Parable and Political Controversy in Absalom and Achitophel
by John W. Davis
And when the disciples
asked him what the
parable meant, he said, "To
you has been given
to know the secrets of the kingdom of God: but
for others are parables, so
that they may look
but not see, and hear but
To what effect were parables
used as a means of persuasion in seventeenth century England? Within what
paradigm of time did parables operate? To what set of assumptions about the
nature of England, its laws, its role in history and its destiny were they
addressed? It is the purpose of this essay to study the uses of parable in
John Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel and to examine specifically how the
parables of the "Good Sower" and the "Prodigal Son" establish a frame of
reference within which Dryden developed arguments supporting the Royal
Prerogative. To establish this parabolic frame of reference I shall
hypothesize the general value and purpose of parable as a rhetorical device,
its function as a rhetorical device in the poem, and the logical consequence of
parabolic paradigm in the conclusion of the poem. The moral and argumentative
assumptions created by Dryden's use of the two specific parables within the
poem point to yet another biblical construct: the signs of the end of the age.
Together these devices illuminate Dryden's purpose.
It is to keep faith with
Dryden's instruction, "Si proprius stes, te capiet magis," that this essay offers
a sixth to the list of five themes already discerned in the poem by other writers.1
These themes have been carefully and wisely explored, each nuance and
implication minutely evaluated and soundly judged for explicit and implicit
meanings. Nevertheless, enigmas remain. It was Samuel Johnson's observation
that there was a crucial disproportion between the poem's beginning and end.
This is a criticism that still chafes the vast store of critical wisdom added
through the years. Professor Zwicker has noted that the Edenic theme founders
illogically when after a period of grace there is a return to law in the "series
of new times."2 So, too, unaccountable and loose ends result
whenever a historical or thematic framework is pursued too thoroughly, as professors
Schilling, Roper, and King have proposed.
Earl Miner has observed that
any true pleasure and any true understanding of a poet must come from achieving
a grasp of his purpose as a whole.3 What is to be made of the
curious purpose of Dryden's wish that he were the inventor, rather than the
historian? What is the framework established by the imprecise "pious times"?
Do horticultural images mean only Eden, or son images only Christ? What can be
made of the peculiar meaning of English and Jewish history, Hoffman has pondered.4
It is to offer a solution to
those elusive questions; to relate them; to illuminate a relationship between
the mysterious "pious times" and the enigmatic "series of new times"; in short
to give simple coherence to the apparent complexity of questions raised by
critics of the poem, that the parabolic theme is presented.
Parables were used in the
seventeenth century for a variety of purposes. The biblical use of parables
was clear; they instructed those who did not know the nature of the kingdom of God. Originally, Christ addressed these metaphors to the Jews and, as in the Bible,
so in Absalom and Achitophel the parables are addressed to Dryden's
"Jews" of England in order to convey a truth about the nature of the kingdom. England had long been rhetorically seen as an Elect nation, indeed a second Israel, and as a type of the kingdom of God with which the King, Charles I, had a Covenant. The
fact that Englishmen thus became "Jews" was Dryden's witty contribution.
When did the parable take
place? No historical time frame can be assigned to these moralistic stories,
for they tell what heaven is like. Heaven is outside of time, yet these
stories require chronological time. If parables took place in time, the
question was when? If, however, these stories recounted what heaven was like,
where there was no sin, then the stories logically occurred
In pious times, e'r
Priestcraft did begin,
Before polygamy was made a
Absalom and Achitophel (1-2)5
The rhythmic and rhetorical
emphases fall upon polygamy to emphasize that the times are not necessarily
Edenic alone, for it would be facetious to think of polygamy in prelapsarian Eden. The parabolic argument allows time to be ambiguous; indeed the events need not even
be in time. All that is required of the reader is that he understand the poem
to be a metaphor having a higher referent, just as a parable did, and, once the
parable is recognized, the reference will be understood only in terms of the
widely known parable. Thus any implication about a figure in England was to be understood in terms of the parables' moral-metaphorical statement about that
figure. Similarly, any deletion from a parable was readily understood. Thus implications
were made about the nature of England simply by leaving the salient phrase
unsaid. It follows that the reader, once aware of the parabolic sinews in the
poem, could understand a myriad of implications, emphases, and statements about
political affairs in England simply by understanding the parable and
recognizing any obvious deletion from it or inversion of it.
