The Hind and the Panther, Part 1
by John Dryden
“The Hind and the Panther” by John Dryden was published in 1687. It is an allegory told in heroic couplets, and it has also been described as a beast fable. Here, the animals represent different religious denominations, viewed through the lens of Dryden’s Catholic faith. But you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate Dryden’s poetic genius: his work stands alone. Note that a hind is a female red deer.
(Still mystified by this poem? Check out the notes available here.)
A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang’d,
Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang’d;
Without unspotted, innocent within,
She fear’d no danger, for she knew no sin.
Yet had she oft been chas’d with horns and hounds,
And Scythian shafts; and many winged wounds
Aim’d at Her heart; was often forc’d to fly,
And doom’d to death, though fated not to dy.
Not so her young; for their unequal line
Was Heroe’s make, half human, half divine.
Their earthly mold obnoxious was to fate,
Th’ immortal part assum’d immortal state.
Of these a slaughtered army lay in bloud,
Extended o’er the Caledonian wood,
Their native walk; whose vocal bloud arose,
And cry’d for pardon on their perjur’d foes;
Their fate was fruitfull, and the sanguin seed
Endu’d with souls, increas’d the sacred breed.
So Captive Israel multiply’d in chains
A numerous Exile, and enjoy’d her pains.
With grief and gladness mixt, their mother view’d
Her martyr’d offspring, and their race renew’d;
Their corps to perish, but their kind to last,
So much the deathless plant the dying fruit surpass’d.
Panting and pensive now she rang’d alone,
And wander’d in the kingdoms, once Her own.
The common Hunt, though from their rage restrain’d
By sov’reign pow’r, her company disdain’d:
Grin’d as They pass’d, and with a glaring eye
Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
‘Tis true, she bounded by, and trip’d so light,
They had not time to take a steady sight;
For truth has such a face and such a meen
As to be lov’d needs onely to be seen.
The bloudy Bear an Independent beast,
Unlick’d to form, in groans her hate express’d.
Among the timorous kind the Quaking Hare
Profess’d neutrality, but wou’d not swear.
Next her the Buffoon Ape, as Atheists use,
Mimick’d all Sects, and had his own to chuse:
Still when the Lyon look’d, his knees he bent,
And pay’d at Church a Courtier’s Complement.
The bristl’d Baptist Boar, impure as He,
(But whiten’d with the foam of sanctity)
With fat pollutions fill’d the sacred place,
And mountains levell’d in his furious race,
So first rebellion founded was in grace.
But since the mighty ravage, which he made
In German Forests, had his guilt betrayd,
With broken tusks, and with a borrow’d name,
He shunn’d the vengeance, and conceal’d the shame;
So lurk’d in Sects unseen. With greater guile
False Reynard fed on consecrated spoil:
The graceless beast by Athanasius first
Was chas’d from Nice, then by Socinus nurs’d;
His impious race their blasphemy renew’d,
And natures King through natures opticks view’d.
Revers’d they view’d him lessen’d to their eye,
Nor in an Infant could a God descry:
New swarming Sects to this obliquely tend,
Hence they began, and here they all will end.
What weight of antient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the publick scale?
But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring Guide?
Thy throne is darkness in th’ abyss of light,
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight;
O teach me to believe Thee thus conceal’d,
And search no farther than thyself reveal’d;
But her alone for my Directour take
Whom thou hast promis’d never to forsake!
My thoughtless youth was wing’d with vain desires,
My manhood, long misled by wandring fires,
Follow’d false lights; and when their glimps was gone,
My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
Such was I, such by nature still I am;
Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame.
Good life be now my task: my doubts are done,
(What more could fright my faith, than Three in One?)
Can I believe eternal God could lye
Disguis’d in mortal mould, and infancy?
That the great Maker of the world could dye?
And after that, trust my imperfect sense,
Which calls in question his omnipotence?
Can I my reason to my faith compell,
And shall my sight, and touch, and taste rebell?
Superiour faculties are set aside,
Shall their subservient organs be my guide?
