'Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!' by John Dryden

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Farewell, ungrateful traitor!Farewell, my perjur'd swain!Let never injur'd womanBelieve a man again.The pleasure of possessingSurpasses all expressing,But 'tis too short a blessing,And love too long a pain.'Tis easy to deceive usIn pity of your pain,But when we love, you leave usTo rail at you in vain.Before we have descried it,There is no joy beside it,But she that once has tried itWill never love again.The passion you pretendedWas only to obtain,But once the charm is ended,The charmer you disdain.Your love by ours we measureTill we have lost our treasure,But dying is a pleasureWhen living is a pain.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! by John Dryden

John Dryden was one of the most accomplished poets of his time, with a stunning array of works that covered various genres, from satire to tragedy. However, one of the works that stands out the most is his poem, "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" This poem is a masterpiece of poetic craft, with its sharp language, complex imagery, and emotional depth. In this analysis, we will delve into the various layers of this poem, exploring its themes, symbols, and language, and uncovering the meaning behind Dryden's words.


"Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" was written by John Dryden in 1680, during a time of political turmoil in England. Dryden was a staunch supporter of the monarchy, and he wrote this poem as a response to the betrayal of the Earl of Shaftesbury, a prominent Whig politician who had previously been a supporter of Charles II. Shaftesbury had turned against the king and was leading a movement to remove him from power, which led to his arrest and imprisonment. It was in this context that Dryden wrote this poem, which is a scathing attack on Shaftesbury and his fellow conspirators.


Form and Structure

"Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" is a long poem, divided into four stanzas, each with eight lines. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, with the rhyme scheme being AABBCCDD. The use of rhyming couplets gives the poem a sense of order and symmetry, while the length of the stanzas allows Dryden to develop his ideas in a measured and deliberate way. The poem is also written in iambic pentameter, which is a common meter in English poetry. The use of this meter gives the poem a natural and flowing rhythm, making it easy to read and understand.


There are several themes that run through "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" The most prominent of these is betrayal. Dryden clearly sees Shaftesbury's actions as a betrayal of the king and the country, and he expresses this in strong and emotive language. Another theme that runs through the poem is the idea of justice. Dryden believes that Shaftesbury and his fellow conspirators deserve to be punished for their actions, and he uses the poem to call for their downfall. Finally, the poem also touches on the idea of loyalty. Dryden is a strong supporter of the monarchy, and he sees loyalty to the king as a virtue that all true Englishmen should possess.

Imagery and Language

One of the most striking aspects of "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" is its use of vivid and powerful imagery. Dryden uses a variety of metaphors and similes to convey his ideas, and these images are often brutal and violent. For example, in the first stanza, he describes Shaftesbury as a "venomous toad," an image that immediately conjures up a sense of disgust and revulsion. In the second stanza, he compares Shaftesbury to a snake, and in the third stanza, he describes his conspirators as a "painted Jezabel," a reference to the wicked queen from the Bible. These images are designed to shock and disgust the reader, and they are highly effective in conveying Dryden's anger and contempt.

The language of the poem is also highly emotive, with Dryden using a range of techniques to create a sense of intensity and urgency. He uses repetition to emphasise key words and phrases, such as "ungrateful" and "traitor," which are repeated throughout the poem to reinforce the idea of betrayal. He also uses alliteration to create a sense of rhythm and momentum, such as in the phrase "painted Jezabels" which has a strong and memorable sound. Finally, he uses rhetorical questions to engage the reader and to challenge them to consider the ideas he is presenting.


There are several symbols in "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" that are used to convey deeper meanings. One of the most significant of these is the symbol of the king. Dryden sees the king as a symbol of order, stability, and justice, and he uses this symbol to contrast with the chaos and treachery of Shaftesbury and his conspirators. Another symbol in the poem is that of the serpent, which is used to represent the idea of betrayal and deception. Dryden compares Shaftesbury to a serpent, emphasising his sly and cunning nature, and suggesting that he has deceived his followers and betrayed their trust.


In conclusion, "Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor!" is a powerful and emotive poem that captures the political turmoil of its time. Through its use of vivid and powerful imagery, intense language, and striking symbolism, Dryden is able to convey his anger and contempt towards Shaftesbury and his fellow conspirators, and to call for their downfall. However, the poem is also a celebration of loyalty, justice, and the monarchy, and it stands as a testament to Dryden's skill as a poet and his unwavering commitment to his ideals.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is a classic poem written by John Dryden, one of the most prominent poets of the 17th century. This poem is a perfect example of Dryden's mastery of the art of poetry, as it is filled with vivid imagery, powerful emotions, and a strong sense of moral righteousness. In this article, we will analyze and explain this poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with a powerful opening line, "Farewell, ungrateful traitor!" This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as it expresses the speaker's strong feelings of betrayal and anger towards the subject of the poem. The speaker is addressing someone who has betrayed him, and he is bidding him farewell, but not before he unleashes his wrath upon him.

The first stanza of the poem is filled with vivid imagery, as the speaker describes the subject of the poem as a "serpent" and a "viper." These images are powerful and evocative, as they convey the speaker's sense of disgust and loathing towards the subject of the poem. The speaker goes on to describe the subject as a "monster," a "fiend," and a "devil," further emphasizing his sense of moral outrage.

The second stanza of the poem is more introspective, as the speaker reflects on his own feelings of betrayal and hurt. He describes how he trusted the subject of the poem, and how he believed that they were friends. However, he now realizes that the subject was never truly his friend, but rather a "false friend" who was only interested in his own selfish desires.

The third stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful, as the speaker unleashes his full wrath upon the subject of the poem. He describes how the subject has "stabbed" him in the back, and how he has "poisoned" his soul. The speaker goes on to describe how the subject has "blasted" his reputation, and how he has "murdered" his honor. These images are incredibly powerful, as they convey the speaker's sense of moral outrage and his desire for revenge.

The fourth stanza of the poem is more philosophical, as the speaker reflects on the nature of betrayal and friendship. He describes how friendship is a sacred bond, and how it is based on trust and loyalty. However, he also acknowledges that betrayal is a part of human nature, and that even the closest of friends can turn on each other. This stanza is a powerful reminder of the fragility of human relationships, and the importance of trust and loyalty in maintaining them.

The fifth and final stanza of the poem is a farewell to the subject of the poem. The speaker bids him farewell, but not before he delivers one final blow. He describes how the subject will be forever remembered as a "traitor," and how his name will be forever tarnished by his betrayal. This final stanza is a powerful reminder of the consequences of betrayal, and the lasting impact it can have on a person's reputation and legacy.

In terms of structure, Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is a classic example of a rhyming couplet poem. Each stanza consists of two lines that rhyme with each other, creating a sense of symmetry and balance. The use of rhyming couplets also adds to the poem's sense of musicality and rhythm, making it a pleasure to read aloud.

In terms of literary devices, Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is filled with powerful imagery and metaphors. The use of the serpent and viper imagery in the first stanza is particularly effective, as it conveys the speaker's sense of disgust and loathing towards the subject of the poem. The use of the "stabbed" and "poisoned" imagery in the third stanza is also incredibly powerful, as it conveys the speaker's sense of moral outrage and desire for revenge.

Overall, Farewell, Ungrateful Traitor! is a powerful and evocative poem that explores the themes of betrayal, friendship, and revenge. Through its use of vivid imagery, powerful emotions, and strong moral righteousness, it is a perfect example of John Dryden's mastery of the art of poetry. Whether you are a fan of classic poetry or simply appreciate the power of language, this poem is a must-read.

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