Poet John Dryden

English poet (B:1631-08-09 - D:1700-05-12)

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Eleonora : A Panegyrical

Dedicated to the Memory of the Late Countess of Abingdon.

As when some great and gracious monarch dies,
Soft whispers first and mournful rise
Among the sad attendants; then the sound
Soon gathers voice and spreads the news around,
Through town and country, till the dreadful blast
Is blown to distant colonies at last;
Who then perhaps were offering vows in vain
For his long life and for his happy reign:
So slowly, by degrees, unwilling Fame
Did matchless Eleonora's fate proclaim,
Till public as the loss the news became.
The nation felt it in the extremest parts,
With eyes o'erflowing and with bleeding hearts;
But most of the poor, whom daily she supplied,
Beginning to be such but when she died.
For, while she lived, they slept in peace by night,
Secure of bread as of returning light,
And with such firm dependence on the day,
That need grew pampered and forgot to pray:
So sure the dole, so ready at their call,
They stood prepared to see the manna fall.
Such multitudes she fed, she clothed, she nurst,
That she her self might fear her wanting first.
Of her five talents other five she made;
Heaven, that had largely given, was largely paid;
And in few lives, in wondrous few, we find
A fortune better fitted to the mind.
Nor did her alms from ostentation fall,
Or proud desire of praise; the soul gave all:
Unbribed it gave; or, if a bribe appear,
No less than Heaven, to heap huge treasures there.
Want passed for merit at her open door:
Heaven saw her safely might increase his poor,
And trust their sustenance with her so well
As not to be at charge of miracle.
None could be needy whom she saw or knew;
All in the compass of her sphere she drew:
He who could touch her garment was as sure,
As the first Christians of the Apostles' cure.
The distant heard by fame her pious deeds,
And laid her up for their extremest needs,
A future cordial for a fainting mind;
For what was ne'er refused all hoped to find,
Each in his turn: the rich might freely come,
As to a friend; but to the poor 'twas a home.
As to some holy house the afflicted came,
The hunger-starved, the naked, and the lame;
Want and diseases fled before her name.
For zeal like hers her servants were too slow;
She was the first, where need required, to go,
Her self the foundress, and attendant too.
Sure she had guests sometimes to entertain,
Guests in disguise, of her great Master's train:
Her Lord him self might come, for aught we know,
Since in a servant's form he lived below;
Beneath her roof he might be pleased to stay:
Or some benighted angel in his way
Might ease his wings, and seeing Heaven appear
In its best work of mercy, think it there,
Where all the deeds of charity and love
Were in as constant method as above,
All carried on; all of a piece with theirs;
As free her alms, as diligent her cares;
As loud her praises, and as warm her prayers.
Yet was she not profuse; but feared to waste,
And wisely managed, that the stock might last;
That all might be supplied, and she not grieve,
When crowds appeared, she had not to relieve:
Which to prevent, she still increased her store;
Laid up, and spared, that she might give the more.
So Pharaoh, or some greater king than he,
Provided for the seventh necessity;
Taught from above his magazines to frame,
That famine was prevented ere it came.
Thus Heaven, though all-sufficient, shows a thrift
In his economy, and bounds his gift;
Creating for our day one single light;
And his reflection too supplies the night.
Perhaps a thousand other words, that lie
Remote from us and latent in the sky,
Are lightened by his beams, and kindly nurst;
Of which our earthly dunghill is the worst.
Now, as all virtues keep the middle line,
Yet somewhat more to one extreme incline,
Such was her soul, abhorring avarice,
Bounteous, but almost bounteous to a vice:
Had she given more, it had profusion been,
And turned the excess of goodness into sin.
These virtues raised her fabric to the sky;
For that which is next Heaven is charity.
But as high turrets for their airy steep
Require foundations in proportion deep,
And lofty cedars as far upward shoot
As to the nether heavens they drive the root,
So low did her secure foundation lie;
She was not humble, but humility.
Scarcely she knew that she was great or fair
Or wise beyond what other women are,
Or, which is better, knew, but never durst compare.
For to be conscious of what all admire,
And not be vain, advances virtue higher.
But still she found, or rather thought she found,
Her own worth wanting, others' to abound;
Ascribed above their due to every one,
Unjust and scanty to her self alone.
Such her devotion was as might give rules
Of speculation to disputing schools,
And teach us equally the scales to hold
Betwixt the two extremes of hot and cold;
That pious heat may moderately prevail,
And we be warmed, but not be scorched with zeal.
Business might shorten, not disturb her prayer;
Heaven had the best, if not the greater share.
An active life long orisons forbids;
Yet still she prayed, for still she prayed by deeds.
Her every day was Sabbath; only free
From hours of prayer, for hours of charity.
Such as the Jews from servile toil releast,
Where works of mercy were a part of rest;
Such as blest angels exercise above,
Varied with sacred hymns and acts of love;
Such Sabbaths as that one she now enjoys,
Even that perpetual one, which she employs
(For such vicissitudes in Heaven there are)
In praise alternate and alternate prayer.
All this she practised here; that when she sprung
Amidst the quires, at the first sight she sung;
Sung, and was sung her self, in angels' lays;
For, praising her, they did her Maker praise.
All offices of Heaven so well she knew,
Before she came, that nothing there as new;
And she was so familiarly received
As one returning, not as one arrived.
Muse, down again precipitate thy flight.
For how can mortal eyes sustain immortal light?
But as the sun in water we can bear,
Yet not the sun, but his reflection there,
So let us view her here in what she was,
And take her image in this watery glass:
Yet look not every lineament to see;
Some will be cast in shades, and some will be
So lamely drawn, you scarcely know 'tis she.
For where such various virtues we recite,
'Tis like the milky way, all over bright,
But sown so thick with stars, 'tis undistinguished light.
Her virtue, not her virtues, let us call;
For one heroic comprehends them all:
One, as a constellation is but one,
Though 'tis a train of stars that, rolling on,
Rise in their turn and in the Zodiac run,
Ever in motion; now 'tis faith ascends,
Now hope, now charity, that upward tends,
And downwards with diffusive good descends.
As in perfumes composed with art and cost,
'Tis hard to say what scent is uppermost;
Nor this part musk or civet can we call,
Or amber, but a rich result of all;
So she was all a sweet, whose every part,
In due proportion mixed, proclaimed the Maker's art.
No single virtue we could most commend,
Whether the wife, the mother, or the friend;
For she was all, in that supreme degree,
That as no one prevailed, so all was she.
The several parts lay hidden in the piece;
The occasion but exerted that or this.
A wife as tender, and as true withal,
As the first woman was before her fall:
Made for the man, of whom she was a part;
Made to attract his eyes and keep his heart.
A second Eve, but by no crime accurst;
As beauteous, not as brittle as the first.
Had she been first, still Paradise had been,
And death had found no entrance by her sin.
She not only had preserved from ill
Her sex and ours, but lived their pattern still.
Love and obedience to her lord she bore;
She much obeyed him, but she loved him more:
Not awed to duty by superior sway,
But taught by his indulgence to obey.
Thus we love God, as author of our good;
So subjects love just kings, or so they should.
Nor was it with ingratitude returned;
In equal fires the blissful couple burned;
One joy possessed them both, and in one grief they mourned.
His passion still improved; h



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