Verses - Spoken to Lady Henrietta Cavendish Holles-Harley, Countess of Oxford

A poem by Matthew Prior

Madam, Since Anna visited the muse's seat,
(Around her tomb let weeping angels wait)
Hail, thou, the brightest of thy sex, and best,
Most gracious neighbour and most welcome guest:
Not Harley's self, to Cam and Isis dear,
In virtues and in arts great Oxford's heir,
Not he such present honour shall receive
As to his consort we aspire to give.

Writings of men our thought to-day neglects,
To pay due homage to the softer sex:
Plato and Tully we forbear to read,
And their great followers whom this house has bred,
To study lessons from thy morals given,
And shining characters impress'd by Heaven.
Science in books no longer we pursue,
Minerva's self in Harriet's face we view;
For when with Beauty we can Virtue join,
We paint the semblance of a form divine.

Their pious incense let our neighbours bring
To the kind memory of some bounteous king:
With grateful hand due altars let them raise
To some good knight's or holy prelate's praise;
We tune our voices to a nobler theme,
Your eyes we bless, your praises we proclaim;
Saint John's was founded in a woman's name.
Enjoin'd by statute, to the fair we bow;
In spite of time we keep our ancient vow;
What Marg'ret Tudor was, in Harriet Harley now.

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