Vox Populi

by John Dryden

John Dryden

He preaches to the crowd that power is lent,
But not conveyed, to kingly government;
That claims successive bear no binding force;
That Coronation Oaths are things of course;
Maintains the multitude can never err,
And sets the people in the papal chair.
The reason's obvious: interest never lies;
The most have still their interest in their eyes;
The power is always theirs, and power is ever wise.
Almighty crowd, thou shorten'st all dispute;
Power is thy Essence; Wit thy Attribute!
Nor Faith nor Reason make thee at a stay,
Thou leapst o'er all Eternal truths in thy Pindarique way!
Athens, no doubt, did righteously decide,
When Phocion and when Socrates were try'd;
As righteously they did those dooms repent;
Still they were wise, whatever way they went.
Crowds err not, though to both extremes they run;
To kill the Father and recall the son.
Some think the Fools were most as times went then,
But now the World's o'er stock'd with prudent men.
The common Cry is ev'n Religion's Test;
The Turk's is, at Constantinople, best,
Idols in India, Popery at Rome,
And our own Worship onely true at home,
And true, but for the time, 'tis hard to know
How long we please it shall continue so;
This side to-day, and that to-morrow burns;
So all are God a'mighties in their turns.
A Tempting Doctrine, plausible and new;
What Fools our Fathers were, if this be true!
Who, to destroy the seeds of Civil War,
Inherent right in Monarchs did declare:
And, that a lawfull Pow'r might never cease,
Secur'd Succession, to secure our Peace.
Thus Property and Sovereign Sway, at last
In equal Balances were justly cast:
But this new Jehu spurs the hot mouth'd horse;
Instructs the Beast to know his native force:
To take the Bit between his teeth and fly
To the next headlong Steep of Anarchy.
Too happy England, if our good we knew;
Wou'd we possess the freedom we pursue!
The lavish Government can give no more;
Yet we repine; and plenty makes us poor.
God try'd us once; our Rebel-fathers fought:
He glutted 'em with all the Pow'r they sought,
Till, master'd by their own usurping Brave,
The free-born Subject sunk into a Slave.
We loath our Manna, and we long for Quails;
Ah, what is man, when his own wish prevails!
How rash, how swift to plunge himself in ill;
Proud of his Pow'r and boundless in his Will!
That Kings can doe no wrong we must believe;
None can they do, and must they all receive?
Help Heav'n! or sadly we shall see an hour,
When neither wrong nor right are in their pow'r!
Already they have lost their best defence,
The benefit of Laws which they dispence.
No justice to their righteous Cause allow'd;
But baffled by an Arbitrary Crowd;
And Medalls grav'd, their Conquest to record,
The Stamp and Coyn of their adopted Lord.

Last updated September 16, 2022