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John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
 
Fables Ancient and Modern
To her Grace the Dutchess of Ormond
 
  MADAM
The Bard who first adorn’d our Native Tongue
Tun’d to his British Lyre this ancient Song:
Which Homer might without a Blush reherse,
And leaves a doubtful Palm in Virgil’s Verse:
He match’d their Beauties, where they most excell;        5
Of Love sung better, and of Arms as well.
  Vouchsafe, Illustrious Ormond, to behold
What Pow’r the Charms of Beauty had of old;
Nor wonder if such Deeds of Arms were done,
Inspir’d by two fair Eyes that sparkled like your own.        10
  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,        15
And rul’d 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:        20
As when the Stars, in their Etherial Race,
At length have roll’d around the Liquid Space,
At certain Periods they resume their Place,
From the same Point of Heav’n their Course advance,
And move in Measures of their former Dance;        25
Thus, after length of Ages, she returns,
Restor’d in you, and the same Place adorns:
Or you perform her Office in the Sphere,
Born of her Blood, and make a new Platonick Year.
  O true Plantagenet, O Race Divine,        30
(For Beauty still is fatal to the Line,)
Had Chaucer liv’d that Angel-Face to view,
Sure he had drawn his Emily from You;
Or had You liv’d to judge the doubtful Right,
Your Noble Palamon had been the Knight:        35
And Conqu’ring Theseus from his Side had sent
Your Gen’rous 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 prepar’d,        40
And sure Presage your future Sway declar’d:
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        45
To smooth the Seas; a soft Etesian Gale
But just inspir’d, and gently swell’d the Sail;
Portunus took his Turn, whose ample Hand
Heav’d up the lighten’d Keel, and sunk the Sand,
And steer’d the sacred Vessel safe to Land.        50
The Land, if not restrain’d, had met Your Way,
Projected out a Neck, and jutted to the Sea.
Hibernia, prostrate at your Feet, ador’d
In You the Pledge of her expected Lord;
Due to her Isle; a venerable Name;        55
His Father and his Grandsire known to Fame;
Aw’d by that House, accustom’d to command,
The sturdy Kerns in due subjection stand,
Nor hear the Reins in any Foreign Hand.
  At Your Approach, they crowded to the Port;        60
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,        65
Were all forgot; and one Triumphant Day
Wipd all the Tears of three Campaigns away.
Blood, Rapines, Massacres, were cheaply bought,
So mighty Recompense Your Beauty brought.
As when the Dove returning bore the Mark        70
Of Earth restor’d to the long-lab’ring Ark,
The Relicks of Mankind, secure of Rest,
Op’d every Window to receive the Guest,
And the fair Bearer of the Message bless’d;
So, when You came, with loud repeated Cries,        75
The Nation took an Omen from your Eyes,
And God advanc’d his Rainbow in the Skies,
To sign inviolable Peace restor’d;
The Saints with solemn Shouts proclaim’d the new accord.
  When at Your second Coming You appear,        80
(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 Heav’n’s Indulgence bless the Holy Isle.        85
  Heav’n from all Ages has reserv’d for You
That happy Clime, which Venom never knew;
Or if it had been there, Your Eyes alone
Have Pow’r to chase all Poyson, but their own.
  Now in this Interval, which Fate has cast        90
Betwixt Your Future Glories and Your Past,
This Pause of Pow’r, ’tis Irelands 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.        95
  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 dry’d; and she return’d no more.        100
  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, th’ Eclipse not wholly past, You wade        105
Thro’ 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.        110
  Now past the Danger, let the Learn’d begin
Th’ Enquiry, where Disease could enter in;
How those malignant Atoms forc’d their Way,
What in the Faultless Frame they found to make their Prey?
Where ev’ry Element was weigh’d so well,        115
That Heav’n 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 pleas’d to pass an Age.
  And yet the fine Materials made it weak;        120
Porcelain by being Pure, is apt to break.
Ev’n to Your Breast the Sickness durst aspire,
And forc’d from that fair Temple to retire,
Profanely set the Holy Place on Fire.
In vain Your Lord, like young Vespasian, mourn’d,        125
When the fierce Flames the Sanctuary burn’d,
And I prepar’d to pay in Verses rude
A most detested Act of Gratitude:
Ev’n this had been Your Elegy, which now
Is offer’d for Your Health, the Table of my Vow.        130
  Your Angel sure our Morley’s Mind inspir’d,
To find the Remedy Your Ill requir’d;
As once the Macedon, by Jove’s Decree,
Was taught to dream an Herb for Ptolomee:
Or Heav’n, which had such Over-cost bestow’d        135
As scarce it could afford to Flesh and Blood,
So lik’d 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,        140
Well worth a Miracle to keep You here,
And for that End preserv’d the precious Mould,
Which all the Future Ormonds was to hold;
And meditated, in his better Mind
An Heir from You who 1 may redeem the failing Kind.        145
  Bless’d be the Power which has at once restor’d
The Hopes of lost Succession to Your Lord;
Joy to the first, and last of each Degree,
Vertue to Courts, and, what I long’d to see,
To You the Graces, and the Muse to me.        150
  O daughter of the Rose, whose Cheeks unite
The diff’ring Titles of the Red and White;
Who Heav’ns alternate Beauty well display,
The Blush of Morning, and the Milky Way;
Whose Face is Paradise, but fenc’d from Sin:        155
For God in either Eye has placed a Cherubin.
  All is Your Lord’s alone; ev’n absent, He
Employs the Care of Chast Penelope.
For him You waste in Tears Your Widow’d Hours,
For him Your curious Needle paints the Flow’rs;        160
Such Works of Old Imperial Dames were taught,
Such for Ascanius, fair Elisa wrought.
  The soft Recesses of Your Hours improve
The Three fair Pledges of Your Happy Love:
All other Parts of Pious Duty done,        165
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.
 
Note 1. who] Derrick and editors till Christie wrongly give which. [back]
 
 
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