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The Poem. [The references hereafter for the poem are to the stanzas.] * Stanza 1, line 1. An excellent criticism of Annus Mirabilis is to be found in Lowell's essay on Dryden, in the volume entitled 'My Study Windows.'
3. 2. Dryden's explanation of the formation of precious minerals, that they are dew condensed and hardened by the sun or by subterranean fires, is in accordance with the state of knowledge at the time. The idea occurs again in stanza 139, and in his King Arthur (Act v.), where Merlin, prophesying the greatness of England, says:
Behold what rolling ages shall produce,
To call them forth to light.' And see below in note on stanza 4, line 1. Oldham's eastern quarries hardened pearly dew.' 3. the Idumaan balm did sweat is an imitation of Virgil :
'Odorato sudantia ligno Balsama. Georg. ii. 1181. Dryden introduces the idea of sweating in translating Juvenal, where it is not in the original : His emitur quicquid graciles huc mittitis Indi.
Juvenal, Sat. vi. 466. Translated by Dryden diffusely,
'For him the rich Arabia sweats her gum,
And precious oils from distant Indies come.' 4. 1. their year. So printed in the first edition ; in the second edition of 1688, the year, which is an evident corruption, but followed by Scott. Oldham has copied from this passage in his David's Lamentation for the Death of Saul and Jonathan :
For you the blest Arabia's spices grew,
The sun himself turned labourer for you.' 2. wexing. The spelling wex is retained; but the word is printed waxing in the second edition of 1688. The spelling wex occurs in Dryden's latest poems, as Palamon and Arcite, Bk. ii. 649, and Secular Masque, 30.
5. 4. our second Punic war. The first war with the Dutch in the time of the Commonwealth had been ended advantageously for England by Cromwell in 1654; this second Punic war' ended with humiliating disasters for England, and by no means as the second Punic war ended for Rome.
8. 1. Louis XIV, who claimed the Spanish Netherlands in right of his wife (elder sister of the infant Charles II of Spain, by a previous marriage of their common father Philip IV, who had died in 1665), abstained at present from pressing his claim, and made delusive proposals to Spain to prevent her entering into engagements with England. He postponed as long as possible declaring himself for Holland in the war with England. France at last declared war against England, January 1666.
13. 3. limbec, spelt limbeck, an abbreviation of alembic, a still. It occurs again in stanza 116.
• I feel my strength each day and hour consume
Maiden Queen, Act i. Sc. 3. Milton speaks of Proteus ‘Drained through a limbec to his native form.'
Par. Lost, iii. 605. *14. I. assert the watery ball, i.e. assert the dominion of the sea ; cf. Stanzas on Cromwell, 22. I.
2. armado, the Spanish word for 'army,' now always written ar. mada; the same with junto, a committee, now written junta in English.
16. 2. Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies. Todd compares this line with one in Sir P. Sidney's Astrophel and Stella:
Phoebus drew wide the curtains of the skies.' 4. tapers. This word is often used by Dryden similarly, and was more dignified than it now seems. Compare Religio Laici 18, where the moon and stars are called "nightly tapers.'
• The tapers of the gods,
Oedipus, Act ii. The two comets referred to had been seen in the winter of 1664-65, and in the spring of 1665. See Pepys' Diary, Dec. 17, 22, 1664, and April 6, 1667, and the Index to Mrs. Green's Calendar of State Papers, 1664-65; also the Appendix to Sherborne's Translation of Manilius.
18. On the subject of the star which had appeared on the birthday of Charles II, see note on line 288 of Astræa Redux. A round of greater years begun is an imitation of Virgil's Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo.'
Eclog. iv. Compare the lines at the end of Absalom and Achitophel:
· Henceforth a series of new time began,
The mighty years in long procession ran.' 19. 2. This refers to the battle and victory off the coast of Suffolk, June 3, 1665, celebrated in the lines addressed to the Duchess of York. War had been declared by England against the Dutch in February.
20. 4. Sir John Lawson, who had gained naval distinction in the Dutch war of the Commonwealth, was then Vice-admiral of the Duke of York's division of the fleet in the battle of June 2, 1665; he received a shot in the knee, and died a few days after.
21. 3. Thus, as an offering, &c. This refers to Protesilaus, the first Greek that landed on the Trojan shore, and the first slain.
22, and Dryden's note. The Admiral of Holland was Opdam, who was blown up with his flag-ship while engaged in close fight with the Duke of York in the 'Royal Charles.' 23. Compare in The Maiden Queen, Act iii. Sc. I,
When it thunders,
Because the angry gods are then abroad.' 24. 3. The war had been preceded by depredations of De Ruyter on British ships and subjects on the coasts of Guinea, in retaliation for proceedings of Sir Robert Holmes against the Dutch near Cape Verde, and at Goree early in 1664.
30. Our foes we vanquished by our valour left, an obscure and bad line : the meaning is, 'We left our foes vanquished by our valour.'
The attempt at Berghen, described in stanzas 24-20, was altogether unfortunate. The rich Dutch merchant fleets from Smyrna and the East Indies had taken shelter in that neutral Norse harbour. The King of Denmark agreed, on condition of receiving half the profits, to connive at the capture of the fleets by the English, The Earl of Sandwich, who was now Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of York having remained on shore, was so eager for the great prize that he did not wait until the Governor of Bergen had received instructions from the King; and when the attack was made, August 3, 1665, the Danish garrison assisted the Dutch. The attempt was a failure; one English ship was lost. The Dutch fleet under De Witt, which after the engagement convoyed the merchantmen from Bergen, was encountered by a storm, and then Sandwich captured eight men-of-war and some of the richly-laden merchant vessels.
