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They thought it great their sovereign to controul, And named their pride, nobility of soul.
'Tis true, the Pigeons, and their prince elect, Were short of power, their purpose to effect; But with their quills did all the hurt they could, And cuff'd the tender Chickens from their food: And much the Buzzard in their cause did stir, Though naming not the patron, to infer, With all respect, he was a gross idolater. *
But when the imperial owner did espy, That thus they turned his grace to villainy, Not suffering wrath to discompose his mind, He strove a temper for the extremes to find, So to be just, as he might still be kind ; Then, all maturely weighed, pronounced a doom Of sacred strength for every age to come. † By this the Doves their wealth and state possess, No rights infringed, but license to oppress: Such power have they as factious lawyers long To crowns ascribed, that kings can do no wrong. But since his own domestic birds have tried The dire effects of their destructive pride, He deems that proof a measure to the rest, Concluding well within his kingly breast, His fowls of nature too unjustly were opprest. He therefore makes all birds of every sect Free of his farm, with promise to respect Their several kinds alike, and equally protect. His gracious edict the same franchise yields To all the wild increase of woods and fields, And who in rocks aloof, and who in steeples builds:
* See note XXXIII.
+ Declaration of indulgence. Note XXXV. Note XXXVI.
To Crows the like impartial grace affords,
Here ends the reign of this pretended Dove;
What after happened is not hard to guess; The small beginnings had a large increase, And arts and wealth succeed the secret spoils of
'Tis said, the Doves repented, though too late,
The Buzzard, not content with equal place,
*The tyrant of Syracuse, who, after being dethroned, taught a school at Corinth.
+ Quisque suæ fortunæ faber. SALLUST.
‡ Note XXXVII.
Nor can the usurper long abstain from food;
Thus did the gentle Hind her fable end, Nor would the Panther blame it, nor commend; But, with affected yawnings at the close, Seemed to require her natural repose; For now the streaky light began to peep, And setting stars admonished both to sleep. The Dame withdrew, and, wishing to her guest The peace of heaven, betook herself to rest: Ten thousand angels on her slumbers wait, With glorious visions of her future state.
THE HIND AND THE PANTHER.
And mother Hubbard, in her homely dress,
That queen, whose feast the factious rabble keep,
The poet, in the beginning of this canto, anticipates the censure of those who might blame him for introducing into his fables animals not natives of Britain, where the scene was laid. He vindicates himself by the example of Æsop and Spenser. The latter, in "Mother Hubbard's Tale," exhibits at length the various arts by which, in his time, obscure and infamous characters rose to eminence in church and state. This is illustrated by the parable of an Ape and a Fox, who insinuate themselves into various situations, and play the knaves in all. At length,
Lo, where they spied, how, in a gloomy glade,
The adventurers possess themselves of the royal spoils, with which the Ape is arrayed; who forthwith takes upon himself the dignity of the monarch of the beasts, and, by the counsels of the Fox, commits every species of oppression, until Jove, incensed at
the disorders which his tyranny had introduced, sends Mercury to awaken the Lion from his slumber :
Arise! said Mercury, thou sluggish beast,
The Lion rouses himself, hastens to court, and avenges himself of the usurpers.---There is no doubt, that, under this allegory, Speuser meant to represent the exorbitant power of Lord Burleigh; and he afterwards complains, that his verse occasioned his falling into a "mighty peer's displeasure." The Lion, therefore, whose negligence is upbraided by Mercury, was Queen Elizabeth, Dryden calls her,
The queen, whose feast the factious rabble keep;
because the tumultuous pope-burnings of 1680 and 1681 were solemnized on Queen Elizabeth's night. The poet had probably, since his change of religion, laid aside much of the hereditary respect with which most Englishmen regard Queen Bess; for, in the pamphlets of the Romanists, she is branded as a known bastard, who raised this prelatic protestancy, called the church of England, as a prop to supply the weakness of her title.”*
Spenser's authority is only appealed to by Dryden as justifying the introduction of lions and other foreign animals into a British fable. But I observed in the introduction, that it also furnishes authority, at least example, for those aberrations from the charac ter and attributes of his brute actors, with which the critics taxed Dryden; for nothing in "The Hind and the Panther" can be more inconsistent with the natural quality of such animals, than the circumstance of a lion, or any other creature, going to sleep without his skin, on account of the sultry weather.
You know my doctrine, and I need not say
On this firm principle I ever stood;
He of my sons, who fails to make it good,
By one rebellious act renounces to my blood.-P. 202.
The memorable judgment and decree of the university of Oxford, passed in the Convocation 21st July, 1683, condemns, as heretical, all works which teach or infer the lawfulness of resistance
* A New Test of the Church of England's Loyalty.