Then let the moon usurp the rule of day,
And winking tapers shew the sun his way;
For what my senses can themselves perceive
I need no revelation to believe.
Can they who say the Host should be descry’d
By sense, define a body glorify’d,
Impassible, and penetrating parts?
Let them declare by what mysterious arts
He shot that body through th’ opposing might
Of bolts and barrs impervious to the light,
And stood before his train confess’d in open sight.
For since thus wondrously he pass’d, ’tis plain,
One single place two bodies did contain;
And sure the same omnipotence as well
Can make one body in more places dwell.
Let reason then at Her own quarry fly,
But how can finite grasp infinity?
‘Tis urg’d again that faith did first commence
By miracles, which are appeals to sense,
And thence concluded that our sense must be
The motive still of credibility.
For latter ages must on former wait,
And what began belief, must propagate.
But winnow well this thought, and you shall find,
‘Tis light as chaff that flies before the wind.
Were all those wonders wrought by pow’r divine
As means or ends of some more deep design?
Most sure as means, whose end was this alone,
To prove the god-head of th’ eternal Son.
God thus asserted: man is to believe
Beyond what sense and reason can conceive.
And for mysterious things of faith rely
On the Proponent, heav’ns authority.
If then our faith we for our guide admit,
Vain is the farther search of humane wit,
As when the building gains a surer stay,
We take th’ unusefull scaffolding away:
Reason by sense no more can understand,
The game is play’d into another hand.
Why chuse we then like Bilanders to creep
Along the coast, and land in view to keep,
When safely we may launch into the deep?
In the same vessel, which our Saviour bore
Himself the Pilot, let us leave the shoar,
And with a better guide a better world explore.
Could He his god-head veil with flesh and bloud,
And not veil these again to be our food?
His grace in both is equal in extent,
The first affords us life, the second nourishment.
And if he can, why all this frantick pain,
To construe what his clearest words contain,
And make a riddle what He made so plain?
To take up half on trust, and half to try,
Name it not faith, but bungling biggottry;
Both knave and fool the Merchant we may call
To pay great summs, and to compound the small.
For who wou’d break with heav’n, and wou’d not break for all?
Rest then, my soul, from endless anguish freed;
Nor sciences thy guide, nor sense thy creed.
Faith is the best ensurer of thy bliss;
The Bank above must fail, before the venture miss.
But heav’n and heav’n-born faith are far from Thee,
Thou first Apostate to Divinity.
Unkennel’d range in thy Polonian Plains;
A fiercer foe th’ insatiate Wolfe remains.
Too boastfull Britain, please thyself no more,
That beasts of prey are banish’d from thy shoar:
The Bear, the Boar, and every salvage name,
Wild in effect, though in appearance tame,
Lay waste thy woods, destroy thy blissfull bow’r,
And, muzl’d though they seem, the mutes devour.
More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race,
Appears with belly Gaunt, and famish’d face:
Never was so deform’d a beast of Grace.
His ragged tail betwixt his leggs he wears
Close clap’d for shame, but his rough crest he rears,
And pricks up his predestinating ears.
His wild disorder’d walk, his hagger’d eyes,
Did all the bestial citizens surprize.
Though fear’d and hated, yet he rul’d awhile
As Captain or Companion of the spoil.
Full many a year his hatefull head had been
For tribute paid, nor since in Cambria seen:
The last of all the litter scap’d by chance,
And from Geneva first infested France.
Some authours thus his pedigree will trace,
But others write him of an upstart race:
Because of Wickliffe’s brood no mark he brings
But his innate antipathy to kings.
These last deduce him from th’ Helvetian kind,
Who near the Leman lake his Consort lin’d.
That fi’ry Zuynglius first th’ affection bred,
And meagre Calvin blest the nuptial bed.
In Israel some believe him whelp’d long since
When the proud Sanhedrim oppress’d the Prince.
Or, since he will be Jew, derive him high’r
When Corah with his brethren did conspire,
From Moyses hand the sov’reign sway to wrest,
And Aaron of his Ephod to divest:
Till opening earth made way for all to pass,
And cou’d not bear the burd’n of a class.
