Letter from the User

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 by drydenfan2010

Dear Visitors 

My biggest problem with learning is my organizational skills; a matter of fact I don’t have any. When ever I have to do some sort of project weather it be an essay, a presentation, or just a simple test I just get lost. There’s so much information from text books, lectures, outside articles and the internet that everything gets all jumbled together and it’s hard for to pinpoint what’s important about a certain subjects. More importantly there are two sides to learning. The first side is pretty straight forward; it knowing the cold, hard facts; the who, what, when, and the where; that’s the easy part. On the other side however there is the how. This unlike the others is a much more difficult question because it can mean anything;” How does this person connect to that person?”” How did this event influence that event?”, and the granddaddy of them all:” What does this mean to you?” Now these may seem to be easy questions; in some situations this isn’t the case. If you’re not organized; you spend more time trying to find the answer than you actually do answering it because you have to look in 50,000 places and compare everything; going back and forth like that’s just a waste of time. This is the point of this website.

My goal for creating this website is to remedy the above situation. This past year in my History of British Lit class we (the class) have been studying some of the greatest British authors; the difficult part of that is not only do you have to know the author but you have to interpret not only what’s going on in a particular work but how the work represents the specific forms and styles of writing of the time and what the work says about the important people and events. What makes this difficult is that most times the works that you may be studying are from a hundred to even a thousand years in the past an in most situations there are certain events or incidents that occur that you cant relate to because the situation has know bearing on your life now or in the future and if you cant relate to something how could you possibly interpret it or the people of the time. If this is the case the only way to fully understand something is through the facts, but if you have to look at multiple sources it just makes things harder.

By making a website dedicated to one particular author or work one can avoid such a conundrum. By having one place to go to you don’t have to waste time looking in 50,000 places you can go to one source and get all the information you need. Now, this may help for some people but there are those who are fully capable of using multiple sources to interpret such ideas; however this site will only help them by giving another source for them to peruse and learn from. This is because not only will this site give straight forward information it will also contain my own ideas and interpretations that  in either case will hopefully help those who need it.For this website I will be delving into the works of the Neo-classical/Restoration poet John Dryden. Here I will examining not only the life of John Dryden but how his music; especially, “Alexander’s Feast” not only gives homage to St. Cecilia; the patron saint of music, but gives us a deeper look into the literary styles of the Neo-classical period and the political and ethical mechanisms of the time. Hopefully this site will not only help me better understand Dryden and the period, but help those who are also studying the same material. Hopefully this site will be used as a model for others so that anyone can go online and find exactly what the need with far less of a hassle by being clear, concise and organized.





John Dryden (1631-1700)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 by drydenfan2010


8/9/1631:Born to puritans Erasmus Dryden and Mary Pickering, the eldest of 14 children in the village rectory of Aldwincle near Thrapstone in Northamptionshire, England and second cousin once removed of Jonathan Swift. 

1631-1644:Lived in Titchamarsh where he received his first education.  

1644:Sent to the Westminster Scholl as a King’s Scholar which had been re-founded by Elizabeth I and encouraged royalism and high Anglicanism. As a pupil of Headmaster Dr. Richard Busby Dryden. Trained in rhetoric and the presenting of arguments of both sides of a situation. Lessons would also include weekly translation assignments which would serve him later. Eventually he sent two of his three sons to Westminster and a house was named after him. 

1/31/1649:Attended the funeral of his friend Henry, Lord Hastings which influenced his first published poem, “Upon the Death of Lord Hastings” 

1650-54:Attended Trinity College. Though not much is known about his education it is assumed that he took part in the standard curriculum of classics, rhetoric, and mathematics. Eventually he graduated with a BA.  

June 1654:Erasmus Dryden died leaving John some land that made little income but not enough to live on. 

1654-58:His cousin Sir Gilbert Dickering obtained Dryden a position as a Latin Secretary for Oliver Cromwell’s Secretary of state John Thurloe. 

1660-62:To celebrate the return of the monarchy with Charles II Dryden converted to Catholicism as he saw Charles II as England’s return to peace and order,” To His Majesty: A Panegyric On His Coronation” and “To My Lord Chancellor”. 

12/1/1663:Dryden married Lady Elizabeth the sister of Sir Robert Howard in which they had three sons. 

