[Neither...] Nor angry Heaven, Nor a forgiving king

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Senior Member
India-Tamil & English
I saw this in some word of the day. CAn you tell me what the last line"Nor angry.." means?

Those let me curse; what vengeance will they urge,
Whose ordures neither plague nor fire can purge,
Nor sharp experience can to duty bring
Nor angry Heaven nor a forgiving king!
-John Dryden

  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's part of a complex "neither...nor" construction, which connects several negative statements in regard to related subjects.

    "Neither" introduces the first:
    Plague cannot purge the ordures
    "Nor" adds the following:
    Fire cannot purge the ordures
    Another sequence of "nors" introduces a list of things that cannot bring the "those/they", the persons of whom he speaks, "to duty":
    Sharp experience cannot bring them to duty
    Heaven cannot bring them to duty
    A forgiving king cannot bring them to duty

    It's a rather extravagant usage of "neither...nor", so it's a little difficult to untangle.


    Senior Member
    India-Tamil & English
    But I in fact understood them
    What I failed to understand was why the Heaven was angry whilst the king seemed to be forgiving

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Moderator note:

    Please title threads with a subject that relates to the topic. I've changed the thread from "Interpretation" to an appropriate one.


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    This is a small portion of Dryden's 1682 poem "The Medal", which is a satirical reflection on the party that opposed the policies of King Charles II.

    The line in question comes from a section of the poem that is addressed to the city of London, which Dryden regards as both a surce of wealth and prosperity for the country, but also a source of trouble through the seditious plots of untrustworthy men. The previous lines are these:

    The wise and wealthy love the surest way
    And are content to thrive and to obey.
    But wisdom is to sloth too great a slave;
    None are so busy as the fool and knave.
    When Dryden says "Those let me curse", he means "let me curse the fools and knaves of London." Earlier in the section, Dryden had mentioned the recent history of events in London: the monarchy being restored in 1660, and the king brought back to power, and also the great "plague" of 1665, and the great "fire" of 1666, which together destroyed much of London's population and most of London's buildings. Londoners have thus had "sharp experience"; that is, painful experiences in the recent past. They have had a "forgiving king" in the form of Charles II, who had not executed the treacherous Earl of Shaftesbury, in whose honor the medal of the title of the poem had been created by Shaftesbury's admirers. Londoners should also be aware that sedition against lawful government is sinful, and would make God "angry". Nevertheless, despite all of these things which should make Londoners wise and good, their remain disloyal, evil men among them. Ordinary dirt and filth were wiped out by the fire, but the dirt and filth ("ordure") of the evil deeds of the "fool and the knave" will bring on a divine vengeance even worse than the experiences of the past.
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