The Fox and he came shuffl’d in the dark,
If ever they were stow’d in Noah’s ark:
Perhaps not made; for all their barking train
The Dog (a common species) will contain.
And some wild currs, who from their masters ran
Abhorring the supremacy of man,
In woods and caves the rebel-race began.
O happy pair, how well have you increas’d,
What ills in Church and State have you redress’d!
With teeth untry’d, and rudiments of claws
Your first essay was on your native laws:
Those having torn with ease, and trampl’d down,
Your Fangs you fasten’d on the mitr’d crown,
And freed from God and monarchy your town.
What though your native kennel still be small,
Bounded betwixt a puddle and a wall,
Yet your victorious colonies are sent
Where the north ocean girds the continent.
Quicken’d with fire below, your monsters breed,
In Fenny Holland, and in fruitfull Tweed.
And, like the first, the last affects to be
Drawn to the dreggs of a Democracy.
As, where in fields the fairy rounds are seen,
A rank sow’r herbage rises on the green,
So, springing where these mid-night Elves advance,
Rebellion prints the foot-steps of the Dance.
Such are their doctrines, such contempt they show
To heav’n above, and to their Prince below,
As none but Traytors and Blasphemers know.
God, like the Tyrant of the skyes is plac’d,
And kings like slaves beneath the crowd debas’d.
So fulsome is their food, that flocks refuse
To bite, and onely dogs for physick use.
As where the lightning runs along the ground,
No husbandry can heal the blasting wound
Nor bladed grass, nor bearded corn succeeds,
But scales of scurf, and putrefaction breeds:
Such warrs, such waste, such fiery tracks of dearth
Their zeal has left, and such a teemless earth.
But, as the Poisons of the deadliest kind
Are to their own unhappy coasts confin’d,
As only Indian shades of sight deprive,
And magick plants will but in Colchos thrive,
So Preby’try and pestilential zeal
Can only flourish in a common-weal.
From Celtique woods is chas’d the wolfish crew;
But ah! some pity e’en to brutes is due:
Their native walks, methinks, they might enjoy
Curb’d of their native malice to destroy.
Of all the tyrannies on humane kind,
The worst is that which persecutes the mind.
Let us but weigh at what offence we strike,
‘Tis but because we cannot think alike.
In punishing of this, we overthrow
The laws of nations and of nature too.
Beasts are the subjects of tyrannick sway,
Where still the stronger on the weaker prey.
Man onely of a softer mould is made;
Not for his fellows ruine, but their aid.
Created kind, beneficent and free,
The noble image of the Deity.
One portion of informing fire was giv’n
To brutes, th’ inferiour family of heav’n.
The Smith divine, as with a careless beat,
Struck out the mute creation at a heat:
But, when arriv’d at last to humane race,
The god-head took a deep consid’ring space:
And, to distinguish man from all the rest,
Unlock’d the sacred treasures of his breast:
And mercy mix’d with reason did impart;
One to his head, the other to his heart;
Reason to rule, but mercy to forgive:
The first is law, the last prerogative.
And like his mind his outward form appeared;
When issuing naked to the wondring herd,
He charm’d their eyes, and for they lov’d, they fear’d.
Not arm’d with horns of arbitrary might,
Or claws to seize their furry spoils in fight,
Or with increase of feet t’ o’ertake ’em in their flight.
Of easie shape, and pliant ev’ry way;
Confessing still the softness of his clay,
And kind as kings upon their coronation day:
With open hands, and with extended space
Of arms, to satisfie a large embrace.
Thus kneaded up with milk, the new made man
His kingdom o’er his kindred world began:
Till knowledge misapply’d, misunderstood,
And pride of Empire sour’d his balmy bloud.
Then, first rebelling, his own stamp he coins;
The murd’rer Cain was latent in his loins,
And bloud began its first and loudest cry
For diff’ring worship of the Deity.
Thus persecution rose, and farther space
Produc’d the mighty hunter of his race.
