« AnteriorContinuar »
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 wbich 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 signification of virtue, I mean good-nature, are of daily use : they are the bread of mankind, and staff of life: neither sighs, nor tears, 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, sinće 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 aidėquai Tpwas 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 called 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 omit a crowd of shining Romans) formed themselves to war by the study of history, and by the examples of the greatest captains, both of Greece and Italy, before their time. I name those two commanders in particular, because they were better read in chronicle than any of the Roman leaders; and that Lucullus, in particular, having only the theory of war from books, was thought fit, without practice, to be sent into the field, against the most formidable enemy of Rome. Tully indeed was called the learned consul in derision; but then he was not born a soldier : his head was turned another way: when he read the tacticks, he was thinking on the bar, which was his field of battle. The knowledge of warfare is thrown away on a general, who dares not make use of what he knows. I commend it only in a man of courage and resolution; in him it will direct his martial spirit, and teach him the way to the best victories, which are those that are least bloody, and which, though achieved by the hand, are managed by the head. Science distinguishes a man of honour from one of those athletic brutes whom undeservedly we call heroes. Cursed be the poet, who first honoured with that name a mere Ajax, a man-killing ideot. The Ulysses of Ovid upbraids his ignorance, that he understood not the shield for which he pleaded : there were engraven on it plans of cities, and maps of countries, which Ajax could not comprehend, but looked on them as stupidly as his fellowbeast the lion. But, on the other side, your grace has given yourself the education of his rival : you have studied every spot of ground in Flanders, which, for these ten years past, has been the scene of battles and of sieges. No wonder if you performed your part with such applause on a theatre which
understood so well.
If I designed this for a poetical encomium, it were easy to enlarge on so copious a subject; but, confining myself to the severity of truth, and to what is becoming me to say, I must not only pass over many instances of your military skill, but also those of your assiduous diligence in the war; and of your personal bravery, attended with an ardent thirst of honour; a long train of generosity; profuseness of doing good; a soul unsatisfied with all it has done; and an unextinguished desire of doing more. But all this is matter for your own historians; I am, as Virgil says, Spatiis exclusus iniquis.
Yet, not to be wholly silent of all your charities, I must stay a little on one action, which preferred the relief of others to the consideration of yourself. When, in the battle of Landen, your heat of courage (a fault only pardonable to your youth) had transported you so far before your friends, that they were unable to follow, much less to succour you; when you were not only dangerously, but in all appearance mortally wounded; when in that desperate condition you were made prisoner, and carried to
Namur, at that time in possession of the French; then it was, my lord, that you took a considerable part of what was remitted to you of your own revenues, and, as a memorable instance of your heroie charity, put it into the hands of count Guiscard, who was governor of the place, to be distributed among your fellow-prisoners. The French commander, charmed with the greatness of your soul, accordingly consigned it to the use for which it was intended by the donor: by which means the lives of so many miserable were saved, and a comfortable provision made for their subsistence, who had otherwise perished, had not you been the companion of their misfortune: or rather sent by Providence, like another Joseph, to keep out famine from invading those whom in humility you called your brethren. How happy was it for those poor creatures, that your grace was made their fellow-sufferer! and how glorious for you, that you chose to want, rather than not relieve the wants of others! The heathen poet, in commending the charity of Dido to the Trojans, spoke like a Christian : Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco. All men, even those of a different interest, and contrary principles, must praise this action, as the most eminent for piety, not only in this degenerate age, but almost in any of the former; when men were made “ de meliore luto;" when examples of charity were frequent, and when they were in being, “ Teucri pulcherrima proles, magnanimi heroes nati melioribus annis.” No envy can detract from this: it will shine in history, and, like swans, grow whiter the longer it endures: and the name of ORMOND will be more celebrated in his captivity, than in his greatest triumphs.
But all actions of your grace are of a piece, as waters keep the tenour, of their fountains : your compassion is general, and has the same effect as well on enemies as friends. It is so much in your nature to do good, that your life is but one continued act of placing benefits on many, as the Sun is always carrying his light to some part or other of the world : and were it not that your reason guides you where to give, I might almost say, that you could not help bestowing more, than is consisting with the fortune of a private man, or with the will of any but an Alexander.
What wonder is it then, that, being born for a blessing to mankind, your supposed death in that engagement was so generally lamented through the nation! The concernment for it was as universal as the loss: and though the gratitude might be counterfeit in some, yet the tears of all were real; where every man deplored his private part in that calamity, and even those, who had not tasted of your favours, yet built so much on the fame of your beneficence, that they bemoaned the loss of their expectations.
This brought the untimely death of your great father into fresh remem
brance; as if the same decree had passed on two, short successive generations of the virtuous; and I repeated to myself the same verses, which I had formerly applied to him: Ostendunt terris hunc tantùm fata, nec ultrà esse sinunt. But to the joy not only of all good men, but of mankind in general, the unhappy oinen took not place. You are still living to enjoy the blessings and applause of all the good you have performed, the prayers of multitudes whom you have obliged, for your long prosperity; and that your power of doing generous and charitable actions may be as extended as your will; which is by none more zealously desired, than by