The poem is addressed to the
"Jews", that is, to those "not given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11). This
"headstrong, moody murmuring race" (Absalom, 45) was distinct from the small
band of loyalists who were true to Christ. Thus, the poem prepares a framework
for the subsequent account of the small group of loyal men who stood by David
(metaphorically, Charles I) even in the worst of times. Good resided with the
few who resisted the clamoring multitude. Dryden establishes immediately that one
who found himself reading the poem and determined himself a "Jew" must see that
neither legitimacy, nor righteousness, nor goodness necessarily resided with the
largest number. This theme places David/Charles as the lineal heir of the
covenant through which salvation will come, despite the forces of evil arrayed
The initial parable of the
poem is that of the Good Sower and the Seed:
Then Israel's monarch, after Heaven's own heart,
His vigorous warmth, did,
To wives and Slave: And
wide as his Command
Scattered his Maker's image
throughout the land.
Michal, of Royal blood, the
Crown did wear
A soil ungrateful to the
Tiller's care. (7-12)
Charles acts within his
command, England, just as his maker acted within his command, the world. Both
scatter seeds; Charles' work echoes God's. What did the scattering of seeds
mean for God when that seed fell upon a soil ungrateful to the tiller's care?
In the biblical parable of the Good Sower, "A good sower went out to sow his
seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trodden underfoot, and
the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock and as it grew up it
withered away because it had not moisture." (Matt. 13: 5-6) Charles's wife
bore him no children, but illegitimately he begot "Absalom":
|Of all this numerous progeny was none,
So beautiful, so brave as Absalom. (17-18)
If the referent of the
parable is neither to the good seed nor to the seed that fell on bad soil, the
only option left is that of the seed that fell among thorns; "And some fell
among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it." (Matt. 13:7) The
implication becomes obvious once we recognize the stated and unstated elements
of the parable. If Charles is the Good Sower and if the"kingdom of heaven may
be compared to the man who sowed good seed in his field" (Matt. 13:24), then
something went wrong, for, "while men were sleeping an enemy came and sowed the
weeds among the good," so the "when the plants came up and bore grain, the
weeds appeared also" (Matt. 13:25-26). Thus, Dryden introduces Achitophel as the
"Cockle; that opprest the Noble seed." (195) Because of the corruption of Achitophel,
David's Edenic reign could never be sincerely blest. By holding in abeyance the
implication that Shaftesbury is the cockle, Dryden heightens the dramatic
effect of ultimately verifying the suspicion aroused by the initial deletion
concerning the seed that fell among thorns.
Why then does David/Charles
not act against this corrosive influence? The parable provides the answer to
this question as well.
And the servant of the
sower said to him, "Sir, did you
not sow good seed in your
field? How then has it weeds?
He said to them, "An enemy has done
this." The servants
said to him, "then do you want us to go and
But he said, "No, lest in gathering the weeds you
the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers,
'Gather the weeds first, and bind them into Bundle to be
burned, but gather the wheat into my barn'."
David/Charles is eminently
patient with the evil that surrounds him. He recognizes the merit of
Shaftesbury, corrupted by ambition, as the threat to Absalom/Monmouth.
Oh, had he been content to
serve the Crown
With virtues only proper to
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 Heaven had wanted one
But wilde ambitious loves
to slide, not stand
And Fortunes Ice prefers Virtues Land. (192-198)
Nothing grows from ice. Had
Shaftesbury been purged of the cockle that choked him and was later to oppress
the noble seed, then perhaps the virtues of the gown would have prospered, the
corrupting influence of his later life preempted.
How did this corruption come
about? As in the Bible, the final corruption of the good seed came about
because "it fell among thorns", a passive rather than active event. Absalom,
Dryden says, was sought to betray the loyalty of a subject to his king.
Monmouth's error was acquiescence to evil, rather than its conscious creation.
The blame for treason lays squarely with Shaftesbury, perhaps because, as some
suggest, the poem was written with the intention of convicting Shaftesbury on
the occasion of his trial.6 Shaftesbury was accused of fomenting
plots against the king and then, "skulking behind the laws" (207). Shaftesbury
tempted Absalom's pride and choked the seed sown by Charles. "And as for that
sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world
and the delight of riches choke, and it proves unfruitful." (Matt. 13:22)
Achitophel found the weak point in Absalom's armor.
What cannot praise effect
in Mighty minds,
When flattery sooths, and
when ambition blinds!
Desire of power, on
earth a vitious weed,
Yet, sprung from High, is
of Celestial seed.
