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THE

POEMS

OP

JOHN DRYDEN

CONTINUED.

VOL. IX,

TO HIS GRACE

THE DUKE OF ORMOND.

MY LORD,

Anno 1699.

Some estates are held in England, by paying a fine at the change of every lord: I have enjoyed the patronage of your family, from the time of your excellent grandfather to this present day. I have dedicated the translation of the lives of Plutarch to the first duke; and have celebrated the memory of your heroic father. Though I am very short of the age of Nestor, yet I have lived to a third generation of your house, and, by your grace's favour, am admitted still to hold from you by the same tenure. •

I am not vain enough to boast, that I have deserved the value of so illustrious a line; but my fortune is the greater, that, for three descents, they have been pleased to distinguish my poems from those of other men, and have accordingly made me their peculiar care. May it be permitted me to say, that, as your grandfather and father were cherished and adorned with honours by two successive monarchs, so I have been esteemed and patronized by the grandfather, the father, and the son, descended from one of the most ancient, most conspicuous, and most deserving families in Europe.

It is true, that by delaying the payment of my last fine, when it was due by your grace's accession to the titles and patrimonies of your house, I may seem, in rigour of law, to have made a forfeiture of my claim; yet my heart has always been devoted to your service: and since you have been graciously pleased, by your permission of this address, to accept the tender of my duty, it is not yet too late to lay these volumes at your feet.

The world is sensible that you worthily succeed, not only to the honours of your ancestors, but also to their virtues. The long chain of magnanimity, courage, easiness of access, and desire of doing good even to the prejudice of your fortune, is so far from being broken in your grace, that the precious metal yet runs pure to the newest link of it; which I will not call the last, because I hope and pray, it may descend to late posterity: and your flourishing youth, and that of your excellent dutchess, are happy omens of my wish.

It is observed by Livy and by others, that some of the noblest Roman families retained a resemblance of their ancestry, not only in their shapes and features, but also in their manners, their qualities, and the distinguishing characters of their minds: some lines were noted for a stern, rigid virtue, savage, haughty, parsimonious, and unpopular: others were more sweet, and affable; made of a more pliant paste, humble, courteous, and obliging; studious of doing charitable offices, and diffusive of the goods which they enjoyed. The last of these is the proper and indelible character of your grace's family. God Almighty has endued you with a softness, a beneficence, an attractive behaviour, winning on the hearts of others, and so sensible of their misery, that the wounds of fortune seem not inflicted on them, but on yourself. You are so ready to redress, that you almost prevent their wishes, and always exceed their expectations: as if what was yours, was · not your own, and not given you to possess, but to bestow on wanting merit. But this is a topic which I must cast in shades, lest I offend your modesty, which is so far from being ostentatious of the good you do, that it blushes even to have it known: and therefore I must leave you to the satisfaction and testimony of your own conscience, which, though it be a silent panegyric, is yet the best.

You are so easy of access, that Poplicola was not more, whose doors were opened on the outside to save the people even the common civility of asking entrance; where all were equally admitted ; where nothing that was reasonable was denied; where misfortune was a powerful recommendation, and where (I can scarce forbear saying), that want itself was a powerful mediator, and was next to merit.

The history of Peru assures us, that their Incas, above all their titles, esteemed that the highest, which called them Lovers of the Poor: a name more glorious than the Felix, Pius, and Augustus of the Roman emperors; which were epithets of flattery, deserved by few of them, and not running in a blood, like the perpetual gentleness, and inherent goodness of the Ormond family.,

Gold, as it is the purest, so it is the softest and most ductile of all metals: iron, which is the hardest, gathers rust, corrodes itself, and is therefore subject to corruption : it was never intended for coins and medals, or to bear faces and the inscriptions of the great. Indeed it is fit for armour, to bear off insults, and preserve the wearer in the day of battle: but the danger once repelled, it is laid aside by the brave, as a garment too rough for civil

conversation : a necessary guard in war, but too harsh and cumbersome in peace, and which keeps off the embraces of a more humane life.

For this reason, my lord, though you have courage in an heroical degree, yet I ascribe it to you but as your second attribute: mercy, beneficence, and compassion, claim precedence, as they are first in the divine nature. An intrepid courage, which is inherent in your grace, is at best but a holiday kind of virtue, to be seldom exercised, and never but in cases of necessity : affability, mildness, tenderness, and a word, which I would fain bring back to its original siguification of virtue, I mean good-nature, are of daily use : they are the bread of mankind, and staff of life: neither sighs, nor tears, nor groans, nor curses of the vanquished, follow acts of compassion and of charity; but a sincere pleasure and serenity of mind, in him who performs an action of mercy, which cannot suffer the misfortunes of another, without redress, lest they should bring a kind of contagion along with them, and pollute the happiness which he enjoys.

Yet, since the perverse tempers of mankind, since oppression on one side, and ambition on the other, are sometimes the unavoidable occasions of war, that courage, that magnanimity and resolution, which is born with you, cannot be too much commended : and here it grieves me that I am scanted in the pleasure of dwelling on many of your actions : but aidéouaTpwas is an expression which Tully often used, when he would do what he dares not, and fears the censure of the Romans,

I have sometimes been forced to amplify on others; but here, where the subject is so fruitful, that the harvest overcomes the reaper, I am shortened by my chain, and can only see what is forbidden me to reach; since it is not permitted me to commend you according to the extent of my wishes, and much less is it in my power to make my commendations equal to your merits. Yet, in this frugality of your praises, there are some things which I cannot omit, without detracting from your character. You have so formed your own education, as enables you to pay the debt you owe your country; or, more properly speaking, both your countries : because you were born, I may almost say in purple, at the castle of Dublin, when your grandfather was lord-lieutenant, and have since been bred in the court of England.

If this address had been in verse, I might have caVed you, as Claudian calls Mercury, Numen commune,' gemino faciens commercia mundo. The better to satisfy this double obligation, you have early cultivated the genius you have to arms, that when the service of Britain or Ireland shall require your courage and your conduct, you may exert them both to the benefit of either country. You began in the cabinet what you afterwards practised in the camp; and thus both Lucullus and Cæsar (to bmit a crowd

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