John Dryden: as Didactic Poet of Oses

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      Dryden wrote three odds - A Song for St. Ceciias Day, Alexander's Feast, and To Anne Killingrew. They are Pindaric in structure, but, at the same time, make use of plenty of freedom. The demands of a formal and conventional Pindaric ode are satisfied by To Anne Killingrew. The language is evocative and the ideas are expressed more poetically than elsewhere in Dryden's poetry. A Song for St. Cecilia's Day embodies the essence of music. It has variety, richness and melody, force and beauty of images, and perspicuity of diction. Alexander's Feast shows an excessive stylistic richness. It is an 'extravaganza' in which the poet exhibits his craftsmanship. It shows the successful power of music. Indeed, the music of Dryden's Odes is true to neo-classical principles of formal design, as Ruth Wallerstein observes.


      Dryden is well known as a satiric poet. He was also a didactic poet, a poet whose aim was to propound some kind of instruction, moral or political. His didactic poems are unique in their own way. The didactic tone in his poetry is directly related to the theological controversies of the day. Religio Laid and The Hind and the Panther are Dryden's didactic poems. According to Dryden, a didactic poem should be plain, natural and majestic. In it, the poet is presumed to be kind of Law-giver. People are to be reasoned into Truth by didactic poems. Religio Laid deals with the common sense of a layman who is tired of the quarreling theologians. Dryden speaks against Deism, Catholics and Presbyterians. The poem is a defense of the stand taken by the Church of England. Dryden shows a thorough knowledge of theological matters. It is simple in style and its language is without artful allusions. It shows a combination of plainness, naturalness, poetic harmony and dignity. It shows Dryden's skill in conducting an argument in verse.

      The Hind and the Panther is an allegorical fable aimed at trying to unify the Church. It presents a defense of the Roman Catholic Church. Though it lacks sustained narrative interest, it shows an easy eloquence and mastery over expression. Dryden gives his reasons for changing over to Catholicism.

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