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UPON 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 learning, 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 speaks itself, whose praise,
Though not his own, all tongues besides do raise :
Than whom great Alexander may seem less,
Who conquered men, but not their languages.
In his mouth nations spake; his tongue night 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 furthered, 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, filled up all the parts.
Heaven's gifts, which do like falling stars appear
Scattered in others, all, as in their sphere,
Were fixed, conglobate in his soul, and thence
Shone through his body, with sweet influence;
Letting their glories so on each limb fall
The whole frame rendered 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.
Replenished 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
Recalled it, -rapt its Ganymede from us.
Was there no milder way but the small-pox,
The very filthiness of Pandora's box?