« PreviousContinue »
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 honor and her own; Well satisfied 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 oblig'd to hide ; That thou shalt give for hire of thy demand ; By interest and by oath the wife was tied ; Here take thy dath, and seal it on my hand; But if she told it not, the woman died.
I warrant thee, on peril of my life, Loth to betray a husband and a prince,
Thy words shall please both widow, maid, and wise." But she must burst, or blab: and no pretence
More words there needed not to move the knight Of honor tied her tongue from self-defence. To take her offer, and his truth to pliglat. 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,
He on the midst, the beldam at his side.
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. (And, as thy queen, command thee to conceal): To court they came: the news was quickly spread Beneath his locks the king my husband wears Or 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: Till the next longing-fit return again."
'The queen sate lord chief justice of the hall, Thus through a woman was the secret known; And bade the crier cite the criminal. Tell us, and in effect you tell the town.
The knight appear'd ; and silence they proclaim : But to my tale : The knight with heavy cheer, Then first the culprit answer'd to his name: Wandering in vain, had now consum'd the year : And, after forms of law, was last requir'd One day was only left to solve the doubt,
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 10 command : Lonely the vale, and full of horror 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 favor 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 awkward 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,
To this the knight: “Good mother, would you know The women, who would rather wrest the laws
And more attent, to brothers of the bar,)
Cried 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
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 honor 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 tied,
For virtue comes not by inheritance.
Were virtue by descent, a noble name So was he married in his own despite :
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.
Such as our atoms were, even such are we,
Thus loaded with dead weight, the will is free.
Is one, its operatior, 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 vigor 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 honor ends, “What change of age or ugliness can be ?
And the fair mermaid in a fish descends :
The line is gone; no longer duke or earl ;
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 couldst thou wish me more ?" But infamy and villanage are thine. · Ah, Benedicite," replied 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 applied,
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 the Whose noble hands had exercis'd the plow.
strife, From hence, my lord and love, I thus conclude, Since I am turn'd the husband, you the wife. That though my homely estors 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 cloth'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 : Deignd 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, Bat 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 sun-shine 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 .n 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. If we from wealth to poverty descend,
THE CHARACTER OF A GOOD PARSON Want gives to know the flatterer from the friend. If I am old and ugly, well for you,
A PARISH priest was of the pilgrim-train ; No lewd adulterer will my love pursue ;
An awful, reverend, and religious man. Nor jealousy, the bane of married life,
His eyes diffus'd a venerable grace, Shall haunt you for a wither'd homely wife ; And charity itself was in his face. For age and ugliness, as all agree,
Rich was his soul, though his attire was poor, Are the best guards of female chastity.
As God had cloth'd his own ambassador, " Yet since I see your mind is worldly bent, For such, on Earth, his bless'd Redeemer bore. I'll do my best to further your content.
Of sixty years he seem'd; and well might last And therefore of two gifts in my dispose,
To sixty more but that he liv'd too fast;
But such a face as promis'd him sincere.
Nothing reserv'd or sullen was to see; In all I can, contribute to your ease,
But sweet regards, and pleasing sanctity : And not in deed, or word, or thought, displease? Mild was his accent, and his action free. Or would you rather have me young and fair, With eloquence innate his tongue was arm’d; And take the chance that happens to your share ? Though harsh the precept, yet the people charm'd Temptations are in beauty, and in youth,
For, letting down the golden chain from high, And how can you depend upon my truth? He drew his audience upward to the sky: Now weigh the danger with the doubtful bliss, And oft with holy hymns he charm'd their ears, And thank yourself if aught should fall amiss." (A music more melodious than the spheres,) Sore sigh'd the knight, who this long sermon For David left him, when he went to rest, heard;
His lyre ; and after him he sung the best. At length, considering all, his heart he cheer'd; He bore his great commission in his look : And thus replied: "My lady and my wife, But sweetly temper'd awe; and soften'd all he spoke To your wise conduct I resign my life:
He preach'd the joys of Heaven, and pains of Hell Choose you for me, for well you understand And warn'd the sinner with becoming zeal; The future good and ill, on either hand :
But on eternal mercy lov'd to dweli. But if an humble husband may request,
He taught the gospel rather than the law; Provide, and order all things for the best ;
And forc'd himself to drive; but lov'd to draw. Yours be the care to profit, and to please :
For Fear but freezes minds: but Love, like heat, And let your subject servant take his ease." 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 ,
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 depos’d, 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 priest with The stiller sound succeeds, and God is there.
