, by magic, ghosts are made appear.
Our phoenix Queen was portrayed too so bright,
Beauty alone could beauty take so right:
Her dress, her shape, her matchless grace,
Were all observed, as well as heavenly face.
With such a peerless majesty she stands,
As in that day she took the crown from sacred hands:
Before a train of heroines was seen,
In beauty foremost, as in rank, the Queen!
Thus nothing to her genius was denied,
But like a ball of fire, the farther thrown,
Still with a greater blaze she shone,
And her bright soul broke out on ev'ry side.
What next she had designed, Heaven only knows:
To such immod'rate growth her conquest rose,
That Fate alone its progress could oppose.Now all those charms, that blooming grace,
That well-proportioned shape, and beauteous face,
Shall never more be seen by mortal eyes;
In earth the much-lamented virgin lies!
Not wit nor piety could Fate prevent;Nor was the cruel destiny content
To finish all the murder at a blow,
To sweep at once her life and beauty too;
But, like a hardened felon, took a pride
To work more mischievously slow,
And plundered first, and then destroyed.
O double sacrilege on things divine,
To rob the relic, and deface the shrine!
But thus Orinda died:
Heaven, by the same disease, did both translate;
As equal were their souls, so equal was their fate.Meantime, her warlike brother on the seas
His waving streamers to the winds displays,
And vows for his return, with vain devotion, pays.
Ah, gen'rous youth! that wish forbear,
The winds too soon will waft thee here!
Slack all thy sails, and fear to come,
Alas, thou know'st not, thou art wrecked at home!
No more shalt thou behold thy sister's face,
Thou hast already had her last embrace.
But look aloft, and if thou kenn'st from far
Among the Pleiads a new-kindled star,
If any sparkles than the rest more bright,
'Tis she that shines in that propitious light.When in mid-air the golden trump shall sound,
To raise the nations underground;
When in the valley of Jehosaphat
The judging God shall close the book of Fate;
And there the last assizes keep
For those who wake and those who sleep;
When rattling bones together fly
From the four corners of the sky,
When sinews o'er the skeletons are spread,
Those clothed with flesh, and life inspires the dead;
The sacred poets first shall hear the sound,
And foremost from the tomb shall bound:
For they are covered with the lightest ground;
And straight with in-born vigour, on the wing,
Like mounting larks, to the New Morning sing.
There thou, sweet saint, before the choir shall go,
As harbinger of Heav'n, the way to show,
The way which thou so well hast learned below.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Ode by John Dryden: A Masterpiece of Poetry

As a literature enthusiast, I have always been drawn to the works of John Dryden, one of the greatest poets of the 17th century. His collection of poems, including the famous Ode, has stood the test of time and continues to inspire readers to this day.

In this literary analysis, I will dive deep into the meaning, themes, and structure of Dryden's Ode, and explore why it remains a classic piece of English literature.

The Meaning Behind the Ode

At its core, the Ode is a celebration of one of the most significant events in English history - the Restoration of the monarchy. In 1660, after years of civil war and political turmoil, King Charles II was restored to the throne, ushering in a new era of peace and stability.

Dryden's Ode celebrates this momentous occasion, praising the king and his advisors for their wisdom and leadership in bringing about the Restoration. The poem is a tribute to the power of monarchy and its ability to unify the nation after years of division and conflict.

But the Ode is more than just a celebration of the Restoration. It is also a reflection on the nature of power and authority, and the role of the poet in society.

Throughout the poem, Dryden explores the relationship between the king and his subjects, and the duty of the poet to serve as a voice of the people. He argues that the poet has a responsibility to speak truth to power, and to use his or her art to inspire and uplift the nation.

In this way, the Ode is not just a celebration of the Restoration, but a call to action for artists and thinkers to engage with the political and social issues of their time.

Themes of the Ode

One of the most striking themes of the Ode is the idea of unity and reconciliation. Dryden celebrates the Restoration as a moment when the nation was brought together after years of conflict and division.

He writes:

All, all of a piece throughout; Thy chase had a beast in view; Thy wars brought nothing about; Thy lovers were all untrue. 'Tis well an old age is out, And time to begin a new.

Here, Dryden is suggesting that the previous era was characterized by chaos and disunity, with different factions pursuing their own selfish interests. But with the Restoration, a new era begins, one in which the nation is united under the leadership of the king.

Another major theme of the Ode is the nature of power and authority. Dryden argues that the king has a divine right to rule, and that his authority comes from God.

He writes:

Heaven did a recompense as largely send: He gave them peace, which they at wanted long, But gave them laws, which they had wanted more, And, dealing round, restored the banished throng.

Here, Dryden is suggesting that the king is a divinely appointed ruler, and that his power is not subject to the will of the people. This idea was controversial in the 17th century, as many believed that the monarch's authority came from the consent of the governed.

Finally, the Ode is a tribute to the power of poetry and the role of the poet in society. Dryden argues that the poet has a responsibility to use his or her art to inspire and uplift the nation.

