The Iron Age

by John Dryden

John Dryden

— Hard Steel succeeded then:
And stubborn as the Mettal, were the Men.
Truth, Modesty, and Shame, the World forsook:
Fraud, Avarice, and Force, their places took
Then Sails were spread, to every Wind that blew.
Raw were the Sailors, and the Depths were new:
Trees rudely hollow'd, did the Waves sustain;
E'er Ships in Triumph plough'd the watry Plain
Then Land-marks limited to each his Right:
For all before was common, as the Light.
Nor was the Ground alone requir'd to bear
Her annual Income to the crooked Share,
But greedy Mortals, rummaging her Store,
Digg'd from her Entrails first the precious Oar;
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid;
And that alluring Ill, to sight displaid.
Thus cursed Steel, and more accursed Gold
Gave mischief Birth, and made that mischief bold;
And double Death did wretched Man invade,
By Steel assaulted, and by Gold betray'd.
Now (brandish'd Weapons glittering in their Hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral Bands;
No rights of Hospitality remain:
The Guest by him who harbour'd him, is slain
The Son in Law pursues the Father's Life;
The Wife her Husband murders, he the Wife.
The Step dame Poyson for the Son prepares;
The Son inquires into his Father's years.
Faith flies, and Piety in Exile mourns;
And Justice, here opprest, to Heav'n returns.

Last updated October 12, 2022