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Ode to the Memory of Lady Harriot Eliot

Written by Rev. John Newell Puddicombe
Originally published in "The Gentleman's Magazine" (Vol. 61, Part 2, 1786, pg. 886-7)

(This was incorrectly attributed to Edward James Eliot in the 1882 edition of "Bibliotheca Cornubiensis", but it is without doubt written by J.N. Puddicombe. He was a great admirer of the Earl of Chatham and all the members of the Pitt family.)

Propitious heaven, her blooming virtues spare,
Connubial love, condoling friendship cry'd;
Fraternal fondness with desponding air
In speechless anguish weeping at her side.
Death, half-relenting at their pleading tears,
Approaches calm with dubious step and flow,
A look like sympathizing sorrow wears,
Pauses awhile, them lifts his ebon bow.
A diamond shaft dipp'd in those nectar'd springs
Those streams of bliss that flow above the skies,
He to his ebon bow applies,
Then mildly folds his fable wings,
And with reluctance aims the momentary blow.
The vital-lamp more feebly burns,
Ah, see its quivering flame retire;
Now it forsakes its station, now returns,
And hovers there, unwilling to expire.
The crimson-lustre of her damask cheeks,
More vivid than the bright vermilion streaks
With which the morning paints the eastern skies,
Now languishes, declining, pale,
Death o'er them draws his sickly veil,
Quick-throbbing at her heart, ans swimming in her eyes.

The tender husband with extended arms
While oft his lips her darling name invoke,
Fain would ward off from her devoted charms
The fatal, the decisive stroke;
Now wrings his hands, half frantic with despair,
Now hanging silent o'er the dying fair,
Soft from her clay-cold brow where beauty fate,
Enthron'd e'en then in full triumphant state,
Wipes the presaging damps away:
Oh! Stay, my much-lov'd Harriet, stay!
And must thou leave me here to mourn?
Must thou so quickly take thy flight
To thy own native realms of light,
Never, ah never to return!
Fain would the voice of love-impassion'd woe
Detain her heaven-departing soul below.
How shall it faulter its last sad adieu?
How disengage its fondly-lingering view
From that dear form where it delights to stray,
And where e'en life could gaze itself away?

Yes, fled forever is that balmy breath!
Cold, cold she lies! Yet charming e'en in death!
So looks the musk-rose, rooted from its bed,
Pallid, yet glittering with the morning dew;
And so the new-blown lily droops her head
Beneath the fury of the northern blast,
Derang'd her foliage, dim her brilliant hue.
Torn from her parent stem at last,
The swain with grief beholds her lie,
Condemn'd to wither and to die;
Yet does he, pleas'd her fainter sweets inhale,
And own her still the beauty of the vale.

And art thou gone, ah nymph belov'd in vain?
Too inauspicious, too malignant hour,
When gloomy Atropos*, relentless maid,
Disguis'd, in beauty and in joy array'd,
Mingled with Hymen's** festive train;
Insidious revel'd in thy bridal bow'r;
And while ascends the mix'd harmonious strain
Of social triumphs, happiness and love,
With envious secrecy and utmost care
Twin'd with a branch of dark funereal yew
And tarnish'd cypress shedding baleful dew,
The smiling roses of the gay alcove:
The poisonous drops its blushing charms impair,
And quickly blast each infant blossom there.
But thou whose Muse can horror's powers command,
Oh come, and picture the tremendous scene,
When with Lacina, hand in hand,
With stern inexorable mien
She issued from her sullen cell below,
And hurrying to the beauteous victim's bed,
Rebuk'd unwilling Death's suspended blow,
Spread her remorseless shears, and clipp'd the vital thread!
Nor rank, nor worth, nor excellence could save
The charms of Harriet from the o'er-whelming grave.

But thou, sweet babe, whose dear yet fatal birth,
To death's cold arms thy hapless mother gave,
May'st thou survive, with childhood's artless smile,
Alluring blandishments, and prattling mirth,
A father's sorrows to beguile,
To sooth the tender pang to rest
Which memory wakes to wound his breast.
Ye angel powers who innocence befriend,
Let the lov'd pledge your choicest blessings share,
From harm her guiltless infancy defend,
And kindly make her your peculiar care!
May she her loss with due submission feel
When ripening years shall teach her heart to mourn,
When from the crowd she, sadly-pleas'd shall steal,
To drop the duteous tear upon her parent's urn.

Why did we weep? Has the rude hand of Death
Defac'd and blasted all that was so fair?
No, she but seem'd to yield her breath;
She lives, she reigns, she breathes immortal air!
Attending angels caught her spotless soul,
And bore it soft upon their silver wings
To that bright seat above th' ethereal pole,
The glorious palace of the King of kings;
To wear a crown whose never-fading blaze
Far, far the starry firmament outshines,
Upon essential excellence to gaze,
That beauteous fun whose lustre ne'er declines,
Whose pure, unclouded, boundless-streaming ray
Through heaven diffuses everlasting day!
Exulting through the crystal doors they flew,
And as they mov'd towards th' etheral throne,
A cherub in a robe of azure hue,
Compos'd of woven undulating light,
(The sapphire's vivid beam not half so bright,)
Grac'd with a flowing, star bespangled zone,
Eager advanc'd; upon her head
A rainbow winds its orient wreath,
A golden cloud her feet beneath.
Her ruby lips ambrosial odours shed,
As thus soft-opening, they benignly said:
"My Harriet, hail! My sister and my friend;
Come, share with me delights that never, never end!
My heart was thine on earth, but here I glow
With holier flames of mutual love;
Thy mortal sister once below,
They angel sister now above!"

She spoke; and, speaking, round her Harriet's brows
A fragrant garland elegantly twin'd,
Where amaranth and palm their bloom combin'd;
Then led her to the throne where heaven adoring bows!
Where, plung'd in raptures at th' Almighty's feet,
Cherubs and seraphim in union sweet!
Triumphant hymn eternity away,
While all the emerald domes resound the choral lay!

J.N. Puddicombe

*One of the three Destinies.
** The goddess who, according to the ancieant mythology, presided over child-bearing.