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.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Dryden’s most obvious literary technique in The Hind and the Panther is the allegorical animal fable. Not only is the poem as a whole an animal fable, but part 3 also presents two distinct animal fables within the larger fable. As Dryden makes clear at the beginning of part 3, he is very much aware of the tradition of the animal fable, which goes back to ancient times. By using the fable, he is able to deal with very controversial and potentially explosive religious and political matters with humor, detachment, clarity, and simplicity. His use of the animal fable gives The Hind and the Panther a lightness and playfulness that the reader might not expect from the poem’s serious subject matter.

Dryden balances the lightness of his fable with another literary technique that is important in both The Hind and the Panther and his poetry in general. Dryden was a great master of the verse essay. There are few poets in all of world literature who can equal his ability to reason and debate within the restrictions and formal demands of verse structure. Thus, especially in part 2, the debate between the hind and the panther regarding complex religious issues is handled with a precision, force, logic, and polish that are uniquely Drydenian. Much of the success of The Hind and the Panther stems from Dryden’s remarkable combination of fabulistic charm and discursive strength.

Dryden’s poetry as a whole is famous...

(The entire section is 559 words.)