Saturday, July 04, 2009

`A Sullen Growl of Resentment'

On the way home from Lake Chelan we drove through or near towns and villages with such names as Gold Bar, Entiat, Winesap, Grotto, Skykomish, Index, Sultan, Chumstick, Wilderness, Verlot and Robe. One of the joys of travel in the United States is the surreal poetry of its place names, the history of which, Names on the Land, was written by George R. Stewart. As we passed through Dryden, Wa., I wondered: Could it be named for John Dryden (1631-1700), author of these rousing lines from “Mac Flecknoe”:

“All human things are subject to decay,
And, when fate summons, monarchs must obey.”

When we stopped for the traffic signal in Dryden, I noticed we were waiting at the intersection of Dryden Avenue and Johnson Road. Surely, this was no coincidence. The early settlers of North Central Washington must have been stout-hearted readers. With more time I might have found Donne Drive or Pope Lane. Instead, at home, I returned to Samuel Johnson’s “Life of Dryden” and this insightful encomium:

“With his praises of other and of himself is always intermingled a strain of discontent and lamentation, a sullen growl of resentment, or querulous murmur of distress. His works are undervalued, his merit is unrewarded, and he has few thanks to pay his stars that he was born among Englishmen.”

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