35. 1. Dryden, in his own note, refers to Petronius. The three stanzas preceding this are also in imitation of Petronius in the same chapter of his Satyricon (c. 115): ‘Hunc forsitan, proclamo, in aliqua parte terrarum secura expectat uxor; forsitan ignarus tempestatis filius ; aut patrem utique reliquit aliquem, cui proficiscens Osculum dedit. Haec sunt consilia mortalium, haec vota magnarum cogitationum ... Ite nunc, mortales, et magnis cogitationibus pectora implete. In Dryden's short quotation from Petronius, in the note, he substitutes fit for est, which is the right word.
37. 1. The Bishop of Münster, a German sovereign prince, had, on
the breaking out of the Dutch war, offered to invade Holland with twenty thousand men, in consideration of a subsidy from England, and his offer was accepted and a treaty made with him. He invaded Holland, but after France joined the Dutch in the war, he drew back in fear of France, and secretly made a separate treaty of peace with Holland in April 1666. Dryden, in his own note on 'the German faith,' says that “Tacitus saith of them, “Nullos mortalium armis aut fide ante Germanos esse."' But this was said, according to Tacitus, by two Germans, Verritus and Malorix, chiefs of the Frisii, who went on an embassy to Nero. (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 54.)
39. 3. France declared war against England in January 1666.
42. 4. Denmark joined Holland and France in the war against England in February 1666.
43. 2. Charles, in the declaration of war against France, promised protection to all French and Dutch subjects remaining in England, or afterwards entering, who should behave dutifully and not correspond with the enemy; and he invited to come especially those of the reformed religion, whose interest he would always particularly adopt.' The French king made no like offer; three months were allowed the English to withdraw with their properties. The last two lines of the stanza refer to Solomon's judgment, in 1 Kings iii, between the two women claiming the child.
50. 3. fasces. See note on Astræa Redux, l. 249. Dryden refers here to the story of the Syracusan slaves. See Massinger's Bondman, iv. 2.
51. Dryden, in his own note, refers to Pliny's Panegyric addressed to Trajan, for the phrase "future people. The complete sentence is : "Adventante congiarii die, observare principis egressum in publicum, insidere vias examina infantium futurusque populus solebat.' (c. 26.)
52. 1. riotous is pronounced as a dissyllable, ritous.
54. 1. Prince Rupert and the Duke of Albemarle were now joint Commanders-in-Chief of the English fleet. In the last days of May, on information that the Dutch fleet was not ready for sea, and that a French squadron was near the Channel on its way from the Mediterranean to join the Dutch, an order was sent by the government to Prince Rupert to proceed at once from the Downs with twenty ships to meet the French. Albemarle proceeding eastwards at the same time with fifty-four vessels, the remainder of the fleet, was surprised on June 1, by finding the Dutch fleet, under De Ruyter, numbering more than eighty, at anchor off the North Foreland. He resolved at once to fight. The English government had been altogether misinformed. The French fleet had not yet passed the Straits of Gibraltar, Prince Rupert was ordered back from St. Helen's on the ist of June, the first day of the battle, and he joined Albemarle on the evening of June 3.
59. 1. high-raised decks. The Dutch vessels were high-built. Celadon, in the Maiden Queen, compares two sisters : ‘Lord, who could love that walking steeple! Ha! give me my little fifth-rate, that lies so snug. She! hang her, a Dutch-built bottom : she's so tall, there's no boarding her.' (Act iv. Sc. 1.)
60. 1. build. Spelt built in Dryden's editions, and this spelling is preserved by Scott and some other editors.
63. 3. This refers to the awe inspired by the Roman senators in the minds of the invading Gauls, when they sacked Rome, B.C. 387. Livy and Florus describe the incident graphically. 'Adeo haud secus quam venerabundi intuebantur in aedium vestibulis sedentes viros, praeter ornatum habitumque humano augustiorem, majestate etiam quam vultus gravitasque oris prae se ferebat, simillimos Diis.' (Livy, v. 41.) 'Patentes passim domos adeunt; ubi sedentes. in curialibus sellis praetextatos senes velut Deos geniosque venerati, mox eosdem ... pari vecordia mactant.' (Florus, Epit. Rer. Roman. i. 13.)
66. 3. show means 'seem,'' appear.' A common use of the verb at the time, and in Dryden. See stanzas 121, 122, 126, 296.
67. 2. squander means simply disperse. Compare Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act i. Sc. 3, where Shylock says of Antonio's wealth, 'I understand, moreover, upon the Rialto, he hath a third at Mexico, a fourth for England, and other ventures he hath, squandered abroad.'
3. Vice-Admiral Sir William Berkeley fought in the van desperately against superior numbers, and continued to fight after resistance of his ship was hopeless, refusing quarter. He was at last shot in the throat with a musket-ball, and then retired to his cabin, stretched himself on a table, and there expired. In the first edition the line was • Berkeley alone, not making equal way. This was changed in that of 1688 to what is retained in the text, 'who nearest danger lay. The change must have been intentional ; the original words were probably thought capable of being understood as reflecting on Berkeley. But otherwise the change is not an improvement, as it affects the comparison with Creusa, who was left behind in the flight of Aeneas from Troy.
72. On the morning of June 2, the second day of the battle, the Dutch were reinforced by an accession of sixteen men-of-war to their already greatly superior number.
78. 3. sheer, the old spelling of shear, meaning cut.' In the second edition of 1688, sheer was turned into steer, perhaps by a misprint, and steer has appeared in all subsequent editions. Sheer, a Dryden word, is clearly the right word here. * And through the brackish waves their passage sheer.'
Spenser's Faery Queene, Bk. iii. c. 4.