The Hind and the Panther "Either Be Wholly Slaves, Or Wholly Free"

John Dryden

"Either Be Wholly Slaves, Or Wholly Free"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Celebrating his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1686, England's most noted poet of this period played his part in the quarrel between Protestantism and Catholicism by composing a long allegorical poem about animals, in which the Hind represents the Catholics, the Panther the Church of England, and the Lion, King James II. Part II of the poem contains a dialogue between the chief animals over religious practices. The Hind upholds church authority and Purgatory, and refuses to concede that everyone should follow "his particular judgment." After the struggle to establish authority of the Bible, it is folly to accept an unauthorized interpretation of it, or argue for a personal hell. Dryden's poetry is superior to his religious exegesis, but he was writing for partisan readers whom he hoped would maintain traditions.

. . .
"Did we a lawful tyranny displace,
To set aloft a bastard of the race?
Why all these wars to win the Book, if we
Must not interpret for ourselves, but she?
Either be wholly slaves, or wholly free.
For purging fires traditions must not fight,
But they must prove episcopacy's right.
Thus those led horses are from service freed;
You never mount 'em but in time of need.
Like mercenaries, hir'd for home defense,
They will not serve against their native prince."
. . .