(303-306. Emphasis added)
But Monmouth's ambition
sprung not from on high; thus power was not his to justly pursue. Monmouth had
been duped by Shaftesbury into claiming a spurious right.7 Though
Monmouth pondered the legitimacy of Shaftesbury's argument, he wondered whether
"Desire of greatness was a godlike sin." (372) "Hell's dire agent" (373) pours
fresh forces in:
The eternal God Supremely
Good and Wise
Imparts not these
prodigious Gifts in vain.
What wonders are reserved
to bless your right?
Against your will your
arguments have shown,
Such virtue's only given to
guide a throne
Not that your father's
mildness I condemn,
But manly force becomes a
Following the parable of the
Good Sower, the reader can understand the duplicity of such an argument. The
weed, Achitophel, agent of the devil, the sower's enemy, portrays the good
sower's reticence to act against a clamorous people as "mildness" rather than
as an attempt to spare the good seed from destruction. This benevolence is the
spirit of 1 Samuel 18:5, "Deal gently with the young man Absalom for my sake." David/Charles
is benevolent, patient, and long-suffering. Achitophel terms this mildness
unmanly. But following the parable, the bare lie in this accusation is
evident. When Achitophel continues to say that Absalom should rule when "kings
are negligent and weak", (388) the same deflation is achieved. Dryden
punctures the famous Whig dictum, "he who hath the worst title ever makes the
best king." 8 The parable implicitly counters the Whig argument that
the substitution of Monmouth would serve England better than the heir-apparent,
the Catholic James. For Achitophel to say that it is "good husbandry" (508) to
depose Charles inverts the truth of the Good Sower parable. It was not,
therefore, unintentional that Dryden should subtly allude to the parable of the
good seed fallen among thorns. The good seed chokes rather than prospers, and
this is exactly Absalom's end in the Old Testament narrative:
Absalom was riding upon his
mule, and the mule went
under thick branches of a
great oak, and his head caught
fast in the oak, and he was
left hanging between heaven
and earth, while the mule
went on. (2 Samuel 18:9)
The second parabolic theme is
the "Prodigal Son". Achitophel initiates this by ascribing self-indulgent motives
to David's love for Absalom:
Our fond begetters, who
would never die,
Love but themselves in
their posterity. (425-426)
Is this self-indulgent? The
reader may remember words spoken by the narrator that convey exactly the
With secret joy, the
indulgent David viewed
His youthful image in his
To all his wishes, Nothing
he denied. (31-33)
Indulgence there was, but not
the indulgences Achitophel implied. Achitophel consciously subverted the
fatherly indulgence of David. Yet it is to the language of fatherhood, that
is, to the very rhetoric that the Royalists used in the defense of the
legitimate succession that Achitophel finally appealed. Achitophel uses this
to convince Absalom of the legitimacy of his claim to the title denied him. To
demonstrate the legitimacy to the claim, Achitophel remarks:
Would David have thought
you his darling son
When means he then to
alienate the Crown?
Tis after God's own heart
to cheat his heir
He to use his brother gives
To you a legacy of barren
land. (433-4; 436-8)
So begins the parable,
"Father, give me the share of property that falls to me."
Immediately the reader is aware that nothing that Absalom claims as his belongs
to him, save by paternal indulgence, so in the parable, the biblical son did
not deserve a share of the father's wealth before he died. It is unnatural in
both cases. For a man who contends that, "kings for people are made" (410), it
is paradoxical to argue, as Achitophel does, about "legacy" and "alienation of
the Crown". Achitophel presses Absalom to "Try your father's title while he
still lives", echoing the biblical passage wherein the son acted on his
inheritance as if his father were dead, alluding to the logic of the Exclusion
But that in case the said
James, Duke of York,
shall survive his now
Majesty, the said imperial crown
shall devolve to each such
persons (designated in the bill)
during the lifetime of the
Duke, as if the latter were
Just as the Prodigal Son, so
the Exclusion Bill was unnatural. Similarly, as the prodigal went to a foreign
country and surrounded himself with harlots and other accoutrements of evil
living, so Dryden catalogs the malcontents surrounding Absalom. Almost
unnoticed, Dryden turns the perennial Whig shibboleth of "the evil counselors
who corrupted an otherwise good man" against them. "Surrounded thus with
friends of every sort," Absalom became as despicable as the friends he kept.
