To the Memory of Mr. Oldham

by John Dryden

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Is John Dryden's poem "To The Memory Of Mr. Oldham" entirely complimentary?

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A response to this question requires a close reading of the poem.  What Dryden has to say becomes less complimentary after this line, "What could advancing age have added more?"(12). In other words, if Mr. Oldham had lived to a ripe old age, how might he have been a better poet?  The lines that follow the question, the middle section, point out the deficiencies in Oldham's writing. For example, when he refers to the "numbers of thy native tongue" (14), and the "harsh cadence" (16) of Oldham's writing, Dryden is suggesting that the meter in Oldham' poetry was imperfect. Similarly, Dryden does go on, though, to point out that satire does not necessarily need perfect meter to be effective, and in the last part of the poem, he returns to his compliments.

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