Study Guide

Mac Flecknoe Lines 139-160

By John Dryden

Lines 139-160

Lines 139-144

Heavens bless my son, from Ireland let him reign
To far Barbadoes on the Western main;
Of his dominion may no end be known,
And greater than his father's be his throne.
Beyond love's kingdom let him stretch his pen;
He paus'd, and all the people cry'd Amen.

  • This passage consists of Flecknoe's speech regarding the coronation of his son. 
  • The kingdom apparently stretches all the way from Ireland to Barbados, which seems impressive until you realize that he's referring to the vast, but empty, Atlantic Ocean. (Cue the sad trombone.) 
  • "Let my son's rule be even greater and more impressive than my own," Flecknoe (basically) exclaims, and "let him write freely throughout his domain."

Lines 145-154

Then thus, continu'd he, my son advance
Still in new impudence, new ignorance.
Success let other teach, learn thou from me
Pangs without birth, and fruitless industry.
Let Virtuosos in five years be writ;
Yet not one thought accuse thy toil of wit.
Let gentle George in triumph tread the stage,
Make Dorimant betray, and Loveit rage;
Let Cully, Cockwood, Fopling, charm the pit,
And in their folly show the writer's wit.

  • Flecknoe continues. In a nutshell, he says: "Let my son increase in blind ignorance as his rule proceeds, producing more and more terrible works." 
  • We also get another reference to Shadwell's The Virtuosos, which no one, the speaker explains, will ever mistake for having any wit or substance. 
  • Sir George Etherege was a comedic playwright and contemporary of Shadwell and Dryden. Loveit, Cully, Cockwood, and Fopling are all characters from his plays. Dryden actually seems complementary of "gentle George," making note of his wit.

Lines 155-164

Yet still thy fools shall stand in thy defence,
And justify their author's want of sense.
Let 'em be all by thy own model made
Of dullness, and desire no foreign aid:
That they to future ages may be known,
Not copies drawn, but issue of thy own.
Nay let thy men of wit too be the same,
All full of thee, and differing but in name;
But let no alien Sedley interpose
To lard with wit thy hungry Epsom prose.

  • Shadwell's characters, on the other hand, are as uniformly dull as their creator. 
  • The term "want" means "lack," referring to Shadwell's lack of sense. 
  • Sir Charles Sedley composed the prologue for Shadwell's Epsom Wells, but Flecknoe reminds his heir that he must not allow others to contribute any wit to his own wit-lacking texts. He wouldn't want to actually write anything worthwhile now, would he?

Lines 165-174

And when false flowers of rhetoric thou would'st cull,
Trust Nature, do not labour to be dull;
But write thy best, and top; and in each line,
Sir Formal's oratory will be thine.
Sir Formal, though unsought, attends thy quill,
And does thy Northern Dedications fill.
Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame,
By arrogating Jonson's hostile name.
Let Father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise,
And Uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.

  • Dryden continues to belittle Shadwell's writing ability with irony, as Flecknoe goes on, praising Shadwell's virtues. 
  • You need not try to be dull, Flecknoe reminds his heir. You simply have to be your own dull self and the rest will take care of itself. That's quite the pep talk. 
  • Sir Formal Trifle is the main character in Shadwell's The Virtuosos, remembered for his haughty, elevated speaking style. 
  • Shadwell would often dedicate his plays and poems to the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, located in the northern part of the country. 
  • Shadwell was a great admirer of comedic playwright Ben Jonson, and attempted to write in his style. Jonson, however, was a much superior writer. Dryden considered Shadwell to be "arrogating," or unjustly claiming Jonson's legacy, as the criticism here suggests. 
  • We get another reference to John Ogleby and his pedestrian poetry, who should be envious of Shadwell's ability to write far worse.