Monmouth left England of his own accord in 1679 when he lost his commission.10
Yet Dryden has him mouth a falsehood that he had been duped in believing:
I mourn, my countrymen,
your lost estate:
The far unable to prevent
Behold a banished man, for
your dear cause
Exposed a prey to arbitrary
Who banished Absalom? Achitophel's
lies led him to wrongly fear that his life was endangered. Absalom is reduced
to an unwitting recitation of Achitophel's paramount accusation against David:
My father whom with
reverence I yet name;
Charmed into ease is
careless of his fame:
He gives and let him give
my rights away;
But why should he his own,
and yours betray?
The reader who knows the
parable of the Prodigal Son, knows that the governmental crisis was a consequence
of David/Charles' premature benevolence rather than the result of David/Charles'
duplicity in having squandered his son's right. Rather than begging forgiveness
for this sin, the prodigals of England did not repent; there could be no proper
ending to the parable.
For whatsoe'er their
sufferings were before,
That Change they coveted
makes them suffer more. (797-798)
Monmouth acquiesced to the
"madness that grows high" (813). He remained unrepentant in his "sin".
Clearly, only in a time of madness could this inversion of the parable occur.
For those who knew the correct ending of the parable, the reconciliation of the
father and son, the need to call the unnatural inversion madness was almost
redundant. That the story seemed to be ending with Monmouth recalcitrant,
demonstrated what England, and Heaven, definitely should not be like.
So David/Charles must lament:
Thus long have I, by native
My wrongs dissembled, my
So willing to forgive the
So much the Father did the
But now so far my clemency
The offenders question my
forgiving right. (939-945)
The father of this prodigal
cannot say, "It is fitting to make merry and be glad, for your brother who was
dead is now alive; he was lost and is now found," (Luke 15:31) for the
prodigal never said, "Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. "
(Luke 15:21) Did not Monmouth know, Dryden asks, that these problems could end
if the parable were faithfully competed by Monmouth's repentance? David
O that he would repent and
How easy 'tis for parents
With how few tears a pardon
might be won
From nature, pleading with
a darling son.
Achitophel had so distorted
the nature of Absalom's crime that he no longer saw the rebellion against his
father as a sin against heaven. This is why Dryden, in his prologue, wistfully
says that were he the inventor, instead of the historian, he would conclude the
piece with the reconciliation of Absalom and David. Rather than striking out
against the alleged evil of James, which was the argument that finally won Absalom
over to Achitophel, Dryden shows that Monmouth acted solely for the partisan interests
of Shaftesbury. The unnaturalness of the result proved "how Fatall 'tis to be
too good a king." (812) Dryden thoroughly deflated the Whig argument that, Charles'
and James' "design was to bring in popery, which they can in no means effect
but by a popish successor."11 This claim which had motivated
Monmouth to act against the rightful king and heir was merely an element in an
elaborate plot to upset the whole English legitimacy under the smokescreen of
popular rights. The parable argues that if Charles were allowed to act as was
his right as a father, then all would be like the kingdom of heaven.
Dryden addresses several Whig
arguments through the parables, yet the argument, that it was the linear
descendant of that Covenant concluded between God and man in Edenic times, was
not sufficient. The parabolic theme which validated Charles's righteousness
must logically conclude that this righteousness alone could save the English
people from eternal damnation after earthly time had ended. Therefore Dryden
concludes the poem with "signs of the last day"; the metaphor complements the preceding
parables. If parables told what the kingdom of England was like; and the kingdom of England was a type of the kingdom of heaven, then it followed that salvation, when
it came, would come to England as the land of the Covenant. Where else, then,
would the signs of the end of the age appear?
In the end, after the weeds
have grown with the wheat, what would happen? The readers knew the outcome:
"The weeds will be gathered into bundles and burned" (Matt. 13:30). If the
prodigal refused to repent, then what would happen? The law rather than mercy
would be in effect; the father would punish. It was the loyal son who argued
that justice, rather than mercy, be shown to the repentant son and he was
chastised by the father for his lack of mercy. Yet, if the prodigal son refused
to repent, would the loyalists be justified in their demands for punishment? Dryden's
purpose was to demonstrate Shaftesbury's guilt as instigator, but the loyal few
sought to make unrepentant conspirators pay as well.12 Dryden made
no reference to the parable's loyal son whose claim for vengeance would now, in
the absence of any repentance on the part of Monmouth, be seen in a different
light. He sidestepped the issue of Royalist revenge. At a time when Royalists
were in a distinct minority, revenge would have been difficult to proffer.
