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But told it under matrimonial seal,
Now could you help me at this hard essay, With strict injunction never to reveal.
Or for your inborn goodness, or for pay; The secret heard, she plighted him her troth, Yours is my life, redeem'd by your advice, (And sacred sure is every woman's oath)
Ask what you please, and I will pay the price : The royal malady should rest unknown,
The proudest kerchief of the court shall rest Both for her husband's honour and her own; Well satisfy'd of what they love the best." But ne'ertheless she pin'd with discontent;
Plight me thy faith," quoth she, “ That what I ask, The counsel rumbled till it found a vent.
Thy danger over, and perform’d thy task, The thing she knew she was obliged to hide; That thou shalt give for hire of thy demand; By interest and by oath the wife was ty’d;
Here take thy oath, and seal it on my hand; But if she told it not, the woman dy'd.
I warrant thee, on peril of my life, Loth to betray a husband and a prince,
Thy words shall please both widow, maid, and wife.” But she must burst, or blab : and no pretence More words there needed not to move the knight, Of honour ty'd her tongue from self-defence. To take her offer, and his truth to plight. A marshy ground commodiously was near, With that she spread a mantle on the ground, Thither she ran, and held her breath for fear, And, first inquiring whither he was bound, Lest if a word she spoke of any thing,
Bade him not fear, though long and rough the way, That word might be the secret of the king. At court he should arrive ere break of day; Thus full of counsel to the fen she went,
His horse should find the way without a guide, Grip'd all the way, and longing for a vent; She said : with fury they began to ride, Arriv’d, by pure necessity compellid,
He on the midst, the beldam at his side. On her majestic marrow-bones she kneelid : The horse, what devil drove I cannot tell, Then to the water's brink she laid her head
But only this, they sped their journey well: And, as a bittour bumps within a reed,
And all the way the crone inform’d the knight, “ To thee alone, O Lake,” she said, “ I tell, How he should answer the demand aright. (spread (And, as thy queen, command thee to conceal): To court they came; the news was quickly Beneath his locks the king my husband wears Of his returning to redeem his head. A goodly royal pair of ass's ears.
The female senate was assembled soon, Now I have eas'd my bosom of the pain,
With all the mob of women of the town:
The queen sate lord chief justice of the hall,
The knight appear'd; and silence they proclaim:
To name the thing that women most desir'd. Yet knew no more than when he first set out.
Th' offender, taught his lesson by the way, But home he must, and, as th' award had been, And by his counsel order'd what to say, Yield up his body captive to the queen.
Thus bold began : “ My lady liege,” said he, In this despairing state he hapt to ride
“ What all your sex desire is sovereignty: As Fortune led him, by a forest side :
The wife affects her husband to command : Lonely the vale, and full of horrour stood,
All must be hers, both money, house, and land. Brown with the shade of a religious wood: The maids are mistresses ev'n in their name; When full before him at the noon of night,
And of their servants full dominion claim, (The Moon was up, and shot a gleamy light) This, at the peril of my head, I say, He saw a quire of ladies in a round,
A blunt plain truth, the sex aspires to sway, That featly footing seem'd to skim the ground : You to rule all, while we, like slaves, obey. Thus dancing hand in hand, so light they were, There was not one, or widow, maid, or wife, He knew not where they trod, on earth or air. But said the knight had well deserv'd his life. At speed he drove, and came a sudden guest, Ev'n fair Geneura, with a blush, confess'd In hope where many women were, at least, The man had found what women love the best. Some one by chance might answer his request. Up starts the beldam, who was there unseen : But faster than his horse the ladies flew,
And, reverence made, accosted thus the queen. And in a trice were vanish'd out of view.
My liege," said she, “ before the court arise, One only hag remain’d: but fouler far
May I, poor wretch, find favour in your eyes, Than grandame apes in Indian forests are ; To grant my just request : 'twas I who taught Against a wither'd oak she lean'd her weight, The knight this answer, and inspir'd his thought. Propp'd on her trusty staff, not half upright, None but a woman could a man direct And dropp'd an aukward court'sy to the knight. To tell us women, what we most affect. Then said, “ What makes you, sir, so late abroad But first I swore him on his knightly troth, Without a guide, and this no beaten road?
