John Dryden, whose dramatic tragedies are more famous than his poetry, encapsulated the age (1681) with his gentle wit, which, while criticizing society’s imperfections, lays most of the blame on inborn human nature rather the “times.” As his poem Absolom and Achitophel claims, “When nature prompted and no law denied” Mankind was prone to promiscuity. It was the Israelites, “a moody, headstrong, murmuring race,” who invented sin and made the story of Absolom and Achitophel a reflection of the changes that Jesus brought – forgiveness, etc. This is the way Dryden’s poem is “essentially good-humored”—by reflecting on the Christian values of forgiveness and non-judgment. Also, the rhymed couplet, one of the French contributions to English literature that Charles II brought back to the Restoration of the English throne, is by its nature and its artificial construction (compared to the natural English iambic pentameter), forces a non-sober tone to the most serious admonishment:
But far more numerous was the herd of such,
Who think too little, and who talk too much.