The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The Hind and the Panther is a long poem in three parts totaling 2,592 lines. In this poem, John Dryden employs his favorite verse form, the heroic couplet. Taken as a whole, The Hind and the Panther is an allegorical and argumentative treatment of the religious conflicts that took place in England during the reign of King James II. More specifically, the poem is a defense of the Catholic faith and of Dryden’s conversion to Catholicism in 1685. The hind of the poem’s title is an allegorical deer representing the Catholic church, while the panther represents the Anglican church.

In part 1 of The Hind and the Panther, Dryden introduces the various religious factions of his time as allegorical beasts. Thus, the bear represents religious independents, the hare represents Quakers, the ape represents atheists, the boar represents Baptists, the fox represents Unitarians, and the wolf represents Presbyterians. The fox and the wolf are described with special satiric intensity. Also in part 1, Dryden includes a moving and beautifully expressed confession of his own religious faith. Part 1 concludes with a meeting between the Catholic hind and the Anglican panther, which sets the stage for part 2.

Part 2 is essentially a vigorous debate between the hind and the panther in which the main differences between Catholicism and Anglicanism are argued in verse of great power and discursive clarity. The issues discussed include...

(The entire section is 446 words.)