The Hind and the Panther "Much Malice Mingled With A Little Wit"

John Dryden

"Much Malice Mingled With A Little Wit"

Context: A 2,592-line poem in three parts followed Dryden's conversion to Roman Catholicism. In it, various animals represent the conflicting religious bodies of England, with the White Hind symbolizing the Roman Catholics, and the Panther the Church of England. In the second part, the Hind and the Panther, journeying through the woods together, reach the Hind's den into which she invites the Panther. She is amazed at its attractiveness. The Hind suggests that her guest might well make the den her "dwelling place of everlasting rest." At the beginning of the third part, the poet makes his defense for using in his allegory "foreign animals" that do not exist in England. He cites Spenser's Mother Hubbard's Tale where "Mother Hubbard in her homely dress, Has sharply blam'd a British Lioness/ . . . Expos'd obscenely naked and asleep." Dryden protests that if Aesop in his fables could introduce animals nonexistent in Greece, why can he not do the same for England? The first line of the defense quoted was used by Montagu and Prior, "Much Malice and Little Wit," as title for their satire on Dryden's poem. Caledon, the name of Scotland, is used poetically for all the British Isles. Dryden protests that people of ill will but some cleverness may attack what he has written. He calls his work "mysterious" because it was first published anonymously.

Much malice mingled with a little wit,
Perhaps, may censure this mysterious writ;
Because the Muse has peopled Caledon
With Panthers, Bears, and Wolves, and beasts unknown,
As if we were not stock'd with monsters of our own.
Let Aesop answer, he who set to view
Such kinds as Greece and Phrygia never knew.
. . .
Led by those great examples, may not I
The wanted organs of their words supply?
If men transact like brutes, 't is equal then
For brutes to claim the privilege of men.
. . .