Feast of John Dryden (August 22)   1 comment

John Dryden (Sir Godfrey Kneller)

Above:  A Painting of John Dryden by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHN DRYDEN (AUGUST 9, 1631-MAY 18, 1700)

English Puritan then Anglican then Roman Catholic Poet, Playwright, and Translator

Many of the people I have added to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days have been fairly consistent throughout their lives, at least in terms of denominational affiliations.  A certain Moravian bishop, for example, grew up in the Moravian Church and spent his life in that communion.  John Dryden (1631-1700), however, changed greatly.

He began as a Puritan, born into a Puritan family at Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, England, on August 9, 1631.  Dryden, who earned his B.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1654, had supported the Commonwealth.  In 1658, for example, he published Heroic Stanzas on the Death of Oliver Cromwell.  Then he became a Royalist and an Anglican, supporting the Restoration of the monarchy.  His Astraea Redux and A Pagegyric on the Coronation testified to his support for the restored order.  In 1663 he married Lady Elizabeth Howard.  The marriage was unhappy, due largely to his infidelity.  In 1668 Dryden became the Poet Laureate.

How a person ends up is more important for the purposes of the Ecumenical Calendar than are the beginning and end of his or her life.  Thus I turn to the Roman Catholic phase of our saint’s life.  Dryden converted to Catholicism in 1685 and began to translate Latin hymns.  Among these was Veni Creator Spiritus, a classic Pentecost text.  Dryden’s 1693 rendering, in seven stanzas, read in part:

Plenteous of grace, descend from high,

Rich in Thy sevenfold energy.

Thou Strength of His almighty hand

Whose power does heaven and earth command;

Proceeding Spirit, our Defense,

Who dost Thy gift of tongues dispense

And crown’st Thy gift with eloquence.

–Quoted in W. G. Polack, The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, Second and Revised Edition (St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1942), page 176

The Glorious Revolution (1688) ended the reign of the Catholic monarch James II/VII and put Dryden in a difficult situation.  He lost his position and the accompanying financial security because he refused to swear loyalty to King William III and Queen Mary II.  This new reality forced him to write and translate much to earn a living.  He died on May 18, 1700.  His tomb is inside Westminster Abbey.

Dryden, who found his spiritual home in Roman Catholicism, wrote plays, poems, odes, and satires.  He also translated Latin hymns as well as works of Virgil, Juvenal, Plutarch, Boccaccio, et cetera.  Archive.org has made some germane books available.  These include:

  1. Memoirs of John Dryden, by Sir Walter Scott (1823; Volumes I and II);
  2. The Poetry of John Dryden, by Mark Van Doren (1920); and
  3. The Works of John Dryden (1808; Volumes I, IIIII, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, and XVIII).

How might words of John Dryden enrich your life, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AQUILA, PRISCILLA, AND APOLLOS, COWORKERS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF ABSALOM JONES, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREAS KATSULAS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LICINIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ANJOU

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Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:

You have shown us the splendor of creation

in the work of your servant John Dryden.

Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder,

that our eyes may behold your glory,

and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness

of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.  

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8

2 Chronicles 20:20-21 or Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 4:8-9

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (1996), page 61

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One response to “Feast of John Dryden (August 22)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson (April 18) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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