Nevertheless, it hovers in the background, at least as wishful thinking. The
main argument, however, is that salvation could come only by restoring loyalty
to Charles: yet, if punishment had been a consequence, the "loyal sons" would
have been, we might assume, quite pleased.
The first signs of the end of
the age would be the appearance of false prophets:
And they asked him,
"Teacher, when will this be and
what will be the sign when this about
to take place?"
And he said, "Take heed that you are not
for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am
'the time is at hand! Do not go after them. And
you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for
the end will not be at once.
Luke 21: 6-9
Dryden begins a series of
allusions to this promised end with reference to the English who not only
accept a false prophet but, indeed, pursue him:
The crowd, (that still
believes their kings oppress)
With lifted hands their
young Messiah bless.
Each house regards him as a
And consecrate the place of
his abode. (727-8; 735-6)
As in the Bible, the second
sign of the end of the age follows from the first: the favored of the kingdom
of heaven, the embodiment and heir of the Covenant, was to be hounded and
persecuted in times of unparalleled turmoil and unrest.
Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom: there will be great earthquakes,
and in various places famines and pestilence; and there
will be terrors and great signs from
heaven. But before all
this they will lay their hands upon you and
delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons...for my
Luke 21: 10-12
Dryden insisted on the
significance of these lines for the harried royalist party when he presented
the following argument:
Yet, if the crowd be judge
of fit and just,
And kings are only officers
Then this resuming Cov'nant
When kings were made, or is
How then could Adam bind
his future race"
people's pleasure stand.
(765-9; 771; 775-6)
Did not Christ, the redeemer
of the Covenant, suffer at the hands of his own people, who denied he was their
king? Was not Charles, heir of the Covenant, suffering at the hands of those
seeing could not see, and hearing, could not hear"; who denied that he
was their king by right but rather by their consent? Those who claimed a right
to judge such matters as had already been decided by God were acting at the end
of the age. They had the power but not the right:
Nor is the people's
judgment always true;
The most may err as grossly
as the few.
And faultless kings run
down by Common cry.
The same crowds who shouted,
"Crucify him, crucify him!" (Luke 23:31) would, Christ said, show no more mercy
to those who were his chosen. Just as Herod condemned Christ, so at the end of
the age would the righteous be "delivered to synagogues and prisons,"
Nor only crowds, but
Sanhedria may be
Infected by this public
And share the madness of
And Murder Monarchs for
Dryden argued eloquently for Charles's
righteous resistance to the popular treasons of Shaftesbury by appealing to
biblical analogues. Although united and mighty were the Sanhedrin and all
Achitophel's band, they were nevertheless doomed to failure. Were not these
the times of peril, Dryden asked, when all seemed to be against the king; were
these not signs that now, more than ever, one must watch to be sure of
alignment with God's lineal covenanted heir? Surely the whole purpose of
taking care that one was loyal to Adam's line was to prepare for the end of
that item. The perpetual talk of the "bonds" and "tyranny" of Charles's
government was absolutely unnatural. Freedom lay with the heir of the Covenant
and with the word of God, for "If you continue in my word you shall be my
disciples, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (John
8:23). Dryden was making it unmistakable that if the popular will could choose
a king, then there was no lineal conduit of the Covenant, and thus the word of
God was debatable and, if debatable, then not necessarily knowable. If God's
words were so obscure, then how could it be that Shaftesbury's were so just and
"godly" as he claimed?
Whence comes it that
Religion and the Laws
Should be more Absalom's
than David's cause?
His old instructor, e'er he
lost his place,
Was never thought imbued
with so much grace.
Now more than ever, Dryden
repeated, was the time to take care that one was on the side of Grace, for with
Grace alone would one gain the kingdom of heaven, which seemed to be at hand.
The besiegement of Charles portended the third sign: "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by enemies, then know that the desolation has come near" (Luke 21:20).
If these signs were so, then what did this say about the nature of the times?
The reader would know that these were "the days of vengeance, to fulfill all
that is written" (Luke 21:22).
If these were the last days,
then the Divine injunction to the chosen who remained loyal was that, "This
will be a time to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds not to
meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom,
which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." (Luke
21: 13-15) Framed in such a paradigm of divine righteousness, Dryden has
Charles speak at last, after all his patience, perseverance, and forbearance have
They call my tenderness of
blood, my fear;
Though manly tempers can
the longest bear.
Yet, since they divert my
Tis time to show I am no
good by force.
