To the Right Honourable The Countess Dowager Of Devonshire, On A Piece Of Wiessen's

A poem by Matthew Prior

Wiessen and nature held a long contest
If she created or he painted best;
With pleasing thought the wondrous combat grew,
She still form'd fairer, he still liker drew.
In these seven brethren they contended last;
With art increased their utmost skill they tried,
And both well pleased they had themselves surpass'd,
The goddess triumph'd, and the painter died.
That both their skill to this vast height did raise,
Be ours the wonder, and be yours the praise:
For here, as in some glass, is well descried
Only yourself thus often multiply'd.
When heaven had you and gracious Anna made,
What more exalted beauty could it add?
Having no nobler images in store,
It but kept up to these, nor could do more
Than copy well what it had framed before.
If in dear Burghley's generous face we see
Obliging truth and handsome honesty,
With all that world of charms which soon will move
Reverence in men, and in the fair ones love;
His every grace his fair descent assures,
He has his mother's beauty, she has yours.
If every Cecil's face had every charm
That thought can fancy or that heaven can form,
Their beauties all become your beauty's due;
They are all fair, because they're all like you.
If every Ca'ndish great and charming look,
From you that air, from you the charms, they took,
In their each limb your image is exprest,
But on their brow firm courage stands confest;
There their great father, by a strong increase,
Adds strength to beauty, and completes the piece.
Thus still your beauty in your sons we view,
Wiessen seven times one great perfection drew;
Whoever sat, the picture still is you.
So when the parent sun with genial beams
Has animated many goodly gems,
He sees himself improved, while every stone,
With a resembling light, reflects a sun.
So when great Rhea many births had given,
Such as might govern earth and people heaven,
Her glory grew diffused; and, fuller known,
She saw the Deity in every son;
And to what god soe'er men altars raised,
Honouring the offspring, they the mother praised.
In short-lived charms let others place their joys,
Which sickness blasts, and certain age destroys;
Your stronger beauty time can ne'er deface,
'Tis still renew'd and stamp'd in all your race.
Ah! Wiessen, had thy art been so refined
As with their beauty to have drawn their mind,
Through circling years thy labours would survive,
And living rules to fairest virtue give,
To men unborn and ages yet to live:
T'would still be wonderful, and still be new,
Against what time, or spite, or fate could do,
Till thine, confused with nature's pieces lie,
And Ca'ndish's name and Cecil's honour die.

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