Satire[ edit ] Absalom and Achitophel is "generally acknowledged as the finest political satire in the English language". He also suggests that in Absalom and Achitophel he did not let the satire be too sharp to those who were least corrupt: "I confess I have laid in for those, by rebating the satire, where justice would allow it, from carrying too sharp an edge. But how hard to make a man appear a fool, a blockhead, or a knave, without using any of those opprobrious terms? And he for whom it was intended, was too witty to resent it as an injury … And thus, my lord, you see I have preferred the manner of Horace, and of your Lordship, in this kind of satire, to that of Juvenal.
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But since like slaves his bed they did ascend, No true succession could their seed attend. What faults he had for who from faults is free? His father could not, or he would not see. Plots, true or false, are necessary things, To raise up common-wealths, and ruin kings. Succeeding times did equal folly call, Believing nothing, or believing all. By force they could not introduce these gods; For ten to one, in former days was odds. Of these the false Achitophel was first: A name to all succeeding ages curst.
Punish a body which he could not please; Bankrupt of life, yet prodigal of ease? To compass this, the triple bond he broke; The pillars of the public safety shook: And fitted Israel for a foreign yoke.
Weak arguments! Him he attempts, with studied arts to please, And sheds his venom, in such words as these. Auspicious Prince! How long wilt thou the general joy detain; Starve, and defraud the people of thy reign?
Now, now she meets you, with a glorious prize, And spreads her locks before her as she flies. What strength can he to your designs oppose, Naked of friends and round beset with foes? If, you, as champion of the public good, Add to their arms a chief of royal blood; What may not Israel hope, and what applause Might such a general gain by such a cause? What cannot praise effect in mighty minds, When flattery soothes, and when ambition blinds!
Who sues for justice to his throne in vain? What could he gain, his people to betray, Or change his right, for arbitrary sway? Let haughty Pharaoh curse with such a reign, His fruitful Nile, and yoke a servile train. Why then should I, encouraging the bad, Turn rebel, and run popularly mad? His favour leaves me nothing to require; Prevents my wishes, and out-runs desire.
What more can I expect while David lives? His courage foes, his friends his truth proclaim; His loyalty the king, the world his fame. Why am I scanted by a niggard-birth? My soul disclaims the kindred of her earth: And made for empire, whispers me within; Desire of greatness is a god-like sin. But when should people strive their bonds to break, If not when kings are negligent or weak? Let him give on till he can give no more, The thrifty Sanhedrin shall keep him poor: And every shekel which he can receive, Shall cost a limb of his prerogative.
To ply him with new plots, shall be my care; Or plunge him deep in some expensive war; Which, when his treasure can no more supply, He must, with the remains of kingship, buy. Our fond begetters, who would never die, Love but themselves in their posterity. Would David have you thought his darling son? What means he then, to alienate the crown? Though now his mighty soul in grief contains, He meditates revenge who least complains;.
Absalom and Achitophel by John Dryden: Detailed Summary
Buy Study Guide With a steady and mild hand, King David rules Israel in the time before polygamy is a sin and priest-craft begins. He spreads his seed throughout the land and has many offspring, though his true wife is Michal. Of his illegitimate children, none is more glorious and beloved than Absalom. Absalom wins renown in foreign fields and is pleasing in mind and countenance. David loves him and indulges his every whim.
Absalom and Achitophel Summary
But since like slaves his bed they did ascend, No true succession could their seed attend. What faults he had for who from faults is free? His father could not, or he would not see. Plots, true or false, are necessary things, To raise up common-wealths, and ruin kings. Succeeding times did equal folly call, Believing nothing, or believing all. By force they could not introduce these gods; For ten to one, in former days was odds.
Absalom and Achitophel