John Henry Dryden Poems >>
Britannia Rediviva: A Poem on the Birth of the Prince

Our vows are heard betimes, and heaven takes care
To grant, before we can conclude the prayer;
Preventing angels met it half the way,
And sent us back to praise, who came to pray.
Just on the day, when the high-mounted sun
Did farthest in his northern progress run,
He bended forward, and even stretched the sphere
Beyond the limits of the lengthened year,
To view a brighter sun in Britain born;
That was the business of his longest morn;
The glorious object seen, 'twas time to turn.
Departing spring could only stay to shed
Her bloomy beauties on the genial bed,
But left the manly summer in her stead,
With timely fruit the longing land to cheer,
And to fulfil the promise of the year.
Betwixt two seasons comes the auspicious heir,
This age to blossom, and the next to bear.
Last solemn Sabbath saw the Church attend,
The Paraclete in fiery pomp descend;
But when his wondrous octave rolled again,
He brought a royal infant in his train:
So great a blessing to so good a king,
None but the Eternal Comforter could bring.
Or did the mighty Trinity conspire,
As once in council to create our sire?
It seems as if they sent the new-born guest,
To wait on the procession of their feast;
And on their sacred anniverse decreed
To stamp their image on the promised seed.
Three realms united, and on one bestowed,
An emblem of their mystic union showed;
The Mighty Trine the triple empire shared,
As every person would have one to guard.
Hail, son of prayers! by holy violence
Drawn down from heaven; but long be banished thence,
And late to thy paternal skies retire!
To mend our crimes, whole ages would require;
To change the inveterate habit of our sins,
And finish what thy godlike sire begins.
Kind heaven, to make us Englishmen again,
No less can give us than a patriarch's reign.
The sacred cradle to your charge receive,
Ye seraphs, and by turns the guard relieve;
Thy father's angel, and thy father join,
To keep possession, and secure the line;
But long defer the honours of thy fate;
Great may they be like his, like his be late,
That James this running century may view,
And give this son an auspice to the new.
Our wants exact at least that moderate stay;
For, see the dragon winged on his way,
To watch the travail, and devour the prey:
Or, if allusions may not rise so high,
Thus, when Alcides raised his infant cry,
The snakes besieged his young divinity;
But vainly with their forked tongues they threat,
For opposition makes a hero great.
To needful succour all the good will run,
And Jove assert the godhead of his son.
O still repining at your present state,
Grudging yourselves the benefits of fate;
Look up, and read in characters of light
A blessing sent you in your own despite!
The manna falls, yet that celestial bread,
Like Jews, you munch, and murmur while you feed.
May not your fortune be, like theirs, exiled,
Yet forty years to wander in the wild!
Or, if it be, may Moses live at least,
To lead you to the verge of promised rest!
Though poets are not prophets, to foreknow
What plants will take the blight, and what will grow,
By tracing heaven, his footsteps may be found;
Behold, how awfully he walks the round!
God is abroad, and, wondrous in his ways,
The rise of empires, and their fall, surveys;
More, might I say, than with an usual eye,
He sees his bleeding Church in ruins lie,
And hears the souls of saints beneath his altar cry.
Already has he lifted high the sign,
Which crowned the conquering arms of Constantine,
The moon grows pale at that presaging sight,
And half her train of stars have lost their light.
Behold another Sylvester, to bless
The sacred standard, and secure success;
Large of his treasures, of a soul so great,
As fills and crowds his universal seat.
Now view at home a second Constantine;
(The former too was of the British line,)
Has not his healing balm your breaches closed,
Whose exile many sought, and few opposed?
O, did not Heaven, by its eternal doom,
Permit those evils, that this good might come?
So manifest, that even the moon-eyed sects
See whom and what this Providence protects.
Methinks, had we within our minds no more
Than that one shipwrack on the fatal Ore,
That only thought may make us think again,
What wonders God reserves for such a reign.
To dream, that chance his preservation wrought,
Were to think Noah was preserved for nought;
Or the surviving eight were not designed
To people earth, and to restore their kind.
When humbly on the royal babe we gaze,
The manly lines of a majestic face
Give awful joy; 'tis paradise to look
On the fair frontispiece of nature's book:
If the first opening page so charms the sight,
Think how the unfolded volume will delight!
See how the venerable infant lies
In early pomp; how through the mother's eyes
The father's soul, with an undaunted view,
Looks out, and takes our homage as his due!
See on his future subjects how he smiles,
Nor meanly flatters, nor with craft beguiles;
But with an open face, as on his throne,
Assures our birthrights, and assumes his own.
Born in broad day-light, that the ungrateful rout
May find no room for a remaining doubt;
Truth, which itself is light, does darkness shun,
And the true eaglet safely dares the sun.
Fain would the fiends have made a dubious birth,
Loath to confess the godhead clothed in earth;
But, sickened, after all their baffled lies,
To find an heir apparent of the skies,
Abandoned to despair, still may they grudge,
And, owning not the Saviour, prove the judge.
Not great