Context: Having been converted in 1686 to Catholicism, Dryden championed his new Church in a long poem, The Hind and the Panther. In his allegory, animals represented England's various religious groups. The hares were the Quakers; the apes, the freethinkers; the boar, the Anabaptists; the fox, the Unitarians; the wolf, the Presbyterians. "The milk white Hind" was the Roman Catholic Church, in danger of being attacked by the Panther (The Church of England), but defended by the British Lion (King James II). In the second part, the Panther accompanies the Hind through the woods, and they talk together. The Panther congratulates her at having escaped the hunter's snares. The Hind retorts that the snares were laid for the Panther, who twisted out of them. Some people are born to be martyrs, she tells her companion, while others are unwilling to suffer for a just cause. Instead, from fear and selfishness, they do everything to escape. The use of the word "gift" shows the poet's admiration of those who suffer for righteousness' sake.
. . ."Long time you fought, redoubled batt'ry bore,But, after all, against yourself you swore:Your former self; for ev'ry hour your formIs chopp'd and chang'd, like winds before a storm.Thus fear and int'rest will prevail with some;For all have not the gift of martyrdom."The Panther grinned at this, and thus replied:"That men may err was never yet denied.But if that common principle be true,The cannon, dame, is level'd full at you." . . .