To Her Grace The Duchess Of Ormond, WITH THE FOLLOWING POEM OF PALAMON AND ARCITE.


MADAM,

The bard who first adorn'd our native tongue,
Tuned to his British lyre this ancient song:
Which Homer might without a blush rehearse,
And leaves a doubtful palm in Virgil's verse:
He match'd their beauties, where they most excel;
Of love sung better, and of arms as well.

Vouchsafe, illustrious Ormond! to behold
What power the charms of beauty had of old;
Nor wonder if such deeds of arms were done,
Inspired by two fair eyes that sparkled like your own.

If Chaucer by the best idea wrought,
And poets can divine each other's thought,
The fairest nymph before his eyes he set;
And then the fairest was Plantagenet;
Who three contending princes made her prize,
And ruled the rival nations with her eyes:
Who left immortal trophies of her fame,
And to the noblest order gave the name.

Like her, of equal kindred to the throne,
You keep her conquests, and extend your own:
As when the stars in their ethereal race,
At length have roll'd around the liquid space,
At certain periods they resume their place;
From the same point of heaven their course advance,
And move in measures of their former dance;
Thus, after length of ages, she returns,
Restored in you, and the same place adorns;
Or you perform her office in the sphere,
Born of her blood, and make a new Platonic year.
O true Plantagenet! O race divine!
(For beauty still is fatal to the line)
Had Chaucer lived that angel-face to view,
Sure he had drawn his Emily from you;
Or had you lived to judge the doubtful right,
Your noble Palamon had been the knight;
And conquering Theseus from his side had sent
Your generous lord, to guide the Theban government.
Time shall accomplish that; and I shall see
A Palamon in him, in you an Emily.
Already have the Fates your path prepared,
And sure presage your future sway declared:
When westward, like the sun, you took your way,
And from benighted Britain bore the day,
Blue Triton gave the signal from the shore,
The ready Nereids heard, and swam before,
To smooth the seas; a soft Etesian gale
But just inspired, and gently swell'd the sail;
Portunus took his turn, whose ample hand
Heaved up his lighten'd keel, and sunk the sand,
And steer'd the sacred vessel safe to land.
The land, if not restrain'd, had met your way,
Projected out a neck, and jutted to the sea.
Hibernia, prostrate at your feet, adored
In you the pledge of her expected lord;
Due to her isle; a venerable name;
His father and his grandsire known to fame;
Awed by that house, accustom'd to command,
The sturdy kerns in due subjection stand;
Nor bear the reins in any foreign hand.
At your approach, they crowded to the port;
And scarcely landed, you create a court:
As Ormond's harbinger, to you they run;
For Venus is the promise of the sun.
The waste of civil wars, their towns destroy'd,
Pales unhonour'd, Ceres unemploy'd,
Were all forgot; and one triumphant day
Wiped all the tears of three campaigns away.
Blood, rapines, massacres, were cheaply bought,
So mighty recompence your beauty brought.
As when the dove returning bore the mark
Of earth restored to the long labouring ark,
The relics of mankind, secure of rest,
Oped every window to receive the guest,
And the fair bearer of the message bless'd;
So, when you came, with loud repeated cries,
The nation took an omen from your eyes,
And God advanced his rainbow in the skies,
To sign inviolable peace restored;
The saints, with solemn shouts, proclaim'd the new accord.
When at your second coming you appear,
(For I foretell that millenary year)
The sharpen'd share shall vex the soil no more,
But earth unbidden shall produce her store;
The land shall laugh, the circling ocean smile,
And Heaven's indulgence bless the holy isle.
Heaven from all ages has reserved for you
That happy clime, which venom never knew;
Or if it had been there, your eyes alone
Have power to chase all poison, but their own.

Now in this interval, which Fate has cast
Betwixt your future glories, and your past,
This pause of power, 'tis Ireland's hour to mourn;
While England celebrates your safe return,
By which you seem the seasons to command,
And bring our summers back to their forsaken land.

The vanquish'd isle our leisure must attend,
Till the fair blessing we vouchsafe to send;
Nor can we spare you long, though often we may lend.
The dove was twice employ'd abroad, before
The world was dried, and she return'd no more.

Nor dare we trust so soft a messenger,
New from her sickness, to that northern air:
Rest here a while, your lustre to restore,
That they may see you as you shone before;
For yet the eclipse not wholly past, you wade
Through some remains, and dimness of a shade.

A subject in his prince may claim a right,
Nor suffer him with strength impair'd to fight;
Till force returns, his ardour we restrain,
And curb his warlike wish to cross the main.

Now past the danger, let the learn'd begin
The inquiry where disease could enter in;
How those malignant atoms forced their way;
What in the faultless frame they found to make their prey,
Where every element was weigh'd so well,
That Heaven alone, who mix'd the mass, could tell
Which of the four ingredients could rebel;
And where, imprison'd in so sweet a cage,
A soul might well be pleased to pass an age.

And yet the fine materials made it weak:
Porcelain, by being pure, is apt to break:
Even to your breast the sickness durst aspire;
And, forced from that fair temple to retire,
Profanely set the holy place on fire.
In vain your lord, like young Vespasian, mourn'd
When the fierce flames the sanctuary burn'd:
And I prepared to pay in verses rude
A most detested act of gratitude:
Even this had been your elegy, which now
Is offer'd for your health, the table of my vow.

Your angel sure our Morley's mind inspired,
To find the remedy your ill required;
As once the Macedon, by Jove's decree,
Was taught to dream an herb for Ptolemy:
Or Heaven, which had such over-cost bestow'd,
As scarce it could afford to flesh and blood,
So liked the frame, he would not work anew,
To save the charges of another you.
Or by his middle science did he steer,
And saw some great contingent good appear,
Well worth a miracle to keep you here:
And for that end preserved the precious mould,
Which all the future Ormonds was to hold;
And meditated in his better mind
An heir from you, which may redeem the failing kind.

Blest be the Power which has at once restored
The hopes of lost succession to your lord!
Joy to the first and last of each degree--
Virtue to courts, and, what I long'd to see,
To you the Graces, and the Muse to me!
O daughter of the rose! whose cheeks unite
The differing titles of the red and white;
Who Heaven's alternate beauty well display,
The blush of morning, and the milky way;
Whose face is Paradise, but fenced from sin:
For God in either eye has placed a cherubin.

All is your lord's alone; even absent, he
Employs the care of chaste Penelope.
For him you waste in tears your widow'd hours,
For him your curious needle paints the flowers;
Such works of old imperial dames were taught;
Such, for Ascanius, fair Eliza wrought.
The soft recesses of your hours improve
The three fair pledges of your happy love:
All other parts of pious duty done,
You owe your Ormond nothing but a son;
To fill in future times his father's place,
And wear the garter of his mother's race.

To Her Grace The Duchess Of Ormond, by John Dryden