(And here demand performance of his oath) Or want you aught that here you hope to find, To grant the boon that next I should desire; Or travel for some trouble in your mind ?
He gave his faith, and I expect my hire: The last I guess ; and if I read aright,
My promise is fulfill’d: I sav'd his life, Those of our sex are bound to serve a knight; And claim his debt, to take me for his wife.” Perhaps good counsel may your grief assuage, The knight was ask'd, nor could his oath deny, Then tell your pain : for wisdom is in age. [know But hoped they would not force him to comply.
To this the knight: “Good mother, would you The women, who would rather wrest the laws, The secret cause and spring of all my woe?
Than let a sister-plaintiff lose the cause, My life must with to-morrow's light expire, (As judges on the bench more gracious are, Unless I tell what women most desire.
And mure attent, to brothers of the bar,)
Cry'd one and all, the suppliant should have right, Make gentlemen, and that your high degree
In vain he sigh’d, and oft with tears desir'd, Know this, my lord, nobility of blood cart Some reasonable suit might be requir'd.
Is but a glittering and fallacious good : But still the crone was constant to her note: The nobleman is he whose noble mind The more he spoke, the more she stretch'd her throat. Is fill'd with inborn worth, unborrow'd from his kind. In vain he proffer'd all his goods, to save
The King of Heaven was in a manger laid; His body destin'd to that living grave.
And took his earth but from an humble maid; The liquorish hag rejects the pelf with scorn; Then what can birth, or mortal men, bestow? And nothing but the man would serve her turn. Since floods no higher than their fountains flow. “Not all the wealth of eastern kings,” said she, We, who for name and empty honour strive, " Have power to part my plighted love and me : Our true nobility from him derive. And, old and ugly as I am, and poor,
Your ancestors, who puff your mind with pride, Yet never will I break the faith I swore ;
And vast estates to mighty titles ty'd, For mine thou art by promise, during life, Did not your honour, but their own, advance; And I thy loving and obedient wife.
For virtue comes not by inheritance.
No father can infuse or wit or grace;
Were virtue by descent, a noble name
Could never villanize his father's fame : And all day after hid him as an owl,
But, as the first, the last of all the line Not able to sustain a sight so foul.
Would like the Sun even in descending shine;
And the bright blaze enlighten all the plain :
By Nature form'd on things combustible to prey. Restless he toss'd, and tumbled to and fro,
Such is not man, who, mixing better seed And rollid and wriggled further off for woe. With worse, begets a base degenerate breed : The good old wife lay smiling by his side,
The bad corrupts the good, and leaves behind And caught him in her quivering arms, and cry'd, No trace of all the great begetter's mind. “ When you my ravish'd predecessor saw,
The father sinks within his son, we see, You were not then become this man of straw; And often rises in the third degree; Had you been such, you might have 'scap'd the law. If better luck a better mother give, Is this the custom of king Arthur's court? Chance gave us being, and by chance we live. Are all round-table knights of such a sort ? Such as our atoms were, even such are we, Remember I am she who sav'd your life,
Or call it chance, or strong necessity : Your loving, lawful, and complying wife :
Thus loaded with dead weight, the will is free. Not thus you swore in your unhappy hour,
And thus it needs must be for seed conjoin'd Nor I for this return employ'd my power.
Lets into nature's work th' imperfect kind; In time of need, I was your faithful friend; But fire, th' enlivener of the general frame, Nor did I since, nor ever will offend.
