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THE DEATH OF LORD HASTINGS.
The subject of this elegy was Henry Lord Hastings, eldest son of Ferdinando Earl of Huntingdon. He was born 16th January, 1630, and died 24th June, 1649. He was buried at Ashby de la Zouche, near the superb family-seat of Donnington-Castle. This Lord Hastings, says Collins, was a nobleman of great learne ing, and of so sweet a disposition, that no less than ninety-eight elegies were made on him, and published in 1650, under this title: “ Lachrymæ Musarum, the Tears of the Muses expressed in Elegies written by divers Persons of nobility and worth, upon the Death of the most hopeful Henry, Lord Hastings, eldest son of the Right Honourable Ferdinando, Earl of Huntingdon, then General of the high-born Prince George, Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV.”
This accomplished young nobleman died unmarried; but, from the concluding lines of the elegy, it is obvious, that he had been betrothed to the “virgin widow," whom the poet there addresses, but whose name I have been unable to learn.
The poem was written by Dryden while at Westminster school, and displays little or no promise of future excellence; being a servile imitation of the conceits of Cleveland, and the metaphysical wit of Cowley, exerted in numbers hardly more harmonious than those of Donne.
Must noble Hastings immaturely die,
The honour of his ancient family,
Beauty and learning thus together meet,
To bring a winding for a wedding-sheet?
Must virtue prove death's harbinger ? must she,
With him expiring, feel mortality ?
Is death, sin's wages, grace's now ? shall art
Make us more learned, only to depart ?
If merit be disease; if virtue, death;
To be good, not to be ; who'd then bequeath
Himself to discipline? who'd not esteem
Labour a crime? study self-murder deem ?
Our noble youth now have pretence to be
Dunces securely, ignorant healthfully.
Rare linguist, whose worth speaksitself, whose praise,
Though not his own, all tongues besides do raise :
Than whom great Alexander may seem less,
Who conquer'd men, but not their languages.
In his mouth nations spake; his tongue might be
Interpreter to Greece, France, Italy.
His native soil was the four parts o'the earth ;
All Europe was too narrow for his birth.
A young apostle ; and, with reverence may
I'speak’t,-inspired with gift of tongues, as they.
Nature gave him, a child, what men in vain
Oft strive, by art though further'd to obtain.
His body was an orb, his sublime soul
Did move on virtue's and on learning's pole ;
Whose regular motions better to our view,
Than Archimedes' sphere, the heavens did shew.
Graces and virtues, languages and arts,
Beauty and learning, fill?d up all the parts.
Heaven's gifts, which do like falling stars appear
Scatter'd in others, all, as in their sphere,
Were fix’d, conglobate in his soul, and thence
Shone through his body, with sweet influence ;
Letting their glories so on each limb fall,
The whole frame render'd was celestial.
Come, learned Ptolemy, and trial make,
If thou this hero's altitude can'st take:
But that transcends thy skill; thrice happy all,
Could we but prove thus astronomical.
Lived Tycho now, struck with this ray which shone*
More bright i'the morn, than others beam at noon,
He'd take his astrolabe, and seek out here
What new star 'twas did gild our hemisphere.
Replenish'd then with such rare gifts as these,
Where was room left for such a foul disease ?
The nation's sin hath drawn that veil, which shrouds
Our day-spring in so sad benighting clouds.
Heaven would no longer trust its pledge, but thus
Recall'd it,-rapt its Ganymede from us.
Was there no milder way but the small-pox,
filthiness of Pandora's box ?
So many spots, like næves on Venus' soil,
One jewel set off with so many a foil ;
Blisters with pride swell?d, which through's flesh .
Like rose-buds, stuck i’the lily-skin about.
Each little pimple had a tear in it,
To wail the fault its rising did commit;
Which, rebel-like, with its own lord at strife,
Thus made an insurrection ’gainst his life.
Or were these gems sent to adorn his skin,
The cabinet of a richer soul within ?
No comet need foretel his change drew on,
Whose corpse might seem a constellation.
O, had he died of old, how great a strife
Had been, whofrom his death should draw their life;
Who should, by one rich draught, become whate'er
Seneca, Cato, Numa, Cæsar, were !
Learn’d, virtuous, pious, great; and have by this
An universal metempsychosis.
Must all these aged sires in one funeral
Expire ? all die in one so young, so small ?
Who, had he lived his life out, his great fame
Had swoln 'bove any Greek or Roman name.
But hasty winter, with one blast, hath brought
The hopes of autumn, summer, spring, to nought.
Thus fades the oak i’the sprig, i'the blade the corn;
Thus without young, this Phænix dies, new-born.
Must then old three-legg’d grey-beards with their
Catarrhs, rheums, aches, live three ages out?
? Times offals, only fit for the hospital ! Or to hang antiquaries rooms withal ! Must drunkards, lechers, spent with sinning, live, With such helps as broths, possets, physic give ? None live, but such as should die ? shall we meet With none but ghostly fathers in the street ? Grief makes me rail, sorrow will force its way, And showers of tears tempestuous sighs best lay.
The tongue may fail; but overflowing eyes
out lasting streams of elegies. But thou, O virgin-widow, left alone, Now thy belov’d, heaven-ravish'd is
gone, Whose skilful sire in vain strove to apply Medcines, when thy balm was no remedy ; With greater than Platonic love, O wed His soul, though not his body, to thy bed : Let that make thee a mother; bring thou forth The ideas of his virtue, knowledge, worth; Transcribe the original in new copies ; give Hastings o’the better part; so shall he live In's nobler half; and the great grandsire be Of an heroic divine progeny: An issue which to eternity shall last, Yet but the irradiations which he cast. Erect no mausoleums; for his best Monument is his spouse's marble breast.