1660-66:Dryden looked for a patron to finance his work but was forced to write for publishers. As a result Dryden wrote not for the aristocracy but for the public in the form of occasional poems-a form of blank verse poetry that celebrates a particular event; births, public gatherings, military victories, EST… Dryden was expelled from the Royal Society for not paying membership dues. 

1667:Dryden’s dramatic career started with Annus Mirabillis that described the events of 1660(the defeat of the Dutch navy and the great fire of London). 

1668-70:Charles II appointed Dryden Poet Laureate and later Historiographer Royal 

Though 1663-70’s:Started his career as a playwright with; “Wild Gallant” which was not a success as part as an employee and later shareholder of the Kings Company. In 1665 when the great plague of London closed the theaters Dryden wrote the essay, “Of Dramatic Poesie” (1668) 

1675:In the prologue of his play; “Aureng-zebe” Dryden expressed the elation of the poetic tradition and the creative process and denounces the use of rhyme in serious drama. 

1678-81:Dryden wrote his most famous works; “Mac Flecknoe” and “Absalom and Achitophel. 

1688:With the deposition of King James I the refusal to take oaths of allegiance to William III Dryden fell out of favor with the new government and Thomas Shadwell replaced him as Poet Laureate and was forced to give up public office. 

1694-97:Translated the works of Virgil and wrote the occasional poem/song “Alexander’s Feast”. 

1700:In the volumes “Fables Ancient and Modern” he translated parts of Homer (the Aeneid which is considered to be the best example produced in English), Ovid, Boccaccio, and modern adoptions of Chaucer. This including his essay “Preface of Fables” made classical works accessible to the public 

5/1/1700:Dryden died and was buried in St. Anne’s cemetery and then ten days later was moved to Westminster Abbey. 

St. Cecilia : Music, Angels, & Celebration

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 by drydenfan2010

According to legend St. Cecilia was the young daughter of a Patrician family in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. Though Cecilia was Christian her father arranged for her to marry a pagan named Valerian. At her wedding she sat alone repeating psalms and praying. That night Cecilia told Valerian that she had a lover and that he was a very jealous angel. Believing that Cecilia was lying and that her lover was just a man he demanded to see the angel. She told him the only way he could see the angel was to be baptized. Valerian was then baptized by a bishop named Urban. When he returned, Valerian saw an angel with fiery wing sitting besides Cecilia. Later Valerian convinced his brother Tiburtius to be baptized and he saw the angel too. Valerian and Tiburtius then started working for the Christian community in Rome where they specialized in burying the bodies of those who were executed. Valerian and Tiburtius were themselves executed for refusing to make sacrifices to Jove (Jupiter) as this was a sign of loyalty to Rome. Maximus, the official order to execute them was himself killed for converting to Christianity after receiving visions. After Cecilia buried their bodies she was martyred. First she was sentenced to be suffocated by fire in her own bathroom but she survived. It was then decided that she was to be executed by beheading. She was struck in the neck three times but survived but the executioner was forced to stop because it was against the law to strike more than three times. Cecilia survived for three more days. Dying, Cecilia gave all her wealth to the poor and her house to a bishop to be converted into a church. She was then buried in the crypt of the Caecilli in the catacombs of St. Callistus then move to St. Cecilia in Trastevere.

Because of her desire to maintain her virginity and martyrdom love of god Cecilia is considered to be the model of Christian women.Saint Cecilia is regarded as the patron saint of music, due to the legend that she sang to God as she was being suffocated and dying of her neck wounds. There is no evidence that Cecilia actually sang or played an instrument. However, the fact that she prayed to god at her wedding may have been mistaken for singing. It was during the Italian renaissance, that painters depicted her as a musician, most often playing organ. In other instances playing the lute or holding a violin. The first known music festival celebrating her feast day was in Eureauxy Normandy in 1570, The festival included performances and composition competitions. Annual festivals took place in Vienna, Paris and Rome throug the 18th and 19th century.

The first Cecilia’s feast day in London was in 1683.The music included an ode to St. Cecilia and taking as its theme the power of music to move the human soul, the organizers of the festivities were able to obtain the services of the leading composers and poets of the day. Purcell contributed odes in 1683 and 1692 and John Dryden, as Poet Laureate, provided a song for the festival of 1687, “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day“. In 1703 Dryden’s ode Alexander’s Feast which he wrote in 1697 was set to music by Jeremiah Clarke and titled “Alexander’s Feast“; or “The Power of Musique” for the 1703 festival. Later Newburgh Hamilton, a fan of George Handel’s music drew Handel’s attention to the Dryden odes. Handel responded with settings of both texts, completing Alexander’s Feast in 1736 and Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day in 1739. Both enjoyed considerable popularity and several revivals.