stood: The tithes, his parish freely paid, he took ; Near though he was, yet not the nert of blood. But never sued, or curs'd with bell and bock. 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 tried. 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 famishd, and to clothe the bare : But justifies the next who comes in play. For mortified 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. Who, should they steal, for want of his relief, Now, through the land, his cure of souls he stretch'd He judg’d himself accomplice with the thief. And like a primitive apostle preach'd.
Wide was his parish ; not contracted close Sull 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 hegg'd, his brethren he reliev'd; l'o serve the sick; to succor the distress'd: And gave the charities himself receiv'd: Terapting, on foot, alone, without affright,
Gave, while he taught; and edified 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;
In deference to his virtues, I forbear
This brilliant is so spotless, and so bright,
He needs no foil, but shines by his own proper light But duly watch'd his flock, by night and day; 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 squard : The chief, and most renown'd, Ravenna stands, That all might see the doctrine which they heard. Adornid in ancient times with arms and arts, For priests, he said, are patterns for the rest And rich inhabitants, with generous hearts. (The gold of Heaven, who bear the God impressid :) But Theodore the brave, above the rest, But when the precious coin is kept unclean, With gifts of Fortune and of Nature bless’d, The sovereign's image is no longer seen.
The foremost place for wealth and honor 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, His Savior came not with a gaudy show;
And fiercer than became so soft a kind. Nor was his kingdom of the world below.
Proud of her birth (for equal she had none ;) Patience in want, and poverty of mind,
The rest she scorn'd, but hated him alone;
At tilts and tournaments obtain'd the prize;
Relentless as a rock, the lofty maid
Such was the saint; who shone with every grace, Wearied at length, and wanting remedy, Reflecting, Moses-like, his Maker's face.
He doubted oft, and oft resolvid to die.
But Pride stood ready to prevent the blow,
Unus'd to fear, he summon'd all his soul, For who would die to gratify a foc?
And stood collected in himself, and whole ; His generous mind disdain d so mean a fate; Not long: for soon a whirlwind rose around, That pass'd, his next endeavor was to hate. And from afar he heard a screaming sound, But vainer that relief than all the rest,
As of a dame distressd, who cried for aid, 'The less he hop'd, with more desire possess'd; And filld 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 chok'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 near 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 pitied him in vain, With passing through the brakes, and prickly thorn For what advice can ease a lover's pain!
Two mastills gaunt and grim her night 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, 0 mercy, Heaven!” she ran, and cried. 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 bebind, 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 fillid, 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,
As Theodore was born of noble kind,
A sapling pine he wrench'd from out the ground,
Thus furnish'd for offence, he crossd the way To morning walks, and lulld 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 dyed. 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 defied;" The place itself was suiting to his care,
The spectre, fiercely staring, thus replied: 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: And summon'd him to due repast at noon,
Thee, then a boy, within my arms I laid, But Love could feel no hunger but his own. When for my sins I lov'd this haughty maid
Whilst listening to the murmuring leaves he stood, Not less ador'd in life, nor serv'd by me, More than a mile immers'd within the wood, Than proud Honoria now is loved by thee. At once the wind was laid ; the whispering sound What did I not her stubborn heart to gain? Was dumb; a rising earthquake rock'd the ground; But all my vows were answer'd with disdain With deeper brown the grove was overspread; She scorn'd my sorrows, and despis'd my pain A sudden horror seiz'd his giddy head,
Long time I dragg'd my days in fruitless care; And his ears tinkled, and his color fled.
Then, lothing life, and plung’d in deep despair Nature was in alarm; some danger nigh
To finish my unhappy life, I fell Seem'd threaten'd, though unseen to mortal eye. On this sharp sword, and now am damn'd in Hell