Not so the blessed Pan his flock increas’d,
Content to fold ’em from the famish’d beast:
Mild were his laws; the Sheep and harmless Hind
Were never of the persecuting kind.
Such pity now the pious Pastor shows,
Such mercy from the British Lyon flows,
That both provide protection from their foes.
O happy Regions, Italy and Spain,
Which never did those monsters entertain!
The Wolfe, the Bear, the Boar, can there advance
No native claim of just inheritance.
And self-preserving laws, severe in show,
May guard their fences from th’ invading foe.
Where birth has plac’d ’em let ’em safely share
The common benefit of vital air.
Themselves unharmfull, let them live unharm’d;
Their jaws disabl’d, and their claws disarm’d:
Here, onely in nocturnal howlings bold,
They dare not seize the Hind nor leap the fold.
More pow’rfull, and as vigilant as they,
The Lyon awfully forbids the prey.
Their rage repress’d, though pinched with famine sore,
They stand aloof, and tremble at his roar;
Much is their hunger, but their fear is more.
These are the chief; to number o’er the rest,
And stand, like Adam, naming ev’ry beast,
Were weary work; nor will the Muse describe
A slimy-born and sun-begotten Tribe:
Who, far from steeples and their sacred sound,
In fields their sullen conventicles found:
These gross, half-animated lumps I leave;
Nor can I think what thoughts they can conceive.
But if they think at all, ’tis sure no high’r
Than matter, put in motion, may aspire.
Souls that can scarce ferment their mass of clay;
So drossy, so divisible are They,
As wou’d but serve pure bodies for allay:
Such souls as Shards produce, such beetle things
As only buz to heav’n with ev’ning wings;
Strike in the dark, offending but by chance,
Such are the blind-fold blows of ignorance.
They know not beings, and but hate a name;
To them the Hind and Panther are the same.
The Panther, sure the noblest, next the Hind,
And fairest creature of the spotted kind;
Oh, could her in-born stains be wash’d away,
She were too good to be a beast of Prey!
How can I praise, or blame, and not offend,
Or how divide the frailty from the friend!
Her faults and virtues lye so mix’d, that she
Nor wholly stands condemn’d, nor wholly free.
Then, like her injur’d Lyon, let me speak;
He cannot bend her, and he wou’d not break.
Unkind already, and estrang’d in part,
The Wolfe begins to share her wandring heart.
Though unpolluted yet with actual ill,
She half commits who sins but in Her will.
If, as our dreaming Platonists report,
There could be spirits of a middle sort,
Too black for heav’n, and yet too white for hell,
Who just dropt half way down, nor lower fell;
So pois’d, so gently she descends from high,
It seems a soft dismission from the sky.
Her house not ancient, whatsoe’er pretence
Her clergy Heraulds make in her defence;
A second century not half-way run,
Since the new honours of her bloud begun.
A Lyon, old, obscene, and furious made
By lust, compress’d her mother in a shade.
Then, by a left-hand marr’age, weds the Dame,
Cov’ring adult’ry with a specious name:
So schism begot; and sacrilege and she,
A well-match’d pair, got graceless heresie.
God’s and kings rebels have the same good cause,
To trample down divine and humane laws;
Both wou’d be call’d Reformers, and their hate
Alike destructive both to church and state:
The fruit proclaims the plant; a lawless Prince
By luxury reform’d incontinence,
By ruins, charity; by riots, abstinence.
Confessions, fasts, and penance set aside;
Oh with what ease we follow such a guide!
Where souls are starv’d, and senses gratify’d.
Where marr’age pleasures midnight pray’r supply,
And mattin bells (a melancholy cry)
Are tun’d to merrier notes, encrease and multiply.
Religion shows a Rosie colour’d face;
Not hatter’d out with drudging works of grace,
A down-hill Reformation rolls apace.
What flesh and bloud wou’d croud the narrow gate?
Or, till they waste their pamper’d paunches, wait?
All wou’d be happy at the cheapest rate.
Though our lean faith these rigid laws has giv’n,
The full-fed Mussulman goes fat to heav’n;
For his Arabian Prophet with delights
Of sense, allur’d his eastern Proselytes.