Is one, its operation still the same. Believe me, my lov'd lord, 'tis much unkind; Its principle is in itself: while ours What Fury has possess'd your alter'd mind? Works, as confederates war, with mingled powers; Thus on my wedding-night without pretence - Or man or woman, whichsoever fails : Come turn this way, or tell me my offence. And, oft, the vigour of the worse prevails. If not your wife, let reason's rule persuade; Ether with sulphur blended alters hue, Name but my fault, amends shall soon be made." And casts a dusky gleam of Sodom blue. “ Amends ! nay that's impossible,” said he; Thus, in a brute, their ancient honour ends, " What change of age or ugliness can be ?
And the fair mermaid in a fish descends : Or, could Medea's magic mend thy face,
The line is gone; no longer duke or earl ;
But, by himself degraded, turns a churl.
Of thy great fathers by their virtue known,
And a long trail of light, to thee descending down, “ And is this all that troubles you so sore?" If in thy smoke it ends, their glories shine ; “ And what the devil could'st thou wish me more?" But infamy and villanage are thine. Ah, Benedicite," reply'd the crone :
Then what I said before is plainly show'd, “ Then cause of just complaining have you none. The true nobility proceeds from God : The remedy to this were soon apply'd,
Nor left us by inheritance, but given Would you be like the bridegroom to the bride : By bounty of our stars, and grace of Heaven. But, for you say a long descended race,
Thus from a captive Servius Tullius rose, And wealth, and dignity, and power, and place, Whom for his virtues the first Romans chose :
Fabricius from their walls repell’d the foe,
“ Then thus in peace," quoth she, “ concludes Whose noble hands had exercis'd the plough.
the strife, From hence, my lord and love, I thus conclude, Since I am turn’d the husband, you the wife: That though my homely ancestors were rude, The matrimonial victory is mine, Mean as I am, yet I may have the grace
Which, having fairly gain'd, I will resign; To make you father of a generous race:
Forgive if I have said or done amiss, And noble then am I, when I begin,
And seal the bargain with a friendly kiss : In Virtue cloath'd, to cast the rags of Sin.
I promis'd you but one content to share, If poverty be my upbraided crime,
But now I will become both good and fair, And you believe in Heaven, there was a time No nuptial quarrel shall disturb your ease; When He, the great controller of our fate, The business of my life shall be to please : Deign'd to be man, and liv'd in low estate : And for my beauty, that, as time shall try ; Which he, who had the world at his dispose, But draw the curtain first, and cast your eye." If poverty were vice, would never choose.
He look’d, and saw a creature heavenly fair, Philosophers have said, and poets sing,
In bloom of youth, and of a charming air. That a glad poverty's an honest thing.
With joy he turn’d, and seiz'd her ivory arm; Content is wealth, the riches of the mind;
And like Pygmalion found the statue warm. And happy he who can that treasure find.
Small arguments there needed to prevail, But the base miser starves amidst his store, A storm of kisses pour'd as thick as hail. Broods on his gold, and, griping still at more, Thus long in mutual bliss they lay embrac'd, Sits sadly pining, and believes he's poor.
And their first love continued to the last : The ragged beggar, though he want relief,
One sunshine was their life, no cloud between; Has not to lose, and sings before the thief.
Nor ever was a kinder couple seen. Want is a bitter and a hateful good,
And so may all our lives like theirs be led; Because its virtues are not understood :
Heaven send the maids young husbands fresh in Yet many things, impossible to thought, Have been by need to full perfection brought : May widows wed as often as they can, The daring of the soul proceeds from thence, And ever for the better change their man; Sharpness of wit, and active diligence ;
And some devouring plague pursue their lives, Prudence at once, and fortitude, it gives,
Who will not well be govern'd by their wives. And, if in patience taken, mends our lives; For ev'n that indigence, that brings me low, Makes me myself, and Him above, to know. A good which none would challenge, few would
choose, A fair possession, which mankind refuse.