He writes:

From harmony, from heavenly harmony, This universal frame began: From harmony to harmony Through all the compass of the notes it ran, The diapason closing full in Man.

Here, Dryden is suggesting that poetry has a divine origin, and that it has the power to bring harmony and unity to the nation. He argues that the poet has a special role to play in society, as a voice for the people and an inspiration to the nation.

The Structure of the Ode

The Ode is structured in a series of stanzas, each with its own rhyme scheme and meter. The poem begins with an invocation to the Muse, and then proceeds to celebrate the Restoration and the king's leadership.

One of the most striking features of the Ode is its use of imagery and symbolism. Dryden employs a variety of images and metaphors to convey his message, including the image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes, which represents the Restoration itself.

He writes:

So, when the last and dreadful hour This crumbling pageant shall devour, The trumpet shall be heard on high, The dead shall live, the living die, And music shall untune the sky.

Here, Dryden is suggesting that the Restoration is a moment of rebirth and renewal, in which the nation is restored to its former glory.


In conclusion, the Ode by John Dryden is a masterpiece of English literature, celebrating the Restoration of the monarchy and exploring the themes of power, authority, and the role of the poet in society.

Through his use of language and imagery, Dryden creates a powerful vision of a united and harmonious nation, brought together under the leadership of the king. The Ode remains a classic piece of English literature, inspiring readers to this day with its message of hope and renewal.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

John Dryden’s “Ode on the Death of Mrs. Anne Killigrew” is a masterpiece of English poetry that has stood the test of time. Written in 1686, this ode is a tribute to the life and death of Anne Killigrew, a talented young artist and poet who died at the age of 25. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this classic ode, and understand why it continues to be a source of inspiration for poets and readers alike.

The ode is a form of poetry that originated in ancient Greece, and was later adopted by English poets like John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth. It is a lyrical poem that celebrates a person, an event, or an idea, and is characterized by its formal structure, elevated language, and emotional intensity. Dryden’s “Ode on the Death of Mrs. Anne Killigrew” is a perfect example of this form, and is considered one of the finest odes in the English language.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each consisting of ten lines. The first stanza sets the tone of the poem, and introduces the subject of the ode – Anne Killigrew. Dryden begins by describing her as a “young virgin of uncommon wit and beauty,” and goes on to praise her artistic and poetic talents. He compares her to the Greek goddess Athena, who was also known for her wisdom and creativity. The stanza ends with a lament for her untimely death, and a call for the Muses to mourn her loss.

The second stanza is more philosophical in nature, and explores the theme of mortality. Dryden reflects on the fleeting nature of life, and the inevitability of death. He compares life to a “short summer’s day,” and death to the “closing of the eyes at night.” He also acknowledges the Christian belief in the afterlife, and suggests that Anne Killigrew is now in a better place, where she can continue to create and inspire.

The third and final stanza is a tribute to Anne Killigrew’s artistic and poetic legacy. Dryden imagines her as a “bright star” in the firmament of English literature, and compares her to other great poets like John Milton and William Shakespeare. He also suggests that her death has inspired other poets to write about her, and that her memory will live on through their words. The ode ends with a call for the Muses to continue to inspire poets and artists, and to keep Anne Killigrew’s memory alive.

One of the most striking features of Dryden’s “Ode on the Death of Mrs. Anne Killigrew” is its use of language. Dryden was a master of the English language, and his poetry is known for its clarity, elegance, and wit. In this ode, he uses a range of poetic devices to create a sense of beauty and grandeur. For example, he uses alliteration to create a musical effect, as in the line “young virgin of uncommon wit and beauty.” He also uses metaphors and similes to compare Anne Killigrew to other great figures, such as Athena and the stars.

Another notable feature of the ode is its use of classical mythology and Christian imagery. Dryden was a devout Christian, but he was also well-versed in the literature and mythology of ancient Greece and Rome. In this ode, he combines these two traditions to create a sense of universality and timelessness. For example, he compares Anne Killigrew to Athena, who was a symbol of wisdom and creativity in Greek mythology. He also acknowledges the Christian belief in the afterlife, and suggests that Anne Killigrew is now in a better place, where she can continue to create and inspire.

The ode is also notable for its emotional intensity. Dryden was deeply affected by Anne Killigrew’s death, and his grief is evident in every line of the poem. He uses language to create a sense of pathos and loss, as in the line “the Muses mourn her now no more.” He also uses repetition to emphasize the finality of death, as in the line “she’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.”

In conclusion, John Dryden’s “Ode on the Death of Mrs. Anne Killigrew” is a masterpiece of English poetry that continues to inspire and move readers today. Through its formal structure, elevated language, and emotional intensity, the ode celebrates the life and legacy of a talented young artist and poet, and reflects on the universal themes of mortality and creativity. Dryden’s use of classical mythology and Christian imagery creates a sense of universality and timelessness, while his mastery of language creates a sense of beauty and grandeur. This ode is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of human experience, and to inspire us to create and celebrate beauty in the face of loss and mortality.

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