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But, like a harden'd felon, took a pride
Heaven, by the same disease, did both translate:
Meantime her warlike brother on the seas
The winds too soon will waft thee here!
Alas, thou know'st not, thou art wreck'd at home!
When in mid-air the golden trump shall sound,
The judging God shall close the book of Fate,
For those who wake, and those who sleep;
From the four corners of the sky;
When sinews o'er the skeletons are spread,
Those cloth'd with flesh, and life inspires the dead;
The sacred Poets first shall hear the sound,
which thou so well hast learnt below.
DEATH OF THE EARL OF DUNDEE.
Oн last and best of Scots! who didst maintain
Nor wouldst thou her, nor could she thee survive.
A Panegyrical Poem.
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
THE LATE COUNTESS OF ABINGDON'.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE EARL OF ABINGDON, &c.
THE commands, with which you honoured me some months ago, are now performed: they had been sooner; but betwixt ill health, some business, and many troubles, I was forced to defer them till this time. Ovid, going to his banishment, and writing from on shipboard to his friends, excused the faults of his poetry by his misfortunes; and told them, that good verses never flow but from a serene and composed spirit. Wit, which is a kind of Mercury, with wings fastened to his head and heels, can fly but slowly in a damp air. I therefore chose rather to obey you late, than ill; if at least I am capable of writing any thing, at any time, which is worthy your perusal and your patronage. I cannot say that I have escaped from a shipwreck, but have only gained a rock by hard
1 Eleonora, eldest daughter and sole heir of Sir Henry Lee, Bart. She became the wife of James, first Earl of Abingdon, and died May 31, 1691. See Malone's Dryden.
swimming, where I may pant awhile and gather breath: for the doctors give me a sad assurance, that my disease' never took its leave of any man but with a purpose to return. However, my Lord, I have laid hold on the interval, and managed the small stock which age has left me to the best advantage, in performing this inconsiderable service to my Lady's memory. We, who are priests of Apollo, have not the inspiration when we please; but must wait till the god comes rushing on us, and invades us with a fury which we are not able to resist; which gives us double strength while the fit continues, and leaves us languishing and spent at its departure. Let me not seem to boast, my Lord; for I have really felt it on this occasion, and prophesied beyond my natural power. Let me add, and hope to be believed, that the excellency of the subject contributed much to the happiness of the execution; and that the weight of thirty years was taken off me while I was writing. I swam with the tide, and the water under me was buoyant. The reader will easily observe that I was transported by the multitude and variety of my similitudes, which are generally the product of a luxuriant fancy, and the wantonness of wit. Had I called in my judgment to my assistance, I had certainly retrenched many of them. But I defend them not; let them pass for beautiful faults amongst the better sort of critics: for the whole poem, though written in that which they call Heroic verse, is of the Pindaric nature, as well in the thought as the expression; and, as such, requires the same grains of allowance for it, It
2 The gout.
was intended, as your Lordship sees in the title, not for an elegy, but a panegyric: a kind of apotheosis, indeed, if a heathen word may be applied to a Christian use. And, on all occasions of praise, if we take the ancients for our patterns, we are bound by prescription, to employ the magnificence of words, and the force of figures, to adorn the sublimity of thoughts. Isocrates amongst the Grecian orators, and Cicero and the younger Pliny amongst the Romans, have left us their precedents for our security: for I think I need not mention the inimitable Pindar, who stretches, on these pinions, out of sight, and is carried upwards, as it were, into another world.
This, at least, my Lord, I may justly plead, that if I have not performed so well as I think I have, yet I have used my best endeavours to excel myself. One disadvantage I have had, which is, never to have known or seen my Lady: and to draw the lineaments of her mind from the description which I have received from others, is for a painter to set himself at work without the living original before him: which, the more beautiful it is, will be so much the more difficult for him to conceive, when he has only a relation given him of such and such features by an acquaintance or a friend, without the nice touches, which give the best resemblance, and make the graces of the picture. Every artist is apt enough to flatter himself (and I among the rest) that his own ocular observations would have discovered more perfections, at least others, than have been delivered to him; though I have received mine from the best hands, that is, from persons who neither want a