The St. Cecilia celebrations in London lasted until 1905. It was replaced by annual concerts in aid of the Musicians Benevolent Fund which lasted for a week instead of a single day.

“Alexander’s Feast” Original (Feat. Electronic Reading)

Posted in Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 by drydenfan2010

“Alexander’s Feast” Electronic Reading




‘Twas at the royal feast, for Persia won
      By Philip’s warlike son:
            Aloft, in awful state,
            The godlike hero sate
      On his imperial throne. [5]
   His valiant peers were placed around;
Their brows with roses and with myrtles bound:
      (So should desert in arms be crowned.)
   The lovely Thais, by his side,
   Sate like a blooming eastern bride, [10]
   In flower of youth and beauty’s pride.
         Happy, happy, happy pair!
         None but the brave,
         None but the brave, [15]
         None but the brave deserves the fair.


Happy, happy, happy pair!
None but the brave,
None but the brave,
None but the brave deserves the fair.



      Timotheus, placed on high [20]
         Amid the tuneful quire,
         With flying fingers touched the lyre:
      The trembling notes ascend the sky,
         And heavenly joys inspire.
   The song began from Jove, [25]
   Who left his blissful seats above,
   (Such is the power of mighty love.)
   A dragon’s fiery form belied the god;
   Sublime on radiant spires he rode,
      When he to fair Olympia pressed, [30]
      And while he sought her snowy breast;
   Then, round her slender waist he curled,
And stamped an image of himself, a sovereign of the world.
The listening crowd admire the lofty sound,
A present deity! they shout around; [35]
A present deity! the vaulted roofs rebound.
            With ravished ears,
            The monarch hears;
            Assumes the god,
            Affects to nod, [40]
            And seems to shake the spheres.


   With ravished ears,
   The monarch hears;
   Assumes the god,
   Affects to nod,
And seems to shake the spheres.



The praise of Bacchus, then, the sweet musician sung;
   Of Bacchus ever fair, and ever young.
      The jolly god in triumph comes;
      Sound the trumpets, beat the drums; [50]
            Flushed with a purple grace
            He shows his honest face:
Now, give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes.
         Bacchus, ever fair and young,
            Drinking joys did first ordain; [55]
         Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
         Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure;
            Rich the treasure,
            Sweet the pleasure,
            Sweet is pleasure after pain. [60]


Bacchus’ blessings are a treasure,
Drinking is the soldier’s pleasure;
      Rich the treasure,
      Sweet the pleasure,
   Sweet is pleasure after pain.


   Soothed with the sound, the king grew vain:
         Fought all his battles o’er again;
And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain. —
   The master saw the madness rise,
   His glowing cheeks, his ardent eyes; [70]
   And, while he heaven and earth defied,
   Changed his hand, and checked his pride.
         He chose a mournful muse,
         Soft pity to infuse,
   He sung Darius great and good, [75]
      By too severe a fate,
   Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,
   Fallen from his high estate,
      And weltering in his blood:
   Deserted, at his utmost need, [80]
   By those his former bounty fed;
   On the bare earth exposed he lies,
   With not a friend to close his eyes.
With downcast looks the joyless victor sate,
   Revolving, in his altered soul, [85]
      The various turns of chance below;
   And, now and then, a sigh he stole,
      And tears began to flow.


Revolving, in his altered soul,
   The various turns of chance below;
And, now and then, a sigh he stole,
   And tears began to flow.



The mighty master smiled, to see
That love was in the next degree;
‘Twas but a kindred-sound to move, [95]
For pity melts the mind to love.
   Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
   Soon he soothed his soul to pleasures:
War, he sung, is toil and trouble;
Honour, but an empty bubble; [100]
      Never ending, still beginning,
   Fighting still, and still destroying:
      If the world be worth thy winning,
   Think, O think it worth enjoying;
      Lovely Thais sits beside thee, [105]
      Take the good the gods provide thee —
The many rend the skies with loud applause;
So Love was crowned, but Music won the cause.
      The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
            Gazed on the fair, [110]
            Who caused his care,
      And sighed and looked, sighed and looked,
      Sighed and looked, and sighed again;
At length, with love and wine at once oppressed,
The vanquished victor sunk upon her breast. [115]


   The prince, unable to conceal his pain,
            Gazed on the fair,
            Who caused his care,
   And sighed and looked, sighed and looked,
   Sighed and looked, and sighed again;
At length, with love and wine at once oppressed,
The vanquished victor sunk upon her breast.



