On this date, August 9, the 17th century English poets and good friends, John Dryden and John Oldham were born.  Dryden was born in Aldwincle near Thrapston in Northamptonshire on August 9, 1631. Jonathan Swift was a distant cousin. Dryden graduated first in his class from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1654.

John Oldham was born in Shipton Moyne, Gloucestershire on August 9, 1653. He studied at St. Edmund Hall at the University of Oxford, graduating in May 1674. In the early 1680s, Oldham settled in London, where he became friends with Dryden. He died on smallpox on December 9, 1683, and was buried in St. Edmund’s Church in Holme Pierrepont. Dryden wrote today’s poem, To the Memory of Mr. Oldham, following his friend’s death.

Dryden died on 12 May 1700, and was initially buried in St. Anne’s cemetery in Soho. Ten days later, his body was exhumed and reburied in Westminster Abbey. He also became the subject of poetic eulogies, including Luctus Brittannici: or the Tears of the British Muses; for the Death of John Dryden, Esq. (London, 1700), and The Nine Muses.

 

 

To the Memory of Mr. Oldham

 

Farewell, too little and too lately known,
Whom I began to think and call my own;
For sure our souls were near ally’d; and thine
Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.
One common note on either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorr’d alike:
To the same goal did both our studies drive,
The last set out the soonest did arrive.
Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
While his young friend perform’d and won the race.
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
When poets are by too much force betray’d.
Thy generous fruits, though gather’d ere their prime
Still show’d a quickness; and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
Once more, hail and farewell; farewell thou young,
But ah too short, Marcellus of our tongue;
Thy brows with ivy, and with laurels bound;
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.