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ther I should appear either more ungrateful in my silence, or more extravagantly vain
in my endeavours to acknowledge them: For, since all acknowledgments bear a face of payment, it may be thought, that I have flattered myself into an opinion of being able to return some part of my obligements to you ;-the just despair of which attempt, and the due veneration I have for his person, to whom I must address, have almost driven me to receive only with a profound submission the effects of that virtue, which is never to be comprehended but by admiration; and the greatest note of admiration is silence. It is that noble passion, to which poets raise their audience in highest subjects, and they have then gained over them the greatest victory, when they are ravished into a pleasure which is not to be expressed by words. To this pitch, my lord, the sense of my gratitude had almost raised me: to receive your favours, as the Jews of old received their law, with a mute wonder; to think, that the loudness of acclamation was only the praise of men to men, and that the secret homage of the soul was a greater mark of reverence, than an outward ceremonious joy, which might be counterfeit, and must be irreverent in its tumult. Neither, my lord, have I a particular right to pay you my acknowledgments: You have been a good so universal, that almost every man in the three nations may think me injurious to his propriety, that I invade your praises, in undertaking to celebrate them alone; and that I have assumed to myself a patron, who was no more to be circumscribed than the sun and elements, which are of public benefit to human kind.
As it was much in your power to oblige all who could pretend to merit from the public, so it was more in your nature and inclination. If any went
ill-satisfied from the treasury, while it was in your lordship's management, it proclaimed the want of desert, and not of friends : You distributed your master's favour with so equal hands, that justice herself could not have held the scales more even; but with that natural propensity to do good, that had that treasure been your own, your inclination to bounty must have'ruined you. No man attended to be denied : No man bribed for expedition : Want and desert were pleas sufficient. By your own integrity, and your prudent choice of those whom you employed, the king gave all that he intended ; and gratuities to his officers made not vain his bounty. This, my lord, you were in your public capacity of high treasurer, to which you ascended by such degrees, that your royal master saw your virtues still growing to his favours, faster than they could rise to you. Both at home and abroad, with your sword and with your counsel, you have served him with unbiassed honour, and unshaken resolution; making his greatness, and the true interest of your country, the standard and measure of your actions. Fortune may desert the wise and brave, but true virtue never will forsake itself.* It is the interest of the world, that virtuous men should attain to greatness, because it gives them the power of doing good : But when, by the iniquity of the times, they are brought to that extremity, that they must either quit their virtue or their fortune,
* In this case, Dryden's praise, which did not always occur, survived the temporary occasion. Even in a little satirical effusion, he tells us,
Clifford was fierce and brave. Clifford had been comptroller and treasurer of the household, and one of the commissioners of the treasury; he had served in the Dutch wars.
they owe themselves so much, as to retire to the private exercise of their honour im to be great within, and by the constancy of their resolutions, to teach the inferior world how they ought to judge of such principles, which are asserted with so generous and so unconstrained a trial.
But this voluntary neglect of honours has been of rare example in the world :* Few men have frownod first upon fortune, and precipitated themselves from the top of her wheel, before they felt at least the declination of it. We read not of many emperors like Dioclesian and Charles the Fifth, who have preferred a garden and a cloister before a crowd of followers, and the troublesome glory of an active life, which robs the possessor of his rest and quiet, to secure the safety and happiness of others, Seneca, with the help of his philosophy, could never attain to that pitch of virtue: He only endeavoured to prevent his fall by descending first, and offered to resign that wealth which he knew he could no longer bold; he would only have made a present to his master of what he foresaw would become his prey; he strove to avoid the jealousy of a tyrant,you dismissed yourself from the attendance and privacy of a gracious king. Our age has afforded us many examples of a contrary nature; but your lordship is the only one of this. Is is easy to discover in all governments, those who wait so close on fortune, that they are never to be shaken off at any turn: Such who seem to have taken up a resolution of being great; to continue their stations on the theatre of business; to change with the scene, and shift the vizard for another part-these men con
Alluding to Lord Clifford's resignation of an office he could pot hold without a change of religion.
demn in their discourses that virtue which they dare not practise : But the sober part of this present age, and impartial posterity, will do right, both to your lordship and to them: And, when they read on what accounts, and with how much magnanimity, you quitted those honours, to which the highest ambition of an English subject could aspire, will apply to you, with much more reason, what the historian said of a Roman emperor, “ Multi diutius imperium tenuerunt ! nemo fortius reliquit.”
To this retirement of your lordship, I wish I could bring a better entertainment than this play; which, though it succeeded on the stage, will scarcely bear a serious perusal ; it being contrived and written in a month, the subject barren, the persons low, and the writing not heightened with many laboured scenes. The consideration of these defects ought to have prescribed more modesty to the author, than to have presented it to that person in the world for whom he has the greatest honour, and of whose patronage the best of his endeavours had been unworthy : But I had not satisfied myself in staying longer, and could never have paid the debt with a much better play. As it is, the meanness of it will shew, at least, that I pretend not by it to make any manner of return for your favours; and that I only give you a new occasion of exercising your goodness to me, in pardoning the failings and imperfections of,
This poem was written as far back'as 1662, and was then
termed a Satire against the Dutch.
As needy gallants in the scriveners' hands,
you, I take it, have not much of that.
may be bold one medal sure to show.
* Amongst the pretexts for making war on the States of Holland were alleged their striking certain satirical medals, and engraving prints in ridicule of Charles II. See his proclamation of war in 1671-2.