Now strike the golden lyre again;
A louder yet, and yet a louder strain.
Break his bands of sleep asunder, [125]
And rouse him, like a rattling peal of thunder
         Hark, hark! the horrid sound
            Has raised up his head;
            As awaked from the dead,
         And amazed, he stares around. [130]
   Revenge, revenge! Timotheus cries,
      See the furies arise;
            See the snakes, that they rear,
            How they hiss in their hair,
      And the sparkles that flash from their eyes! [135]
            Behold a ghastly band,
            Each a torch in his hand!
Those are Grecian ghosts, that in battle were slain,
            And, unburied, remain
            Inglorious on the plain: [140]
            Give the vengeance due
            To the valiant crew.
   Behold how they toss their torches on high,
      How they point to the Persian abodes,
   And glittering temples of their hostile gods. — [145]
The princes applaud, with a furious joy,
And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
            Thais led the way,
            To light him to his prey, [150]
And, like another Helen, fired another Troy.


And the king seized a flambeau with zeal to destroy;
            Thais led the way,
            To light him to his prey,
And, like another Helen, fired another Troy.



            Thus, long ago, [155]
         Ere heaving bellows learned to blow,
            While organs yet were mute,
         Timotheus, to his breathing flute,
            And sounding lyre,
Could swell the soul to rage, or kindle soft desire. [160]
      At last divine Cecilia came,
      Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,
      Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
      And added length to solemn sounds, [165]
With nature’s mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
         Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
            Or both divide the crown;
         He raised a mortal to the skies,
            She drew an angel down. [170]

Grand Chorus.

   At last divine Cecilia came,
   Inventress of the vocal frame:
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,
   Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
   And added length to solemn sounds,
With nature’s mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
      Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
         Or both divide the crown;
      He raised a mortal to the skies,
         She drew an angel down.

“Alexander’s Feast”: Performances & Readings

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2010 by drydenfan2010

Selections From: (Handel’s) “Alexander’s Feast”






“Alexander’s Feast”  Reading:


“Alexander’s Feast”-“My” Synopsis

Posted in Uncategorized on May 2, 2010 by drydenfan2010

Alexander the Great, the son of King Philip, is sitting on a throne in a city in Persia where he is accompanied by a beautiful Thais (courtesan). Along with the other Greek soldiers they are drinking wine while they celebrate their defeat of the Persian Empire. Then enters the musician/soldier Timotheus who begins to play his lyre. The lyre’s beautiful melodies seem to the soldiers to bring god down from heaven. As Timotheus continues to plays his lyre the soldiers consume more and more wine including Alexander.

Because of the music and the wine Alexander has become so drunk that he begins to relive all his battles in his mind which starts to cause him to go slowly go mad. Eventually Alexander begins to relive the death of the Persian king Darius. After the Greeks victory Darius was betrayed and killed by his own men and his body is left in the open. Though Darius had Alexander’s father killed, he was still a king, and no one especially a king should be murdered and his body left out in the dirt with his eyes open which was an act of dishonor to the Greeks. Alexander then begins to cry. Seeing this Timotheus begins to sing a song about love hoping that it will cause Alexander to pull himself together. Instead it only causes him to become so overwhelmed with emotion that he passes out collapses into the Thais chest.

To prevent Alexander from appearing weak in front of the other Greek soldiers Timotheus begins to sing a rousing song calling for the soldiers to take revenge against the Persians for all the Greek deaths in the battle. This succeeds in waking Alexander; however, he goes in to frenzy and caught in the moment orders his men to burn the city to the ground. Horrified at the chaos Timotheus try’s to play his flute in order to quell the riot but to anvil. Eventually St. Cecilia descend from heaven and stops the riot but its too late to stop the burning of the city but is able to stop further deaths.


Posted in Uncategorized on May 1, 2010 by drydenfan2010

John Dryden, St. Cecilia, & Alexander the Great…