CHARACTER OF A GOOD PARSON. (If we from wealth to poverty descend, Want gives to know the flatterer from the friend. A Parish priest was of the pilgrim-train; If I am old and ugly, well for you,
An awful, reverend, and religious man. No lewd adulterer will my love pursue;
His eyes diffus'd a venerable grace, Nor jealousy, the bane of marry'd life,
And charity itself was in his face. Shall haunt you for a wither'd homely wife; Rich was his soul, though his attire was poor, For age and ugliness, as all agree, Ja. Pili
As God had cloth'd his own ambassador, Are the best guards of female chastity.
For such, on Earth, his bless's Redeemer bore. “ Yet since I see your mind is worldly bent, Of sixty years he seem'd; and well might last I'll do my best to further your content.
To sixty more, but that he liv'd too fast; And therefore of two gifts in my dispose,
Refind himself to soul, to curb the sense ; Think ere you speak, I grant you leave to choose ;
And made almost a sin of abstinence. Would you I should be still deform'd and old, Yet, had his aspect nothing of severe, Nauseous to touch, and loathsome to behold;
But such a face as promis'd him sincere. On this condition to remain for life
Nothing reserv'd or sullen was to see : A careful, tender, and obedient wife,
But sweet regards, and pleasing sanctity : In all I can, contribute to your ease,
Mild was his accent, and his action free. And not in deed, or word, or thought, displease ? With eloquence innate his tongue was arm’d; Or would you rather have me young and fair, Though harsh the precept, yet the people charm'd And take the chance that happens to your share? For, letting down the golden chain from high, Temptations are in beauty, and in youth,
He drew his audience upward to the sky: And how can you depend upon my truth?
And oft with holy hymns he charm'd their ears, Now weigh the danger with the doubtful bliss, (A music more melodious than the spheres,) And thank yourself if aught should fall amiss.' For David left him, when he went to rest, Sore sigh'd the knight, who this long sermon His lyre; and after him he sung the best. heard ;
He bore his great commission in his look :
And warn'd the sinner with becoming zeal;
He taught the gospel rather than the law;
And forc'd himself to drive ; but lov’d to draw. Provide, and order all things for the best ;
For Fear but freezes minds : but Love, like heat, Yours be the care to profit, and to please : Exhales the soul sublime, to seek her native seat.
To threats the stubborn sinner oft is hard,
God saw his image lively was express'd; Wrapp'd in his crimes, against the storm prepar'd; And his own work, as in creation, bless'do But when the milder beams of Mercy play,
The tempter saw him too with envious eye; He melts, and throws his cumbrous cloak away. And, as on Job, demanded leave to try. Lightning and thunder (Heaven's artillery) He took the time when Richard was deposid, As harbingers before th’ Almighty fly:
And high and low with happy Harry clos'd. Those but proclaim his style, and disappear ;
This prince, though great in arms, the pries The stiller sound succeeds, and God is there.
withstood: The tithes, his parish freely paid, he took ; Near though he was, yet not the next of blood. But never sued, or curs'd with bell and book. Had Richard, unconstrain'd, resign'd the throne, With patience bearing wrong ; but offering none : A king can give no more than is his own : Since every man is free to lose his own.
The title stood entail'd, had Richard had a son The country churls, according to their kind, Conquest, an odious name, was laid aside, (Who grudge their dues, and love to be behind,) Where all submitted, none the battle try'd. The less he sought his offerings, pinch'd the more, The senseless plea of right by Providence And prais'd a priest contented to be poor.
Was, by a flattering priest, invented since; Yet of his little he had some to spare,
And lasts no longer than the present sway; To feed the famish'd, and to clothe the bare : But justifies the next who comes in play. For mortify'd he was to that degree,
The people's right remains ; let those who dare A poorer than himself he would not see.
Dispute their power, when they the judges are. True priests, he said, and preachers of the word, He join'd not in their choice, because he knew Were only stewards of their sovereign lord ; Worse might, and often did, from change ensue. Nothing was theirs; but all the public store: Much to himself he thought; but little spoke; Intrusted riches, to relieve the poor.
And, undepriv’d, his benefice forsook. (stretch'd : Who, should they steal, for want of his relief, Now, through the land, his cure of souls be He judg'd himself accomplice with the thief. And like a primitive apostle preach'd.