Dryden portrays the harassed
Charles biding his time, attempting to give the traitors a chance to amend
actions. Dryden, Charles, and Shaftesbury all knew what the logical extreme of
the current state of affairs was, and that no Englishman of whatever stripe
could wish, civil war.13 Some compromise would have to come out of
the current disorder. It would seem that Dryden's purpose was again to say
that the Parliamentary body could abandon Shaftesbury and so deter any
potential difficulty by this act of goodwill. It seemed, he argued, that such
an act would serve as a positive act of repentance, such as that of the
Prodigal Son, and would gain favorable treatment from a forgiving father-king.
Such an act would ameliorate the feeling prevalent among some "loyal sons" of
Charles for civil war at the time of the trial of Shaftesbury.
Oh that my power to saving
Why am I force, like
heaven, against my mind,
To make examples of another
Must I at length the sword
of justice draw?
Oh curst effect of
necessary law! (999-1003)
Charles seemed to be given no
choice by these unrepentant people who mocked even his attempts at forbearance.
Charles seemed to be, Dryden argued, reigning on the verge of the last days.
Thus it would be Divine vengeance which would fall upon the evil men
surrounding both himself and the loyal few around him. In such times, "the
evil would fall by the edge of the sword," but Dryden chose only to imply whose
sword would do the killing, since it would be too much to believe that Charles
and disorganized supporters would initiate a war. Rather, Dryden seems to make
a simple point about Charles and the efficacy of remaining loyal to him. The Bible
claims that the Gentiles would triumph at the end of the age, not the "Jews",
and that the end of time would come when "the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
(Luke 21:24) Dryden elaborately demonstrates throughout the poem that Charles
and his friends and loyalists were those spoken of in the Bible. They are the Gentiles
of the final peaceful era which was to precede the second coming. How else
could the following unusual metaphor be explained?
Against themselves their
witnesses will swear,
Till viper-like their
mother plot they tear:
And suck for nutriment that
Which was their principle
of life before.
Was this not how the
unrepentant, Christ-denying Jews, who did not know their own king, were to
suffer in the last days?
For great distress will be
upon the earth and upon these people.
Alas for those who are with
child and give suck in those days.
Dryden uses this strange and
mysterious passage to indict those "Jews" who denied the fact that God had
given only one law and one Covenant which would end only with the end of time
when all that was written was fulfilled by Gentiles. God's law, so the
argument ran, was still in effect though severely tried. Charles would not
bend for he was right:
For lawful power is still
When long driven back at
length it stands its ground.
Dryden also alludes to the
verse about the end of the age, "the power of the heavens shall be shaken." (Luke
The almighty, nodding gave
And peals of thunder shook
All of those were signs that
the end was near, yet not necessarily at hand, because the "time of the
Gentiles" was in effect as a period of peace throughout the earth. It was
Dryden's purpose to show that Covenant law was still in effect. Following a
return to normalcy after the turmoils just recountednone other than the signs
of the end of the agewould be that period of Gentile peace prior to Salvation:
Henceforth a series of new
The might years in long
Once more the Godlike David
And willing nations knew
their lawful Lord. (1028-31)
As David was godlike, so his
land was heaven-like: the argument of the parables. The last word of the poem
thus has the dual meaning of temporal and heavenly Lord. The English, Dryden
said, should remain loyal because, "When these signs begin to take place, look
up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near." Though
neither Dryden nor his readers knew the day or the hour of the end of time,
they were given to know the "secrets of the kingdom of heaven!" All they had
to do was act like disciples and not like "Jews".
1. Arthur W. Hoffman, John
Miami: University of Florida Press, 1962.,75.
2. Steven N. Zwicker, Dryden's
Political Poetry, The Typology of King and Nation.
Providence: Brown University Press, 1972.
3. Earl Minor, "Some
Characteristics of Dryden's Use of Metaphor",
in Dryden, A Collection of Critical Essays.
Englewood Cliffs: Prentiss Hall, Inc., 1963. 124.
4. Hoffman, 75.
5. John Dryden, The
Poems and Fables of John Dryden.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958. 190-216.
6. John Dryden, Poems
on Affairs of State, Augustan Satirical Verse, 1660-1714.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965. 453.
7. David Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961. 644.
8. J.P, Kenyon, editor, "An
Appeal from the Country to the City", in The Stuart Constitution.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968. 469.
9. Kenyon, 471.
10. Ogg, 645.
11. Kenyon, 468-469.
12. Ogg, 607.
13. Kenyon, 452.