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just understanding of my Lady's worth, nor a due veneration for her memory.
Doctor Donne, the greatest wit, though not the greatest poet of our nation, acknowledges that he had never seen Mrs. Drury, whom he has made immortal in his admirable Anniversaries. I have had the same fortune, though I have not succeeded to the same genius. However, I have followed his footsteps in the design of his panegyric, which was to raise an emulation in the living, to copy out the example of the dead. And therefore it was that I once intended to have called this Poem The Pattern; and though, on a second consideration, I changed the title into the name of the illustrious person, yet the design continues, and Eleonora is still the pattern of charity, devotion, and humility; of the best wife, the best mother, and the best of friends.
And now, my Lord, though I have endeavoured to answer your commands, yet I could not answer it to the world, nor to my conscience, if I gave not your Lordship my testimony of being the best husband now living: I say my testimony only; for the praise of it is given you by yourself. They who despise the rules of virtue, both in their practice and their morals, will think it a very trivial commendation. But I think it the peculiar happiness of the Countess of Abingdon to have been so truly loved by you, while she was living, and so gratefully honoured after she was dead. Few there are who have either had, or could have, such a loss; and yet fewer who carried their love and constancy beyond the grave. The exteriors of mourning, a decent funeral, and black habits,
are the usual stints of common husbands; and perhaps their wives deserve no better than to be mourned with hypocrisy, and forgot with ease. But you have distinguished yourself from ordinary lovers by a real and lasting grief for the deceased: and by endeavouring to raise for her the most durable monument, which is that of verse. And so it would have proved, if the workman had been equal to the work, and your choice of the artificer as happy as your design. Yet as Phidias, when he had made the statue of Minerva, could not forbear to engrave his own name as author of the piece; so give me leave to hope that, by subscribing mine to this Poem, I may live by the goddess, and transmit my name to posterity by the memory of her's. It is no flattery to assure your Lordship that she is remembered, in the present age, by all who have had the honour of her conversation and acquaintance; and that I have never been in any company, since the news of her death was first brought me, where they have not extolled her virtues, and even spoken the same things of her in prose which I have done in verse.
I therefore think myself obliged to thank your Lordship for the commission which you have given me: how I have acquitted myself of it must be left to the opinion of the world, in spite of any protestation which I can enter against the present age, as incompetent or corrupt judges. For my comfort they are but Englishmen, and, as such, if they think ill of me to-day, they are inconstant enough to think well of me to-morrow. And, after all, I have not much to thank my fortune that I was born amongst them. The good of
both sexes are so few in England, that they stand like exceptions against general rules: and though one of them has deserved a greater commendation than I could give her, they have taken care that I should not tire my pen with frequent exercise on the like subjects; that praises, like taxes, should be appropriated, and left almost as individual as the person. They say my talent is satire; if it be so, it is a fruitful age, and there is an extraordinary crop to gather: but a single hand is insufficient for such a harvest. They have sown the dragon's teeth themselves, and it is but just they should reap each other in lampoons. You, my Lord, who have the character of honour, though it is not my happiness to know you, may stand aside, with the small remainder of the English nobility, truly such, and unhurt yourselves, behold the mad combat. If I have pleased you, and some few others, I have obtained my end. You see, I have disabled myself, like an elected Speaker of the House; yet, like him, I have undertaken the charge, and find the burden sufficiently recompensed by the honour. Be pleased to accept of these my unworthy labours, this paper-monument; and let her pious memory, which I am sure is sacred to you, not only plead the pardon of my many faults, but gain me your protection, which is ambitiously sought by,
most obedient servant,
A Panegyrical Poem.
TO THE MEMORY OF
THE LATE COUNTESS OF ABINGDON.
As when some great and gracious monarch dies,
Who then, perhaps, were offering vows in vain,
The nation felt it in the' extremest parts,
For, while she lived, they slept in peace by night,
And with such firm dependence on the day,
Such multitudes she fed, she clothed, she nursed, That she, herself might fear her wanting first.
Of her five talents other five she made;
Nor did her alms from ostentation fall,
No less than Heaven, to heap huge treasures there.
None could be needy whom she saw or knew ;
Sure she had guests sometimes to entertain, Guests in disguise, of her great Master's train : Her Lord himself 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,