Autograph poem by Dryden on the death of Oliver Cromwell


Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) died on 3 September 1658 and was buried in November of that year with all the pomp and splendour of a royal funeral. His life was commemorated and eulogised in poems and pamphlets produced for the occasion.

This is the only surviving autograph manuscript of John Dryden’s poetic contribution to the nation’s mourning, titled ‘Heroique Stanza's, Consecrated to the Glorious Memory of his most Serene and Renowned Highnesse Oliver Late Lord Protector of this Common-Wealth, &c.’

In the poem Dryden praises Cromwell’s military achievements and emphasises that all Cromwell did, he did for peace and the good of England: ‘Peace was the prise of all his toils and care’. Cromwell is also portrayed as the imperial leader of England, using military might to unite the British Isles and challenge the traditional balance of power in Europe.

‘Heroique Stanza's’ in print and politics

Dryden’s poem was first published in Three poems upon the death of his late Highnesse Oliver Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1659) alongside verses by Edmund Waller and Thomas Sprat. A poem by Andrew Marvell was also intended to appear in the volume. Its absence, though conspicuous, probably saved Marvell’s career as an MP after the Restoration of 1660.

During the reigns of Charles II and James II ‘Heroique Stanza's’ was circulated in both print and manuscript by Dryden’s political enemies in order to embarrass him and to discredit the Royalist works he wrote as Poet Laureate. Dryden’s ability to successfully weather regime changes created resentment within literary and political circles and contributed to his reputation as a pen-wielding mercenary.


Heroique Stanza's,
Consecrated to the glorious &happy memorie
Of his most Serene & Renowned Highnesse
Late Lord Protector of this Common=Wealth, &c.
Written after the Celebration of his Funeralle.

And now t’is time; for theire officious hast,
Who would before have borne him to the sky,
Like Eager Romans, e’re all rites were past
Did let too soon the sacred Eagle fly.


Though our best notes are treason to his fame
Joyn'd with the loud applause of publique voice,
Since Heav'n what praise we offer to his name
Hath render'd too authentig by its choice;


Though in his praise no Arts can liberall bee,
And they whose Muses have the highest flowne
Add not to his immortall memorie;
But do an Act of friendship to their own:


Yet tis our duty and our interest too
such monuments as we can build to raise;
Le^ast all the World prevent what we should do
And claime a Title in him by theire praise.


How shall I then begin or where conclude
To draw a fame so truly Circular?
For in a round what order can be shewd,
Where all the parts so equall perfect are?


His grandeur hee deriv'd from Heav'n alone;
For hee was great e'ri Fortuni made him so;
And Warrs, like mists that rise against the Sunni,
Made him but greater seeme, not greatir grow.

No Borrow'd Bayes his Temples did adorni,
But to our Crowne hee did frish Jewells bring:
Nor was his vertue poison'd sooni as borne
With the too early thoughts of beeing King.


Fortune (that easy Mistresse of the younge,
But to her ancient servants coy and hard;)
Him at that age her favourites rank'd among
When she her best-lov'd Pompey did discard.


Hee, private, mark'd the faults of others sway
And set as Sea-mark's for him self to shun;
Not like rash Monaguss who their youth betray
By acts theire age too late would wish undone.


And yet Dominion was not his designe,
We owe that blessing not to him but Heaven,
Which to faire acts unsought rewards did joine,
Rewards, that lesse to him than us were given.


Our former Cheifs like sticklers of the Warre
First sought l'inflame the parties, then to poize;
The quarrell lov'd, but did the cause abhorre,
And did not strike to hurt, but make a noise.

12 .

Warre our Consumption, was their gainfull trade;
Wee inward bled whilst they prolong'd our paine:
Hee fought to end our fighting, and assay’d
To stanch the blood by breathing of the vein’d.


Swift and Resistlesse through the Land he past
Like that bold Greeke who did the East subdue;
And made to Battailes such heroig hast
As if on wings of victorie hee flew.

Hee fought secure of Fortune as of Fame,
Till by new maps the Island might be showne
of Conquests, which he strew'd where e're hee came,
Thick as the Galaxie with starr's is sowne.


