Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Elegies and Epitaphs
On the Death of a very Young Gentleman
HE 1 who cou’d view the Book of Destiny,
And read whatever there was writ of thee,
O Charming Youth, in the first op’ning Page,
So many Graces in so green an Age,
Such Wit, such Modesty, such strength of Mind,        5
A Soul at once so manly and so kind,
Wou’d wonder, when he turned the Volume o’re,
And after some few Leaves shou’d find no more,
Nought but a blank remain, a dead void space,
A step of Life that promised such a Race,        10
We must not, dare not think, that Heav’n began
A Child, and cou’d not finish him a Man:
Reflecting what a mighty Store was laid
Of rich Materials, and a Model made:
The Cost already furnished; so bestow’d,        15
As more was never to one Soul allow’d:
Yet after this profusion spent in vain,
Nothing but mould’ring Ashes to remain,
I guess not, lest I split upon the Shelf,
Yet, durst I guess, Heav’n kept it for himself;        20
And giving us the use, did soon recal,
E’re we cou’d spare, the mighty Principal.
  Thus then he disappear’d, was rarify’d,
For ’tis improper Speech to say he dy’d:
He was exhal’d: His great Creator drew        25
His Spirit, as the Sun the Morning Dew.
’Tis Sin produces Death; and he had none,
But the Taint Adam left on ev’ry Son.
He added not, he was so pure, so good,
’Twas but th’ Original forfeit of his Blood;        30
And that so little, that the River ran
More clear than the corrupted Fount began.
Nothing remained of the first muddy Clay,
The length of Course had wash’d it in the way:
So deep, and yet so clear, we might behold        35
The Gravel bottom, and that bottom Gold.
  As such we lov’d, admir’d, almost ador’d,
Gave all the Tribute Mortals could afford.
Perhaps we gave so much, the Pow’rs above
Grew angry at our superstitious Love:        40
For when we more than Human Homage pay,
The charming Cause is justly snatched away.
  Thus was the Crime not his, but ours alone;
And yet we murmur that he went so soon,
Though Miracles are short and rarely shown.        45
  Hear then, yee mournful Parents, and divide
That Love in many which in one was ty’d.
That individual Blessing is no more,
But multiply’d in your remaining store.
The Flame’s dispersed, but does not all expire:        50
The Sparkles blaze, though not the Globe of Fire.
Love him by Parts in all your num’rous Race,
And from those Parts form one collected Grace;
Then, when you have refin’d to that degree,
Imagine all in one, and think that one is He.        55
Note 1. Text from the Miscellanies, 1704. [back]

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