Wide was his parish, not contracted close Still cheerful; ever constant to his call; In streets, but here and there a straggling house ; By many follow'd; lov'd by most, admir'd by all Yet still he was at hand, without request,
With what he begg'd, his brethren he reliev'd; To serve the sick; to succour the distress'd : And gave the charities himself receiv'd. Tempting, on foot, alone, without affright, Gave, while he taught; and edify'd the more, The dangers of a dark tempestuous night.
Because he show'd, by proof, 'twas easy to be poor. All this, the good old man perform'd alone, He went not with the crowd to see a shrine; Nor spar'd his pains; for curate he had none. But fed us, by the way, with food divine Nor durst he trust another with his care;
In deference to his virtues, I forbear Nor rode himself to Paul's, the public fair,
To show you what the rest in orders were : To chaffer for preferment with his gold,
This brilliant is so spotless, and so bright, Where bishoprics and sinecures are sold.
He needs no foil, but shines by his own proper But duly watch'd his flock, by night and day;
light. And from the prowling wolf redeem'd the prey : And hungry sent the wily fox away.
The proud he tam'd, the penitent he cheer'd : Nor to rebuke the rich offender fear'd.
THEODORE AND HONORIA. His preaching much, but more his practice wrought, (A living sermon of the truths he taught,)
Of all the cities in Romanian lands, For this by rules severe his life he squar'd : The chief, and most renown'd, Ravenna stands, That all might see the doctrine which they heard.
Adorn'd in ancient times with arms and arts,
And rich inhabitants, with generous hearts.
The foremost place for wealth and honour held, If they be foul on whom the people trust,
And all in feats of chivalry excell'd. Well may the baser brass contract a rust.
This noble youth to madness lov'd a dame The prelate, for his holy life he priz’d;
Of high degree, Honoria was her name; The worldly pomp of prelacy despis'd.
Fair as the fairest, but of haughty mind,
And fiercer than became so soft a kind.
The rest she scorn'd, but hated him alone;
For she, the more he lov'd, the more disdain'd. The crown he wore was of the pointed thorn : He liv'd with all the pomp he could devise, In purple he was crucified, not born.
At tilts and tournaments obtain'd the prize; They who contend for place and high degree,
But found no favour in his lady's eyes : Are not his sons, but those of Zebedee.
Relentless as a rock, the lofty maid, Not but he knew the signs of earthly power Turn'd all to poison, that he did or said: [more; Might well become Saint Peter's successor ; Nor prayers, nor tears, nor offer'd vows, could The holy father holds a double reign, [plain. The work went backward; and the more he strove The prince may keep his pomp, the fisher must be T' advance his suit, the farther from her lore.
Such was the saint; who shone with every grace, Weary'd at length, and wanting remedy, Reflecting, Moses like, his Maker's face.
He doubted oft, and oft resolv'd to dic.
But Pride stood ready to prevent the blow, Unus'd to fear, he summon'd all his soul,
And stood collected in himself, and whole;
As of a dame distress'd, who cry'd for aid, The less he hop'd, with more desire possess'd; And fill'd with loud laments the secret shade. Love stood the siege, and would not yield his breast. A thicket close beside the grove there stood, Change was the next, but change deceiv'd his care; With briers and brambles choak'd, and dwarfish He sought a fairer, but found none so fair.
wood; He would have worn her out by slow degrees,
From thence the noise, which now, approaching ncar, As men by fasting starve th' untam'd disease : With more distinguish'd notes invades his ear; But present love requir'd a present ease.
He rais'd his head, and saw a beauteous maid, Looking he feeds alone his famish'd eyes,
With hair dishevell’d, issuing through the shade ; Feeds lingering Death, but looking not he dies. Stripp'd of her clothes, and ev'n those parts reveal'd, Yet still he chose the longest way to Fate,
Which modest Nature keeps from sight conceal'd. Wasting at once his life and his estate.