The jolly Luther, reading him, began
To interpret Scriptures by his Alcoran;
To grub the thorns beneath our tender feet,
And make the paths of Paradise more sweet:
Bethought him of a wife e’er half way gone,
(For ’twas uneasy travailing alone;)
And, in this masquerade of mirth and love,
Mistook the bliss of heav’n for Bacchanals above.
Sure he presum’d of praise, who came to stock
Th’ ethereal pastures with so fair a flock,
Burnish’d, and bat’ning on their food, to show
The diligence of carefull herds below.
Our Panther, though like these she chang’d her head,
Yet, as the mistress of a monarch’s bed,
Her front erect with majesty she bore,
The Crosier wielded, and the Mitre wore.
Her upper part of decent discipline
Shew’d affectation of an ancient line:
And fathers, councils, church and churches head,
Were on her reverend Phylacteries read.
But what disgrac’d and disavow’d the rest,
Was Calvin’s brand, that stigmatiz’d the beast.
Thus, like a creature of a double kind,
In her own labyrinth she lives confin’d.
To foreign lands no sound of Her is come,
Humbly content to be despis’d at home.
Such is her faith, where good cannot be had,
At least she leaves the refuse of the bad.
Nice in her choice of ill, though not of best,
And least deform’d, because reform’d the least.
In doubtfull points betwixt her diff’ring friends,
Where one for substance, one for sign contends,
Their contradicting terms she strives to join,
Sign shall be substance, substance shall be sign.
A real presence all her sons allow,
And yet ’tis flat Idolatry to bow,
Because the god-head’s there they know not how.
Her Novices are taught that bread and wine
Are but the visible and outward sign
Received by those who in communion join.
But th’ inward grace, or the thing signify’d,
His bloud and body, who to save us dy’d;
The faithfull this thing signified receive.
What is’t those faithfull then partake or leave?
For, what is signify’d and understood,
Is, by her own confession, flesh and bloud.
Then, by the same acknowledgment, we know
They take the sign, and take the substance too.
The lit’ral sense is hard to flesh and blood,
But nonsense never can be understood.
Her wild belief on every wave is tost;
But sure no church can better morals boast.
True to her king her principles are found;
Oh that her practice were but half so sound!
Stedfast in various turns of state she stood,
And seal’d her vow’d affection with her bloud:
Nor will I meanly tax her constancy,
That int’rest or obligement made the tye,
(Bound to the fate of murdered monarchy.
Before the sounding Ax so falls the Vine,
Whose tender branches round the Poplar twine.)
She chose her ruin, and resign’d her life,
In death undaunted as an Indian wife:
A rare example: but some souls we see
Grow hard, and stiffen with adversity:
Yet these by fortune’s favours are undone,
Resolv’d into a baser form they run,
And bore the wind, but cannot bear the sun.
Let this be natures frailty or her fate,
Or Isgrim’s counsel, her new chosen mate,
Still she’s the fairest of the fallen crew,
No mother more indulgent, but the true.
Fierce to her foes, yet fears her force to try,
Because she wants innate auctority;
For how can she constrain them to obey,
Who has herself cast off the lawfull sway?
Rebellion equals all, and those, who toil
In common theft, will share the common spoil.
Let her produce the title and the right
Against her old superiors first to fight;
If she reform by Text, ev’n that’s as plain
For her own Rebels to reform again.
As long as words a diff’rent sense will bear,
And each may be his own Interpreter,
Our airy faith will no foundation find,
The word’s a weathercock for ev’ry wind:
The Bear, the Fox, the Wolfe, by turns prevail;
The most in pow’r supplies the present gale.
The wretched Panther cries aloud for aid
To church and councils, whom she first betray’d;
No help from Fathers or traditions train,
Those ancient guides she taught us to disdain.
And by that scripture, which she once abus’d
To Reformation, stands herself accus’d.
What bills for breach of laws can she prefer,
Expounding which she owns herself may err?
And, after all her winding ways are try’d,
If doubts arise she slips herself aside,
And leaves the private conscience for the guide.
