To The Lady Castlemain, Upon Her Encouraging His First Play.

A poem by John Dryden

As seamen, shipwreck'd on some happy shore,
Discover wealth in lands unknown before;
And, what their art had labour'd long in vain,
By their misfortunes happily obtain:
So my much-envied Muse, by storms long tost,
Is thrown upon your hospitable coast,
And finds more favour by her ill success,
Than she could hope for by her happiness.
Once Cato's virtue did the gods oppose;
While they the victor, he the vanquish'd chose:
But you have done what Cato could not do,
To choose the vanquish'd, and restore him too.
Let others triumph still, and gain their cause
By their deserts, or by the world's applause;
Let merit crowns, and justice laurels give,
But let me happy by your pity live.
True poets empty fame and praise despise;
Fame is the trumpet, but your smile the prize.
You sit above, and see vain men below
Contend for what you only can bestow:
But those great actions others do by chance,
Are, like your beauty, your inheritance;
So great a soul, such sweetness join'd in one,
Could only spring from noble Grandison.[2]
You, like the stars, not by reflection bright,
Are born to your own heaven, and your own light;
Like them are good, but from a nobler cause,
From your own knowledge, not from nature's laws.
Your power you never use, but for defence,
To guard your own, or other's innocence:
Your foes are such as they, not you, have made,
And virtue may repel, though not invade.
Such courage did the ancient heroes show,
Who, when they might prevent, would wait the blow:
With such assurance as they meant to say,
We will o'ercome, but scorn the safest way.
What further fear of danger can there be?
Beauty, which captives all things, sets me free.
Posterity will judge by my success.
I had the Grecian poet's happiness,
Who, waving plots, found out a better way;
Some god descended, and preserved the play.
When first the triumphs of your sex were sung
By those old poets, beauty was but young,
And few admired the native red and white,
Till poets dress'd them up to charm the sight;
So beauty took on trust, and did engage
For sums of praises till she came to age.
But this long-growing debt to poetry
You justly, madam, have discharged to me,
When your applause and favour did infuse
New life to my condemn'd and dying Muse.

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