Her face, her hands, her naked limbs were torn, His friends beheld, and pity'd him in vain, With passing through the brakes, and prickly thorn; For what advice can ease a lover's pain !
Two mastiffs gaunt and grim her flight pursu'd, Absence, the best expedient they could find, And oft their fasten'd fangs in blood embru'd; Might save the fortune, if not cure the mind : Oft they came up, and pinch'd her tender side, This means they long propos'd, but little gain’d, Mercy, O mercy Heaven !" she ran, and cry'd. Yet, after much pursuit, at length obtain'd. When Heaven was nam'd, they loos'd their hold Hard you may think it was to give consent,
again, But struggling with his own desires he went, Then sprang she forth, they follow'd her amain. With large expense, and with a pompous train, Not far behind, a knight of swarthy face, Provided as to visit France and Spain,
High on a coal-black steed pursu'd the chase: Or for some distant voyage o'er the main.
With flashing flames his ardent eyes were sillid, But Love had clipp'd his wings, and cut him short, And in his hand a naked sword he held : Confin'd within the purlieus of the court.
He cheer'd the dogs to follow her who fled, Three miles he went, nor farther could retreat ; And vow'd revenge on her devoted head. His travels ended at his country seat :
As Theodore was born of noble kind, To Chassis' pleasing plains he took his way, The brutal action rous'd his manly mind; There pitch'd his tents, and there resolv'd to stay. Mov'd with unworthy usage of the maid, The spring was in the prime ; the neighbouring He, though unarm’d, resolv'd to give her aid, grove
A saplin pine he wrench'd from out the ground, Supply'd with birds, the choristers of Love: The readiest weapon that his fury found. Music unbought, that minister'd delight
Thus furnish'd for offence, he cross'd the way To morning walks, and lull'd his cares by night: Betwixt the graceless villain and his prey. There he discharg'd his friends : but not th' expense The knight came thundering on, but, from afar, Of frequent treats, and proud magnificence. Thus in imperious tone forbade the war : He liv'd as kings retire, though more at large “ Cease, Theodore, to proffer vain relief, From public business, yet with equal charge ; Nor stop the vengeance of so just a grief; With house and heart still open to receive : But give me leave to seize my destin'd prey, As well content as Love would give him leave : And let Eternal Justice take the way: He would have liv'd more free; but many a guest, I but revenge my fate, disdain’d, betray'd, Who could forsake the friend, pursued the feast. And suffering death for this ungrateful maid." It hapt one morning, as his fancy led,
He said, at once dismounting from the steed; Before his usual hour he left his bed ;
For now the hell-hounds with superior speed To walk within a lonely lawn, that stood
Had reach'd the dame, and, fastening on her side, On every side surrounded by a wood :
The ground with issuing streams of purple dy'd, Alone he walk'd, to please his pensive mind, Stood Theodore surpris'd in deadly fright, And sought the deepest solitude to find;
With chattering teeth, and bristling hair upright ; 'Twas in a grove of spreading pines he stray'd; Yet arm'd with inborn worth, “ Whate'er,” said he, The winds within the quivering branches play'd, “ Thou art, who know'st me better than I thee; And dancing trees a mournful music made. Or prove thy rightful cause, or be defy'd ;" The place itself was suiting to his care,
The spectre, fiercely staring, thus reply'd : Uncouth and savage, as the cruel fair.
“ Know, Theodore, thy ancestry I claim, He wander'd on, unknowing where he went And Guido Cavalcanti was my name. Lost in the wood, and all on love intent:
One common sire our fathers did beget, The Day already half his race had run,
My name and story some remember yet:
Whilst listening to the murmuring leaves he stood, Not less ador’d in life, nor serv'd by me,
Long time I dragg'd my days in fruitless care ; And his ears tinkled, and his colour fled.
Then, loathing life, and plung'd in deep despair, Nature was in alarm ; some danger nigh
To finish my unhappy life, I fell