"The Luxury Of Doing Good"
Context: Book III of Tales of the Hall is a discussion of boys, school-life, and the effects of schooling on the men who the boys become. In this section the rector tells Richard and Jacques, about whom the poem centers, of the patronized schoolboy and his career. The boy has as his patron a great nobleman, whose patronage affects the lad's whole life and even his death. The quotation is from the beginning of the rector's account. The lad is a "boy with pensive look,/ Whom some great patron order'd to his book,/ Who from his mother's cot reluctant came,/ And gave my lord, for his compassion, fame." The rector obviously does not consider the nobleman's effort one to reflect either great significance or praise on the great man. The nobleman in truth deserves but little credit.
This noble lord was one disposed to tryAnd weigh the worth of each new luxury;Now, at a certain time, in pleasant mood,He tried the luxury of doing good;For this he chose a widow's handsome boy,Whom he would first improve, and then employ.. . .Him sent my lord to school, and this becameA theme for praise, and gave his lordship fame;But when the boy was told how great his debt,He proudly ask'd, "is it contracted yet?"