His Palmes, though under weight they did not stand
Still thriv'd; no winter could his Laurells fade;
Heav'n in his portraict shew'd a workman's hand
And drew it perfect, yet without a shade.


Peace was the prize of all his toiles and care
which warre had banish’d, and did now restore;
Bolognia's wall thus mounted in the Ayre
To seat themselves more surely then before.


Her safety, rescu'd Ireland to him owes;
And treacherous Scotland to no Int'rest true,
May blesse that Fate which did his Armes dispose
Her Land to civilize as to subdue.


Nor was hee like those starrs which only shine
when to pale Mariners they stormes portend,
Hee had his calmer influence; and his Mine
Did Love and Majesty together blend.


'Tis true, his Count'nance did imprint an awe,
And naturally all Soules to his did bow;
As Wands of Divination downward draw
And point to beds where Soveraigne Gold doth grow.


When past all offerings to Feretrian Iove
Hee Mars depos'd, & Arms to Gownes made yield,
Successefull. Councells did him soon approve
As fit for close Intrigues, as open field.


To suppliant Holland he vouchsaf'd a peace,
Our once bold Rivall in the British Maine,
Now tamely glad her unjust claime to cease
And buy our friendship with her Idoll gaine.


Fame of th'asserted Sea through Europe blowne
Made France and Spaine ambitious of his Love;
Each knew that side must conquer hee would own
And for him fiercely as for Empire strove.


Nor sooner was the Frenchman's cause embrac'd
Than th’ ayery Mounsire the grave Don outwaigh'd;
His fortune turn'd the Scale where it was cast
Though Indian Mines were in the other layd.


When absent, yet we conquer'd in his right;
For though some meaner Artist's skill were shown
In mingling colours or in placeing light,
Yet still the faire Designment was his own.


For from all tempers hee could service draw
The worth of each with its alloy hee knew;
And as the Confident of Nature saw
How shee Complexions did divide and brew.


Or he theire single vertues did survay
By Intuition in his own large brest,
where all the rich Idea's of them lay
That were the rule and measure to the rest.


When such Heroiq vertue Heav'n sets out
The Starr’s like Commons sullenly obey;
Because it draines them when it comes about
And therefore is a taxe they seldome pay.

From this high-spring our forraigne Conquests flow
Which yet more glorious triumphs do portend,
Since theire Commencement to his Armes they owe,
If Springs as high as Fountaines may ascend.


Hee made us Freemen of the Continent
Whom Nature did like Captives treat before;
To nobler prey's the English Lion sent,
And taught him first in Belgian walkes to roare.


That old unquestion'd Pirate of the Land
Proud Rome, with dread the fate of Dunkirk har'd;
And trembling wish'd behind more Alpes to stand
Although an Alexander were her guard.


By his command we boldly cross’d the Line
And bravely fought where Southerne Starrs arise;
Wee trac'd the farre fetch’d gold unto the mine,
And that which brib'd our Fathers, made our prize.


Such was our Prince; yet own'd a soule, above
The highest Acts it could produce to showe;
Thus poore Mechaniq Arts in publiq moove
Whilst the deepe Secrets beyond practice goe.


Nor dy'd hee when his ebbing fame went lesse
But when fresh Laurells courted him to live:
Hee seem'd but to prevent some new successe;
As if above what triumphs Earth could give.


His latest Victories still thickest came,
As neere the Center Motion does increase:
Till hee prest downe by his own weighty name
Did like the Vestall under spoiles decease.

But first the Ocean as a tribute sent
That Gyant Prince of all her watery Heard;
And th' Isle when her Protecting Genius went
Upon his Obseqyes loud sighs conferr'd.


No Civill broyles have since his death arose
But faction now by habit does obey;
And Warrs have that respect for his repose
As winds for Halcyons when they breed at Sea.


In peacefull Urne his sacred Ashes rest,
His name a great Example stands, to show
How strangely, high Endeavours may bee blest,
Where Piety and vallour jointly goe.

Full title:
69. "Heroique stanzas consecrated to the glorious memorie of his most serene and renowned Highness Oliver, late Lord Protector of this Commonwealth, &c. Written after the celebration of his funeralls." fo. 102.
1658, London
John Dryden
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Lansdowne MS 1045/69

Full catalogue details

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