If then that conscience set th’ offender free,
It barrs her claim to Church auctority.
How can she censure, or what crime pretend,
But Scripture may be constru’d to defend?
Ev’n those, whom for rebellion she transmits
To civil pow’r, her doctrine first acquits;
Because no disobedience can ensue,
Where no submission to a Judge is due.
Each judging for himself by her consent,
Whom thus absolv’d she sends to punishment.
Suppose the Magistrate revenge her cause,
‘Tis onely for transgressing humane laws.
How answ’ring to its end a Church is made,
Whose pow’r is but to counsell and persuade?
O solid rock, on which secure she stands!
Eternal house, not built with mortal hands!
O sure defence against th’ infernal gate,
A patent during pleasure of the state!
Thus is the Panther neither lov’d nor fear’d,
A mere mock Queen of a divided Herd;
Whom soon by lawfull pow’r she might controll,
Her self a part submitted to the whole.
Then, as the Moon who first receives the light
By which she makes our nether regions bright,
So might she shine, reflecting from afar
The rays she borrow’d from a better star:
Big with the beams which from her mother flow
And reigning o’er the rising tides below:
Now, mixing with a salvage croud, she goes
And meanly flatters her invet’rate foes.
Rul’d while she rules, and losing every hour
Her wretched remnants of precarious pow’r.
One evening, while the cooler shade she sought,
Revolving many a melancholy thought,
Alone she walk’d, and look’d around in vain,
With ruefull visage for her vanish’d train:
None of her sylvan subjects made their court;
Levees and couchees pass’d without resort.
So hardly can Usurpers manage well
Those, whom they first instructed to rebel:
More liberty begets desire of more;
The hunger still encreases with the store.
Without respect, they brush’d along the wood,
Each in his clan, and, fill’d with loathsome food,
Ask’d no permission to the neighb’ring flood.
The Panther full of inward discontent,
Since they wou’d goe, before ’em wisely went:
Supplying want of pow’r by drinking first,
As if she gave ’em leave to quench their thirst.
Among the rest, the Hind, with fearfull face
Beheld from far the common wat’ring place,
Nor durst approach; till with an awfull roar
The sovereign Lyon bade her fear no more.
Encouraged thus she brought her younglings nigh,
Watching the motions of her Patron’s eye,
And drank a sober draught; the rest amaz’d,
Stood mutely still, and on the stranger gaz’d:
Survey’d her part by part, and sought to find
The ten-horn’d monster in the harmless Hind,
Such as the Wolfe and Panther had design’d.
They thought at first they dream’d; for ’twas offence
With them, to question certitude of sense,
Their guide in faith; but nearer when they drew,
And had the faultless object full in view,
Lord, how they all admir’d her heavenly hiew!
Some, who before her fellowship disdain’d,
Scarce, and but scarce, from in-born rage restrain’d,
Now frisk’d about her, and old kindred feign’d.
Whether for love or int’rest, ev’ry sect
Of all the salvage nation shew’d respect:
The Viceroy Panther could not awe the herd,
The more the company the less they fear’d.
The surly Wolfe with secret envy burst,
Yet cou’d not howl; the Hind had seen him first:
But what he durst not speak, the Panther durst.
For when the herd suffis’d did late repair
To ferny heaths, and to their forest lare,
She made a mannerly excuse to stay,
Proff’ring the Hind to wait her half the way:
That, since the Sky was clear, an hour of talk,
Might help her to beguile the tedious walk.
With much good-will the motion was embrac’d,
To chat a while on their adventures pass’d:
Nor had the gratefull Hind so soon forgot
Her friend and fellow-suff’rer in the plot.
Yet wondring how of late she grew estrang’d,
Her forehead cloudy, and her count’nance chang’d,
She thought this hour th’ occasion would present
To learn her secret cause of discontent;
Which, well she hop’d, might be with ease redress’d,
Considering Her a well-bred civil beast,
And more a Gentlewoman than the rest.
After some common talk what rumours ran,
The Lady of the spotted muff began.
On to Part Two