Eleonora : A Panegyrical

Dedicated to the Memory of the Late Countess of Abingdon.

As when some great and gracious monarch dies,
Soft whispers first and mournful rise
Among the sad attendants; then the sound
Soon gathers voice and spreads the news around,
Through town and country, till the dreadful blast
Is blown to distant colonies at last;
Who then perhaps were offering vows in vain
For his long life and for his happy reign:
So slowly, by degrees, unwilling Fame
Did matchless Eleonora's fate proclaim,
Till public as the loss the news became.
The nation felt it in the extremest parts,
With eyes o'erflowing and with bleeding hearts;
But most of the poor, whom daily she supplied,
Beginning to be such but when she died.
For, while she lived, they slept in peace by night,
Secure of bread as of returning light,
And with such firm dependence on the day,
That need grew pampered and forgot to pray:
So sure the dole, so ready at their call,
They stood prepared to see the manna fall.
Such multitudes she fed, she clothed, she nurst,
That she her self might fear her wanting first.
Of her five talents other five she made;
Heaven, that had largely given, was largely paid;
And in few lives, in wondrous few, we find
A fortune better fitted to the mind.
Nor did her alms from ostentation fall,
Or proud desire of praise; the soul gave all:
Unbribed it gave; or, if a bribe appear,
No less than Heaven, to heap huge treasures there.
Want passed for merit at her open door:
Heaven saw her safely might increase his poor,
And trust their sustenance with her so well
As not to be at charge of miracle.
None could be needy whom she saw or knew;
All in the compass of her sphere she drew:
He who could touch her garment was as sure,
As the first Christians of the Apostles' cure.
The distant heard by fame her pious deeds,
And laid her up for their extremest needs,
A future cordial for a fainting mind;
For what was ne'er refused all hoped to find,
Each in his turn: the rich might freely come,
As to a friend; but to the poor 'twas a home.
As to some holy house the afflicted came,
The hunger-starved, the naked, and the lame;
Want and diseases fled before her name.
For zeal like hers her servants were too slow;
She was the first, where need required, to go,
Her self the foundress, and attendant too.
Sure she had guests sometimes to entertain,
Guests in disguise, of her great Master's train:
Her Lord him self 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
Might ease his wings, and seeing Heaven appear
In its best work of mercy, think it there,
Where all the deeds of charity and love
Were in as constant method as above,
All carried on; all of a piece with theirs;
As free her alms, as diligent her cares;
As loud her praises, and as warm her prayers.
Yet was she not profuse; but feared to waste,
And wisely managed, that the stock might last;
That all might be supplied, and she not grieve,
When crowds appeared, she had not to relieve:
Which to prevent, she still increased her store;
Laid up, and spared, that she might give the more.
So Pharaoh, or some greater king than he,
Provided for the seventh necessity;
Taught from above his magazines to frame,
That famine was prevented ere it came.
Thus Heaven, though all-sufficient, shows a thrift
In his economy, and bounds his gift;
Creating for our day one single light;
And his reflection too supplies the night.
Perhaps a thousand other words, that lie
Remote from us and latent in the sky,
Are lightened by his beams, and kindly nurst;
Of which our earthly dunghill is the worst.
Now, as all virtues keep the middle line,
Yet somewhat more to one extreme incline,
Such was her soul, abhorring avarice,
Bounteous, but almost bounteous to a vice:
Had she given more, it had profusion been,
And turned the excess of goodness into sin.
These virtues raised her fabric to the sky;
For that which is next Heaven is charity.
But as high turrets for their airy steep
Require foundations in proportion deep,
And lofty cedars as far upward shoot
As to the nether heavens they drive the root,
So low did her secure foundation lie;
She was not humble, but humility.
Scarcely she knew that she was great or fair
Or wise beyond what other women are,
Or, which is better, knew, but never durst compare.
For to be conscious of what all admire,
And not be vain, advances virtue higher.
But still she found, or rather thought she found,
Her
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John Dryden

John Dryden was an English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who was made Poet Laureate in 1668. more…

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"Eleonora : A Panegyrical" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 30 May 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/22654/eleonora-:-a-panegyrical>.

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